“The Queen of the Damned” 20 Years Later: Is It as Bad as We Remember?

Long before the days of Twilight and The Vampire Diaries, Anne Rice’s “Vampire Chronicles” novels were among the first to really humanize vampires and make audiences sympathize with and follow them as the protagonists.  When the first cinematic adaptation came in 1994, Interview with a Vampire was both critically acclaimed and a financial success, even scoring Oscar nominations.

However, the next theatrical venture didn’t go over as well.  2002’s follow up, Queen of the Damned was both panned by critics and casual moviegoers alike.  Plagued with the tragedy of the death of Aaliyah before the movie even came out, the movie was disowned by Anne Rice herself and any subsequent adaptations haven’t manifested.  And with Rice’s passing in 2021, the future of it remains unclear.

Given Queen of the Damned’s 20th anniversary, we thought the movie deserved a second look.  Partially to see if it was as bad as we all remember and worthy of crashing and burning what could have been a growing franchise.  But also to see if we simply misunderstood the movie itself.

QD 1
The movie’s first real issue was in failing to get Tom Cruise to reprise the role of Lestat. Townsend does the best he can, but there’s a charm that Cruise had that just isn’t there anymore.

Lestat or Akasha?
One of the biggest issues that Rice herself had with this movie was the fact that it attempted to adapt not one, but two of her books at the same time.  Even adapting a single book often results in material having to be trimmed for the sake of time.  But to try and cram two books’ worth of content into a single 2 hour just seems absurd at this point.

It’s the reason why the titular Queen Akasha really only shows up in the third act and even then, she’s not given a whole lot to do.  Granted, when she is on screen, it’s legitimately badass and she demonstrates why she’s earned her title.  But it’s all the more frustrating when you realize that we could have gotten an entire movie focused on her rather than her being a third act villain.

QD cover
She is without a doubt the best part of the movie!

Very Early 00’s
However, the subject matter was far from the film’s worst attribute.  While it had only been 8 years since Interview with a Vampire, Queen of the Damned was very much a product of the early 2000s.  The editing is flashy and choppy, the action rampant and meandering, and the visuals effects campy and very quickly dated.

A lot of media from that time tried very hard to be “edgy” in an attempt to score points with the “punk rock/emo” scene that was popular at the time.  Looking back (especially with 20 year hindsight) just makes everything very cringe-inducing.

QD 2
The whole Lestat as a rock star is a cool idea that should be thematically different that what came before. But it could have been done much better.

Granted, this type of editing and style works for the concert and music video scenes.  But it took what started as a thoughtful and interesting character drama and tried to make it into more of an action movie but without any skill in the stunts or effects.

Finding the Diamonds in the Rough
All that said, perhaps we’ve all been looking at this movie the wrong way.  Yes, it’s unforgivable that they titled it what they did and barely featured Ashaka.  Yes, it would have just been better off as a Lestat movie with an Ashaka centered movie as the sequel (which very well may have been the plan had it not been for Aaliyah’s tragic passing).

But given the movie’s overall edgy, in your face style, that’s actually the perfect representation of Lestat.  He’s always been more flashy, vain, and narcissistic than Louis ever was, so it makes sense that his movie would be so drastically different in tone.  Honestly, I don’t believe this is at all what the studio intended, it’s just a happy accident and a more positive way to interpret the movie.

QD 4
Jesse also makes for a semi-decent character that the movie isn’t sure what to do with. Looking back now, she almost seems like a precursor to Bella in Twilight.

And while we’re at it, we can’t overlook the incredibly creepy and committed performance that Aaliyah gave.  The few times that she is on screen, she absolutely steals the movie.  There’s something otherworldly to her movements and speech that one would expect from someone who was thousands of years old.

The movie is dedicated to her in wake of her untimely death, but honestly the movie doesn’t do her enough justice.  Unfortunately this is all that remains of what could have been a much longer running film franchise.  Granted, there have been talks about turning “The Vampire Chronicles” into a Hulu series, but as of yet, nothing has actually manifested.

QD 5
There’s still a ton of material left to adapt!

No matter what though, we’ll always have this odd Lestat-inspired fever dream of a movie, with an absolutely unforgettable performance by Aaliyah to close it out.  Her death was far too soon and tragic, but she was immortalized on film (as well as music) for generations to continue to enjoy!

What did you think of Queen of the Damned?  How would you want the franchise to continue, if at all?  Let us know in the comments!

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