Adi Shankar is having a very good week.
Following the debut of Castlevania on Friday, both Shankar and Netflix are pleased with the reception to the show, according to the producer. Both fans and critics are pleased with the faithful adaptation of Castlevania 3: Dracula’s Curse and, perhaps most importantly, Shankar is over the moon with the version of the story Netflix and Frederator Studios allowed him to make.
It wasn’t always going to be like that.
Shankar, delirious from only getting three hours of sleep after multiple fan screenings for the new series, told Polygon that he didn’t think he’d ever get to make it. In 2014, Shankar confirmed, he was offered a chance to direct a live-action adaptation of Castlevania. When he was pitched on the idea, however, he was disappointed to learn that it wasn’t the faithful adaptation he was hoping for, claiming that it wouldn’t have been what fans wanted either.
“I was offered the live-action version of Castlevania right around the time when Dredd was coming out,” Shankar said. “I was in advanced talks about that and trying to figure out what it would have looked like. Think big independent, small studio movie. It would have been in the same vein as Underworld, from a budget perspective. It wasn't this big epic blockbuster, but it wasn't super cheap either.
“It felt 250 percent wrong. At the time, I'm entering my late 20s. This is one of my favorite games and I'm literally staring at the chance to adapt it, but have to say no.”
Shankar said it came down to preserving the game that he obsessed over as a child. One of the reasons he stepped back from the film industry was because of the disrespect the industry has for genre movies, according to Shankar. Like fellow director Neill Blomkamp (District 9, Chappie), Shankar decided to stop relying on big studios for work, choosing to use DIY publishing platforms like YouTube to continue making the movies he wanted to make.
“I felt like the major studios were blatantly disrespecting fandom,” Shankar said. “We were the preexisting audience who would show up opening day regardless. I don't want to partake in the massacre of my own fucking childhood. If I do that I'd rather go back to the credit card company I was working at.”
But then Shankar found Frederator Studios and Netflix. The producer told Polygon that both companies allowed him and writer Warren Ellis to tell the story they always wanted to. Taking the film and adapting it into a series made the most sense for Netflix, but Shankar said he doesn’t view Castlevania as a series or a movie.
One of the complaints that fans had after watching the 100-minute production is that the starting and ending points for each episode don’t make a lot of sense. Many argued that it felt like Netflix just spliced a feature film into four parts and called it a season, but Shankar said that was intentional. Like Blomkamp, Shankar sees Castlevania as an ongoing story; one that can be binged in one setting or watched as individual episodes, but not in a traditional TV format.
“There is no movie, there is no TV. None of that actually exists,” Shankar said. “And the hope is that as the years go by, the story will keep continuing. You have this story; Whether you want to call it a bunch of movies chopped up or a TV show ... we're not a TV show in that we have a monster of the week. I think this is, I could be wrong here, but I truly believe this is how entertainment is going to look in a few years.
“I don’t think the future of entertainment will be homogenous. But I do believe that this is a format where it's like this really long movie that you're watching in these chapters, and these chapters string together and really tell a complete story of a universe.”
So what does that mean for the future of Castlevania? The show has already received an eight-episode second season from Netflix, but will it continue telling the story of vampire hunter Trevor Belmont? Or will the new season incorporate other Castlevania titles? The game franchise consists of more than 20 games and is rife with stories and lore for Shankar to pull from.
If the producer has his way, and if the audience continues to show up, Shankar will be able to bring in more of that Castlevania backstory.
“Ultimately the way I look at Castlevania is as a story about a family and multiple generations of this family,” Shankar said. “There are aspects from all the games that I have plans to include, assuming the audience still keeps showing up. I would love to continue this series and I would love to keep making seasons, keep telling stories in this universe.”
Shankar has a lot on his plate. With a second season underway and a recent announcement that he’ll be working on an animated TV adaptation of Ubisoft’s Assassin’s Creed franchise, the producer is busy, but he stressed to Polygon that he’s not planning to abandon the series any time soon.
Castlevania’s first season is currently available to stream on Netflix.