Saturday, November 08, 2008

Queen of the Damned – review

dvdDirector: Michael Rymer

Release date: 2002

Contains spoilers

How long have I avoided writing this review? You see, as I type these fateful first words I know that you, dear reader, already have an opinion and that opinion is likely to be in variance to mine (apologies are now owed to those readers who find they completely agree with me). Most people are going to love or hate this film, so let us get a few thoughts and observations out of the way.

I should stand aloneFirstly, despite what is stated on the cover of the DVD, this should in no way, shape or form be considered a sequel to Interview with the Vampire, it is a different beast altogether that should be considered as a stand alone. It has a different cast, crew and lifts only partially from the Anne Rice books.

not the original booksWhich brings me to the second point. This is a loose adaptation of the books ‘The Vampire Lestat’ and ‘Queen of the Damned’. It takes some primary story aspects but ignores much, merges other aspects, misunderstands others and outright changes bits. Anne Rice purists can sit and pull plot aspects of this apart – it’s too easy – yet we accept and love many of the versions of Dracula or Carmilla without (too much) complaint about straying from the original. Inspired by the works of Anne Rice, rather than based on, is a better way of looking at this.

Those caveats aside we begin to see emerge a stand alone movie, in the MTV mode, that might not be perfect but is certainly better than many of its critics claim. It works (pretty much) as a stand alone, is very watchable and, well we’ll get to soundtrack shortly. On the other hand, it is certainly flawed and so to those reading this who adore the film – and I know there are many of you out there – I will say this, as I duck the slings and arrows of those who hate the movie, I raise my shield to avoid your attacks also, as it is flawed, it isn’t the greatest movie of all time and it does have some poor/pointless performances.

emergingAnd so we begin and, well, as there is a voice over that explains the opening scene, let us quote Lestat (Stuart Townsend) “There comes a time for every vampire when the idea of eternity becomes momentarily unbearable. Living in the shadows, feeding in the darkness with only your own company to keep, rots into a solitary, hollow existence. Immortality seems like a good idea, until you realize you're going to spend it alone. So I went to sleep, hoping that the sounds of the passing eras would fade out, and a sort of death might happen. But as I lay there, the world didn't sound like the place I had left, but something different. Better.

first meal“It became worthwhile to rise again as new gods were born and worshipped. Night and day, they were never alone. I would become one of them.

“Whether it was that first meal, or a hundred years of rest, I'm not sure. But suddenly I was feeling better than ever. My senses so high they led me straight to the instrument of my resurrection, playing in my old house.”

Come out, come out wherever you areSo Lestat is awake, drawn by rock musicians he appears to them and then does the one thing that the vampires’ loose society frowns upon. He reveals himself as the vampire Lestat, offering to take the musicians to their dream with him as the front man. He is true to his word and soon they seem to be the biggest music phenomena on the planet. The band holds a press concert, in London it appears, in which an on video screen Lestat (so vampires can be filmed) challenges his brethren, “Come out, come out wherever you are”. As he awaits the answer to his challenge he indulges in some groupie eating – with a rather impressive wall crawl.

David is obsessed with MariusJesse (Marguerite Moreau) dreams, and it is a common dream for an orphan, a dream of belonging. A dream of Aunt Maharet (Lena Olin) who cries tears of blood and sends her to be with her own kind. In the waking world she is a member of the Talamasca, a paranormal research institute whose motto is “Observe the dark realm but be not of it.” She suddenly realises that Lestat’s lyrics mean something and they lead her to discover a vampire coven at the public house the Admiral Arms in London – now a private club. In an attempt to curb her interest her boss, David (Paul McGann), tells her that she is correct, Lestat is a real vampire. David himself has an obsession with tracking the vampire Marius (Vincent Perez) and has Lestat’s journal.

