Queen of the Damned Takes the Goth Vampire Look but not the Book
It is not an easy task to turn a book into a movie, much less two. And that is what happened with Queen of the Damned. This film not only adapts the Anne Rice book of the same name, but also the book that precedes it, the Vampire Lestat (combined with Interview With a Vampire, this is the first three books of the Vampire Chronicles). Anyway, director Michael Rymer squeezes in a lot of Lestat's origin story from the second book, but all but writes off anything important related to Akasha and the red-haired twins (which are central parts of the narrative in the third book). The result is a messy movie that seems to have no narrative resonance with the first film.
Lestat Learns to Rock
In the original books, Queen of the Damned slowly charts the destruction wrought by ancient vampire queen Akasha through the perspective of many key characters in the story. The book then divulges many key secrets of Akasha's past, the origin of vampirism in Anne Rice's narratives, and the important link between the first vampire an all the other vampires that exist. This culminates in a confrontation between the secret order of the Talamasca, the queen's ancient enemies, and Akasha herself (who has managed to turn Lestat into her personal gigolo).
In the film of the same title, Lestat re-discovers his love for music thanks to the power of heavy metal, and gets the attention of both the Talamasca and Akasha (who he remembers in a flashback that he awoke with his music) thanks to the fact that his songs are all vampire secrets in lyrical form. The film slowly follows his struggle between balancing his highly successfully rise to fame as a rock star, seducing a member of the Talamascan order, and keeping the other vampires from attacking him.
Ironically, the most sensible thing that the film producers should have done was adapt the second book's title “The Vampire Lestat” instead of using “Queen of the Damned” since the movie barely even touches upon Akasha's story. Since the movie is centrally revolving around Lestat, the other title would have made more sense (and would have appropriated Akasha as a major side character instead of giving audiences a double-fake wondering what the movie was really about).
In terms of being loyal to the books, this movie was a deplorable mess, and at this point it is not long surprising that it turned out that way. On the other hand, the story they wanted to tell was actually kind of interesting in its' own way (the story of a vampire whose famous musical lyrics actually expose secrets that other vampires prefer being kept) -and even that brought down by the weight of trying to fit in the original Anne Rice novel.
Point being, the filmmakers should have just made a single decision stay loyal to the book, or not, and then stick with it. If they really wanted to do Queen of the Damned, then the whole storyline involving the twin red-haired witches should have been kept intact. If they just wanted to focus on selling actor Stewart Townsend as their fashion model vampire, then they should have just dropped any pretenses of properly adapting the Rice novels in the first place.
No School Like the Old School
During its time of publication, one could consider the Vampire Chronicles book series as a sellout trying to market the glamour of vampires to the general public. Much of the book's deeper narrative undertones have been left out, focus has been placed on actors instead of the film, etc. But even despite all that, the film manage remains true to the core myth of vampires -the weakness of being exposed to the sun. The struggle of being immortal yet alone, and yes, the intimately tempting draw of being agelessly young and powerful- it all works together into keeping the identity of Lestat and the other vampires intact. Even ancient Queen Akasha, with her spontaneous combustion powers, still submits to many key traits about vampires. While the film does tell a vastly different story than the book, both are interesting and logical takes on the modern retelling of a vampire story.