Saturday, November 11, 2006

Ultraviolet (2006) – review

DVD

Director: Kurt Wimmer

Release Date: 2006

Contains spoilers

This film was attacked by the critics quite vehemently when it was released and, having now seen it, I can understand why – though perhaps it didn’t deserve the level of abject hatred that was thrown towards it.

Milla Jovovich as VioletThe film charts the story of Violet Song Jat Shariff (Milla Jovovich) as she sets out across a dystopian future. It becomes clear that we are not in our own world, this is a world were scientists had discovered a century old disease and tried to modify it to make super-soldiers. Instead they made it more virulent and created hemophages – infected persons. Of course these are vampires and we shall discuss them in more depth later.

Close up of fangsWhen we first see them a group of hemophages have invaded a blood storage area but they are killed. We get a taste for what these creatures are when a lip is pulled back and a fang revealed. Even more so when one of the human operatives gets blood on his hand and is summarily executed. We also know that these infected were forced to wear arm bands, then sent to special areas and then started vanishing – a scenario that had overtones of the Holocaust. Violet herself was pregnant and a nurse when a hemophage went rampant in the hospital and killed her husband, his blood infecting Violet - she was experimented on and her pregnancy terminated.

Nick Chinlund as DaxusThe health services have taken over and their operatives are heavily armed. The leader of this new society is Vicecardinum Ferdinan Daxus (Nick Chinlund) and he has created, we are told, a weapon to wipe them out once and for all. It is interesting that Daxus’ title has such a religious overtone. The interest this generated was not in a traditional vampiric sense (ie vampires being hunted by the church and afraid of holy relics) but because Wimmer was the director of Equilibrium (2002) and that also had a very strong anti-religious message, with the bad guys taking on the role of the church. It seems to me that Wimmer has a chip on his shoulder.

Violet poses as the courier for the weapon in order to steal it for the resistance, she has been given some form of drug to disguise her altered DNA from the detection equipment. Violet in actionShe gets the package but then the real courier (Youlia Galenko) arrives and Violet has to fight her way out. Once she gets back to the Hemophages she takes a peek at the package and it is a young boy, we later discover to be named 6 (Cameron Bright). He carries a pathogen in his blood and Violet believes that, rather than wipe out the Hemophages, it can be used to save them. She battles her way out from her resistance buddies, rather than allow 6 to be killed, and is on the run from both groups. Unfortunately things are not that easy.

The film is very much inspired by such films as the Matrix (1999) and is full of fights and cgi chase scenes. In this it is moderately successful but the price is that the story is patchy and the characters fairly much unexplored. The cgi itself gives the whole thing a comic book look that works. William Fitchner as GarthIt is a shame that the story and characters were such a secondary consideration as there was a lot here that could have been expanded upon, be it character wise - the love that a hemophage named Garth (William Fitchner) feels for Violet needed exploring but was used as little more than a cipher - or the story itself, which had boundless amounts of unexplored potential.

As for the vampires, well they are so underused it is untrue. They are faster and stronger than humans. They have fangs and most have photosensitivity – though Violet never really developed that when she became infected. The infection itself is extremely virulent and the mere skin contact with a vampire’s bodily fluids will infect. The term vampire is used a couple of times. One of the few times blood is spilledWe never, however, see a feed. In fact we see little blood – a lot of gunfire and swordplay but most of it is clean. To illustrate this, when the hemophages attack the blood bank at the beginning they kill a set of scientist by sword, we see not a single drop pf blood – maybe this was purposeful in that we only see blood at times that are either story or stylistically necessary – but it didn’t work for me. Given that Violet uses a whole rang of groovy high tech gadgets from cyber weapon storage to anti-grav devices, it is clear that them being vampires could almost have been written out, the illness replaced with bird flu and the film wouldn’t have changed very much.

Violet’s ever changing clothing colour and hair colour, like most of the cgi, looks good but is eye candy and nothing more. There is a run in with the Blood Chinois, an uninfected triad like group, which led nowhere and could have added tension to the film and a twist at the end that if you don’t see from a mile away… well shame on you.

For an action film this is a derivative but fairly engaging watch but… As a vampire film it lacks bite and as a piece of intelligent cinema it becomes completely lost.

Violet is not a happy bunnyThe acting is fair to middling, though Jovovich does well with the little she is given to get her teeth into.

The action is truly not enough to save this movie and the shame is that, with the right focus, this could have been a great little film. As it is, 3.5 out of 10 is mainly given for the flashy style of the movie and also reflects the patchy nature of the story and characterisation. It is one I will watch again as the effects work and the action is entertaining enough, that said if you are after flashy action vampire stuff you are undoubtedly better off with the Blade movies (1998-2004) or Underworld and Underworld Evolution. That said I will not be watching it at any time that I feel I need to be challenged intellectually by the film I’m viewing, this is very much take your brain out and look at the eye candy.

The imdb page is here.

There is a homepage here.

2 comments:

Ian said...

No relation to this film other than the title, but I recommend the 1998 Channel 4 Vampire TV series Ultraviolet. Only ran for 6 episodes (deliberately so) and was rather low budget, but managed to build up a distinct atmosphere of menace. A notable absentee from your review list, although I can't imagine you missed it.

Taliesin_ttlg said...

Ian

thanks for the comment. I have a lot of vamp movies/dvd's (and even more books) that haven't yet been reviewed - mainly 'cause I had them before I started the blog and haven't got through the back catalogue yet.

Amongst them is Ultraviolet and, now that you've mentioned it I feel I really should dig it out - especially as it had some really interesting genre ideas. Watch out for a review in the next week or two.