It’s sort of funny how different the movie of Blood and Chocolate is compared to the book. Especially considering that their descriptions are basically the same. This is the book’s description:
Vivian Gandillon relishes the change, the sweet, fierce ache that carries her from girl to wolf. At sixteen, she is beautiful and strong, and all the young wolves are on her tail. But Vivian still grieves for her dead father; her pack remains leaderless and in disarray, and she feels lost in the suburbs of Maryland. She longs for a normal life. But what is normal for a werewolf?
Then Vivian falls in love with a human, a meat-boy. Aiden is kind and gentle, a welcome relief from the squabbling pack. He’s fascinated by magic, and Vivian longs to reveal herself to him. Surely he would understand her and delight in the wonder of her dual nature, not fear her as an ordinary human would.
Vivian’s divided loyalties are strained further when a brutal murder threatens to expose the pack. Moving between two worlds, she does not seem to belong in either. What is she really—human or beast? Which tastes sweeter—blood or chocolate?
And this is the movie’s description:
Young Vivian (Agnes Bruckner) has a secret: She is a werewolf and has spent her entire life concealing it. She faces divided loyalties when she finds love with a human male named Aiden (Hugh Dancy), much to the disapproval of some of her fellow packmates, especially Gabriel (Olivier Martinez), who also desires her. But Aiden may no longer love her when she reveals her inner wolf.
At the base, this seems really hopeful, right? “Girl is werewolf, girl falls in love with human boy, pack does not approve, what do?”.
But no. While the love story is more or less the same, just about EVERYTHING ELSE is different. Ev. Ery. Thing.
Blood and Chocolate the book takes place in the United States. Vivian’s injured pack has moved north to merge with another pack after a devastating attack. In Blood and Chocolate the movie, Vivian’s carelessness has caused everyone in her entire pack to be killed by human hunters and she’s shuttled off to live in Romania with her Aunt Astrid.
So we already have an altered backstory on Vivian, a very different setting, and Astrid’s character is completely changed. In the book, Vivan’s mother’s is still alive and Astrid is just another she-wolf in the pack. One who thinks highly of herself and is a strong, confident character… as opposed to the woman we see destroyed by heartache in the film.
We also need to talk about the characters’ ages. In the books, Vivian is sixteen. She and Aiden meet in art class and their relationship is very teen – concerts on lawns and school dances. If you ignore the other point in the creepy book love triangle, it’s surprisingly a well-written teen romance. But… we have to talk about the other point in the love triangle, because in the book, 24-year-old pack leader hopeful Gabriel is also in love with Vivian. So yeah, in this case if you’re going with a love triangle that screamed problematic because of the ages, aging up Aiden and Vivian into consenting adults for the movie is a strong move.
They didn’t really completely go for the original love triangle. That is, book-Gabriel is relatively low-key. He’s a strong character, but also kind. Movie Gabriel is basically a mob boss, and he is sketchy and creepy. The pedophilic vibes are gone from the triangle and replaced with some very rapey feels. No, no, no. There’s one scene where he locks Vivian in a cage. Like, yeah, that’s going to be a blissful relationship.
Where the book Blood and Chocolate was about Vivian’s growth and her choices about loyalty and harmony between humans and wolves… the movie completely strips her of this power. Aiden accuses her multiple times of letting her family make her future when she should make her own, but really, Vivian never had that choice. It was to choose her pack or choose him, but after that they would decide her life. According to this movie, really, the only choice a woman can make is who she loves. Aiden continued to pressure her into a relationship where she was entirely uncomfortable. The surface-level lust was there, but beyond that? Viv never stood a chance.
This was 2007. I think – I hope – we’ve learned how to portray strong women properly since then. Because there were so many red flags.
The loup-garou legend is more or less consistent with the type of werewolves we see in the books, but I do think we need to appreciate how cheesy it is that Vivian is the only white wolf. Like, c’mon y’all, you aren’t even trying to not be ridiculous anymore. I think some depth of history was provided to the legend, bringing the pack back to Romania. This legend is the main connection between Aiden and Vivian as she shares with her the secret parts of her city in relation to her legend. And he draws stuff for her.
A moment, now, to talk about Aiden.
If you spend too long thinking about Aiden’s character, he makes absolutely no sense. In the book, he was an artsy goth stereotype who liked drawing wolves because of their power. In the movie, he’s a graphic novel artist who doesn’t have a home due to a domestic altercation with his father that led to a warrant for his arrest in the United States. I don’t know how he can afford to live, frankly, because to the best of our knowledge he’s only published two graphic novels, which are being sold in Bucharest in English. Not sure the screenwriters here had a good feel on the publishing industry and how exactly their main male love interest would be able to survive on the commission of two graphic novels when he is constantly traveling and living in hotels. Travel is expensive – at least put him in a hostel.
Fortunately for the writers, a paranormal romance only has to worry about how pretty all the characters are, and not if their occupations make sense. I also have some judgements about the way the chocolate shop where Vivian works is run. As far as I can tell, people can come and go in the kitchens in that place and Vivian does the confectionary work, the stocking, and the sales and delivery. But she can also leave any time for pack stuff or random dates.
I haven’t even gotten into Rafe and his little gang of monsters yet. From a group of bullies in the books to a gang of murderous stalkers in the film, they are slimy to the extreme. The other characters in his circle – in the book – were more dynamic, but here, they are blind followers to their problematic leader. Rafe’s character’s choices were similar to the choices he would have made in the book, but given a longer leash, a completely different parentage, and more opportunities for worse behavior, he absolutely took them.
At the end of the day, Blood and Chocolate the movie is a paranormal romance with a lot of unhealthy relationships. It was made to draw in a certain audience, mostly likely those who were falling in love with Twilight. It was not made for the same audience as the book. Created today, I think the direction on this would be a little different, particularly in how the relationships are handled.
I’ll give it credit for being a visually stunning movie for its time – the filming locations are incredible. The CGI is a bit early and a bit tacky, but used minimally enough to only be hilariously cheesy rather than intrusive. I think this movie did a terrible job staying true to the book – it changed the situation, the characters, the romance, the setting, and the intended audience. It’s almost as though someone read the book’s description and nothing else in research for the film?
I honestly don’t know that I’d recommend either to anyone. It would have to be a really situational recommendation. Like “Hey, are you interested in a paranormal romance that’s very brooding and has terrible relationships and drinking absinthe and pretty boys who are sort of terrible people? Then WOW do I have the movie for you!” … But, like my experience with the book, once I got settled, it was difficult to look away. I don’t even think I was invested in the outcome, honestly. I was just… watching.
Maybe skip them both? Unless you’re on the hunt for some dark werewolf romance angst stuff.
What book-to-movie adaptations have you seen that were just SO off track? Not just scenes or characters cut, but felt like an ENTIRELY different story? Let me know in the comments!