Updated: Mar 1, 2020
While I enjoyed the movie adaptation of Anne Rice's novel, "Queen of the Damned", learning of certain decisions made by Warner Bros., the movie studio that had the movie rights to Rice's Vampire Chronicles books, left a much more profoundly bitter taste in my mouth.
Queen of the Damned was released in theaters in 2002, after the tragic death of singer & actress Aaliyah. Being a big vampire geek, having a Black woman as not just a vampire, but the mother of ALL vampires was a HUGE deal. The advertisements and commercials for the film also made it seem like Aaliyah's role as Queen Akasha would be quite significant.
Then I saw the movie, and was sorely disappointed with how much screen time Aaliyah actually had. Not only did she not appear fully in the film until well into the middle, her story wasn't nearly developed as it could and should have been; the audience only received knowledge of some of her backstory from flashes when Lestat first drank her blood and from Marius before he deserted Lestat.
And Akasha's exit from the film was just as swift as her entrance, having her expunged as a paper-thin level villainess, leaving the film to continue its focus on the mostly White characters.
So, who WAS Akasha, and how did she become known as the Mother of All Vampires?
Akasha was a young queen of the pre-Egyptian country Kemet. She became the world's first vampire when a bloodthirsty invisible spirit named Amel entered her body as she and her husband, King Enkil, lay dying from an assassination attempt.
Before this, Akasha & Enkil sacked a village not far from their kingdom and took two powerful witches, twin sisters Maharet and Mekare, hostage to gain their magical knowledge. When the twins refused, the king and queen had their chief steward Khayman rape them both, and cast them out to the desert.
As revenge, Mekare cursed Akasha & Enkil with the spirit Amel. Amel torments Akasha and Enkil until they were mortally wounded, after which Amel bonded his spirit with Akasha's flesh & blood, transforming her. Akasha allows Enkil to drink her blood, saving his life and transforming him as well. Together, they submitted to the new bloodlust they had acquired until Enkil lost his will to drink. Akasha lost her will as well, and the royal couple became living statues, sleeping for thousands of years until Lestat's music awoke Akasha.
Once Akasha awoke, she killed her husband Enkil, and set out on a plan to conquer the world. In the film, Akasha seeks to subjugate humankind with vampires living out in the open as she did. In the movie, she makes her thoughts about humans quite plain:
"Humans are animals. Brute creatures. Their destruction can only make sense."
"They believed in NOTHING.
NOW THEY ARE NOTHING."
In the book, however, Akasha's plan was much more developed and would be seen as deep, if not for her utter lack of genuine empathy, compassion, and morality: Akasha wanted to wipe out 90% of the world's male population, establishing a "new world order" where women would worship her as a goddess. She killed off vampires who wouldn't join her mad quest, kidnapped Lestat to take him as her new consort, and later confronted a group of her oldest "children", including Maharet, before being disposed of by a reappearing Mekare. Mekare then consumes Akasha's brain and heart, taking the spirit Amel into herself and becomes the new Queen of the Damned.
Akasha's plan, outright maniacal and evil as it is, would seem kind of radical or even feminist somewhat if Akasha were a good person within, before and after her transformation into a vampire. Though her people did regard her as a good queen for a time, Akasha didn't care for those of her people who still practiced ritual cannibalism, which is another reason why she had her army sack Maharet and Mekare's village; it turns out the twin witches were having a funeral pyre for their recently departed mother, and were in the middle of ritually consuming her brain and heart. Akasha cared nothing about respecting those under her charge; all she cared about was having her magical and supernatural curiosities sated.
When she didn't get what she wanted, she had no issue having Maharet and Mekare raped and humiliated in front of her entire court, which is as FAR from feminist and radical as one could get. And when the twins weren't able to assist her and Enkil after their transformation into vampires, Akasha subjected them to further punishment: first having them made vampires, then having Maharet's eyes taken out, Mekare's tongue ripped out, and later buried in separate coffins & sent into opposite directions in the sea.
That sounds like a true bad-ass, evil-ass mother of all vampires, right? So why couldn't we get THIS AKASHA in the movie adaption?
BLAME WARNER BROTHERS!
Basically, Warner Brothers were coming up on the last year where they had movie rights to Anne Rice's Vampire Chronicles books, so they made the decision to have movie writers condense The Vampire Lestat and Queen of the Damned into one movie (even though they had movie rights for SEVEN YEARS). Anne Rice specifically suggested the studio not do this, as she was aware that her fan base wanted both books to have their own respective films, but of course, Warner Bros. refused to cooperate with Rice's request.
The studio was more concerned with making money from the intellectual properties before losing the movie rights to Anne Rice than making a good film. They didn't care that Rice's work was butchered, and they CERTAINLY couldn't find the courage to have a multi-faceted and developed BLACK WOMAN as a villain, instead choosing to center Lestat and the Talmascan Jessi. And, as it always does, when movie studios only care about their bottom line, clownery comes back to bite( BvS and Justice League, anyone?).
So, years have passed, and if Anne Rice wanted to, these mistakes can be undone via remakes. Should Queen of the Damned be remade? I think so (if Rice got the movie rights back)! Not only that, but it should be remade with much more people of color in the cast, as there are many vampires of color within the Vampire Chronicles universe, including *gasp* Maharet and Mekare! The story is called Queen of the Damned, not Lestat and Jessi.
Any remake BETTER have Akasha, Maharet and Mekare as the main focus of the film, backstory and all.
Until then, I guess a Fox can only hope and dream...