Warner Brothers had slated Queen of the Damned for direct-to-video hell, but then Aaliyah died and this movie based on the third book of the Vampire Chronicles by Anne Rice was given a theatrical release. I would like to say that the motives behind this were purely honorable, such that they were allowing Aaliyah's last film to reach theaters for her sake, but I doubt the move was anything but business-oriented. In fact, if Warner Brothers had decided to keep Aaliyah's best interests in mind, they would not have released Queen of the Damned at all, because it really sucks - forgive the pun.
Queen of the Damned is the third book of the Vampire Chronicles, being a second sequel to the classic (both book and movie) Interview with the Vampire, which starred the incredible cast of Tom Cruise, Brad Pitt, Kirsten Dunst, and Antonio Banderas. Unfortunately, Queen of the Damned, the movie, is hardly a sequel to the dark, brooding epic called Interview with the Vampire; it just happens to share the same character Lestat and some creatures called vampires. Where Interview with the Vampire was a movie for intelligent audiences, Queen of the Damned is for the most braindead of all MTV viewers, relying on flashy graphics, young, not-so-good actors, and a script that isn't exactly Oscar-calibre. Queen of the Damned is so drastically different from its predecessor that they really shouldn't be compared, but alas, it should be a worthy sequel, and so it will be compared.
If Interview with the Vampire was the essence of good, Queen of the Damned is the essence of bad (damned, shall we say?). Interview had excellent acting, a terrific script, dark, lustrous settings with a historical feel to it. It told a story of the ages, with adventure, horror, and tragedy. It had a purpose.
Whoever gave director Michael Rymer the reigns to do a sequel to one of the most realistic vampire films ever made should be fired, if not worse. Rymer has no big movies under his name, but more importantly, he just screwed up here. Let's dumb it down, he must have said, so the younger folks can feast their eyes on Aaliyah and Stuart Townsend; they look good enough so we don't have to worry about making a good movie. In the process of targeting a younger audience, he forgot that had he made this even five percent as good as Interview that he might be able to lure a much broader group in. Personally, I don't see why Warner Brothers allowed Rymer to make the movie like this, or why Rymer decided to make it like this. Warner Brothers has a potential goldmine in its pocket should it try to make a serious series out of The Vampire Chronicles, but obviously they're not thinking along those lines.
It's the feel of Queen of the Damned that really is painful to watch, more than the acting or the script. Where Interview used a constant collage of browns, grays, and blacks to paint the bleak landscape that is the home of the vampires, Queen of the Damned is a lot more colorful, a lot flashier, and a lot less realistic. Granted that Anne Rice does make Lestat a rock star (I have not read the books, but while watching the movie I was so bored that I went onto Amazon and read the plot summaries for all of her books), the whole concept and setting of the film seems cheesy. Even when the story takes a look at Lestat's past and his first encounter with Akasha (Aaliyah), everything seems fake, where it didn't in Interview. One of the main problems with this movie is that is seems to have tried to cram two books into one. In Queen of the Damned, the book, Lestat has already awoken, become a rock star, and has told his past (in the second Vampire Chronicles book, The Vampire Lestat). In the movie, it has to be explained how Lestat came to be in this certain situation, and so it is trying to tell so many things at once that everything feels cluttered, rushed, and poorly-made. A better alternative would have been to make a serious sequel to Interview with the Vampire, starting with The Vampire Lestat; that way, we can really delve into the mind of Lestat without having to worry about this damned Queen that is only in the movie for about half an hour at the most.
Some people may like the MTV approach to Queen of the Damned for some reason or another, but when looking back at Interview with the Vampire and envisioning what this movie could have been had it been done right, one can only be disappointed. In the first five minutes you'll know that this vampire tale has been so dumbed-down that it's surprising that Anne Rice even allowed her name to be placed in the credits.
Review by Erik Samdahl unless otherwise indicated.
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