Marius' IslandThrough the journal we see Lestat's back history and… okay novel fans, put that stick down, come on, put it down. Yes, I know they completely noodled with the history of Lestat but we’re taking this as ‘inspired by’ remember. Lestat’s dark history began when Marius abducted him and took him to a Mediterranean island. He didn’t take long getting round to turning the young nobleman – to be his guide to the new age.

Lestat playsLestat’s education consisted really of don’t drink the last drop – if the victim dies during the feed the death will kill the vampire and stay in the shadows – never part of the world. This lesson was drummed home when he played violin with a Greek girl (Mandie Vieira) and her father (Fouad Harraka) and was spotted for what he was due to his inhuman abilities. He had to kill the girl.

the king and queenAngered he played violin furiously, then one day his bow leapt out of his hand. Finding it, he found the entrance to a secret cavern. As he walked in flames leapt into life and eventually he reached a large door which burst open. In the room were two statues, it appeared, sat upon thrones. Lestat played for the Queen, Akasha (Aaliyah) and the hand lifted – offering him a drink from the wrist. The blood was like liquid fire.

Later, strapped to a bed, a jealous Marius told him that she was the first and he, Enkil, was her king. They killed indiscriminately until Enkil lost the taste for slaughter. Without her consort she too lost her taste for life and they became as living statues – Marius is now their caretaker. She has never moved for him. When Lestat awakens again Marius has gone, taking the king and queen with him. He never saw Marius again.

a vampire in the Admiral ArmsHaving read the journal Jesse is more spurred on (as she would be) and determines to go to the Admiral Arms, managing to tailgate in. She ends up in a vampire world and is out of her depth. Feeding is open. At the bar she is accosted by three vampires and states that she has a sponsor – invoking the name Marius. This gets Lestat’s attention (who happens to be in a shadowy booth). Jesse decides to leg it but the vampires come for her – until Lestat rescues her. He recognises her as Talamaskan but she gets to him by suggesting that he still has the violin owned by the girl on the beach – he does. Jesse decides to go to Death Valley to the only Vampire Lestat concert.

Marius and LestatIn LA, whilst the band wait for the concert, something enters Lestat’s home. It is Marius. He has come to warn Lestat off the concert. It is clear that the vampire covens wish to kill Lestat but his music has awoken Akasha as well. She has taken Enkil’s blood and walks once more; Marius seems to believe that she would attack Lestat.

Akasha's powerOver in the Admiral Arms a stranger walks in wearing weird garb. It is, of course, Akasha and she is searching for Lestat – though he has now moved on. The bar vampires brag about how they will kill him. Akasha dances with one and then rips his heart out, feeding from it before it turns to dust. Vampires run at her and she causes them to burst into flames – she slaughters the entire coven.

the concertI don’t want to go much further but I have to mention the concert as it was quite the spectacular, as a set if nothing else. At the concert are not only the covens but the ancient vampires. Other than Maharet (who is Jesse’s Aunt many generations removed) and Marius we are not introduced to any of them – the DVD has a deleted scene where they introduce themselves to the viewer but it was removed from the final edit – their presence, therefore, might only confuse the casual viewer and, whilst a book fan could work them out we have established that many of those viewers would be grinding their teeth too loudly by this point!

on stage fightThere ends up with a battle on stage between Lestat and the covens – which was fairly nicely visualised. Marius comes to fight by his side but can not help when Akasha comes, finishes the coven members off and flies off with Lestat. She has not come to kill him but make him her new consort and bring a new darkness to the world. It is down to the ancients to stop her.

Jessie and LestatPerformance wise I was very taken with Stuart Townsend as Lestat. He carried a level of arrogance through the entire film that fitted the character perfectly, much as he did in the role of Dorian Grey in the League of Extraordinary Gentlemen. Perhaps his performance wasn’t as rounded as Tom Cruise, but we’re not treating this as a sequel. I was perhaps less taken with Jesse, though I think that this had little to do with the level of Marguerite Morea’s performance and more that the character wasn’t that well drawn in the script.

