Another Look: Queen of the Damned (2002)

Posted: November 13, 2013 in Joe Giambrone
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Despised by critics, Anne Rice’s tale of vampire mainstreaming has its flaws.  It also works significantly better than its first installment, Interview With the Vampire, where Brad Pitt was horribly miscast.  Even Tom Cruise felt wrong at a gut level, although both of them can act.  It just wasn’t going to work from inception.  The best part of the Interview film was the amazing Kirsten Dunst, who stole the show at 12 years old.

The Rice universe is so un-Hollywood.  It doesn’t jibe with red carpets and hype.  There’s a subtlety and complexity that is on the page, and perhaps film isn’t the right place to try and recreate it.  The two mediums are just so different, and the characters can seem a bit of a letdown when cast with actors.  Much of the magic doesn’t translate at all.  At least in Queen everyone involved looked dead on appropriate.

Queen of the Damned is more of a filmable story than some of her other books.  Tension ramps up toward the end, but there was a cold distancing from the characters that plagued the movie.  Empathy for the characters was in short supply.  None are particularly likable, although Akasha, the Egyptian Queen, is stunning to look at and brought a powerful presence that was unexpected.  She gives the film hope, once awakened, which is actually rather ironic.

I don’t think I’m totally off base seeing Lestat as a harbinger of a new age of nihilism.  Lestat is a product of the imperial age, while Akasha is the ancient absolutist.  But Lestat bridges the ages, uniquely touching the ancient lust for ultimate power, and yet he has adapted to modern mass market consumerism and our sense of individualism.

With society lost in this age of confusion, the death of the old way and struggling to forge a new response to global awareness and raw, arbitrary exercise of power, Lestat becomes a symbol for our time.  He’s a rock star, mass murderer, rabid individualist who would give the finger to the entire vampire race.  He doesn’t care about the consequences.  Suicidal?  Or inspired to progress?  The same questions can be asked of our society.  We’d give the finger to future generations and to the ecosystems of the earth for the glory of our own whimsical chaos.


The big question in vampire tales is always how they relate to the still living, seeing them as worthless food or retaining human compassion.  Here Lestat is a bit muddled, wishy-washy over the course of the story.  Lestat is disillusioned with vampirism, the old ways, and yet flirts with Godlike power as he has throughout the books.  Here, the point is not so clear, and the story’s ending seems truncated and perhaps a bit unsatisfying.

The critics had a shit tossing fest at the film, but what are the alternatives?  It’s damned hard to make a vampire film that works on every level, which does something new and yet doesn’t go off the rails.  Case in point, Twilight, an abysmal juvenile take on vampires, at least the first film.  I avoided the others.  Even Coppola royally fucked up the granddaddy of them all – Dracula: terrible casting, terrible creative license with the source material, one of the biggest mistakes in all of recorded vampire history.

What Queen of the Damned did was stick to the spirit of the original, the coldness, the animalism, the nihilistic desperation of it all.  This was quite a bit closer to Rice than Interview.  Not a great movie, but definitely better than most vampire films.

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