Aaliyah as AkashaMany readers will know that Aaliyah tragically died just after principle photography was completed on the film. Her voice was given an alien quality by merging it with her brother’s voice after this sad event. However, as sad as it is, it cannot take away from the fact that she wasn’t that brilliant – everything seemed a little forced. However, in context to the character, this worked as it offered an alien quality that suited. Paul McGann was just wasted as David but Perez was fantastic as Marius.

I have read that the ending is confusing, unless you know the books. As the ending has very little common ground with the books I can’t see that. Despite, perhaps, a slackness in the story and character motivation there is a damnably quotable quality to the script.

Lestat videoI said this is an MTV movie – in other words it has style over substance, a glossiness and an ability to keep a viewer watching despite itself. It also has a music video type quality and a reliance on a rocking soundtrack – one of my favourite soundtracks actually, so much so that I bought the CD. Extras on the DVD give you all the music videos created by the Vampire Lestat.

This might not be the greatest movie (vampire or otherwise) but it has a quality to it. Certainly it is one of the few vampire movies I can put on and my wife is happy to sit and watch with me. 6.5 out of 10.

The imdb page is here.

I’ll leave you with a YouTube (for as long as it lasts!) of the video for Forsaken:

9 comments:

Jorn said...

Very nice review. I enjoyed this movie and my wife enjoyed it more. I have a felling it might be because of Stuart Townsend ;). I convinced her that she must see "Interview With a Vampire" which I personally think is a much better movie. Have you ever heard the original score by Richard Gibbs for this movie? Not sure if it got an official release, but it's pretty good.

everlost said...

spot on review...couldnt agree more, right down to buying the cd for the soundtracks, we did that as well!

Taliesin_ttlg said...

Hi Jorn, obviously I heard the original score on the movie but I haven't heard it as a soundtrack album, as it were.

Interview is a much superior movie (I gave it one of my rare 10 out of 10s) but... it is superior and yet this, sometimes, is more accessable as a watch; funny old thing that.

Cheers for the comment, and of course, Everlost, cheers for your comment also.

Sepulture said...

aaah, i've waited for this review for a very long time :)
actually, OST and music videos are amazing. I love the references to Dr.Caligari, Nosferatu in those clips:)

Taliesin_ttlg said...

cheers Sepulture, the expressonist influence in the videos are great, aren't they

Zahir al Daoud said...

For the record, I pretty much agree with your review. What *works* about the film works very well indeed. What doesn't work feels flat, especially the (frankly dull) idea that a five-thousand-old creature would be nothing more than a sensualist bully.

Taliesin_ttlg said...

cheers Zahir, I'm feeling a tad less alone given the comments I've had.

I did have images a village mobs with pitchforks as I set about writting th review ;) lol

The T said...

Oh Taliesin. I agree with you most of the time. But in this case... I guess either you or me had taken a lot of mushrooms before watching the movie lol...

This is an atrocity. One of the absolute worst movies in any genre, not only vampire. It doesn't even have that crapiness that makes other bad movies stand out... It's just bad in a mediocre way. The movie doesn't even take itself lightly... there's no humour! They were really taking themselves seriously!

The main vampire is just a teen with the worst case of overacting ever. Tom Cruise, not my favorite vampire ever, looks like Klaus Kinski-meets-Christopher Lee compared to this Lestat. The vampire of all time, Marius, the supposed legend, looks like an accountant taken from the most obscure public office in a 300-population town in Wyoming, and he's supposed to be THE old vampire. All the rest of the "actors" are terrible to be generous. The acting is so bad that the worst actress ever, Aaliyah, doesn't look so bad, and actually manages to look menacing(!?!)

The plot is so ridiculous and poorly executed, everything looks like a bad MTV video.There's no build-up, no climax, no nothing.

And really... I even find something to enjoy in Zoltan Hound of Dracula, Dracula vs Frankenstein and Billy the Kid vs Dracula... at least they didn't look like they were made by a bunch of hyperactive teenagers frustrated because they failed as the next big emo-rock band....

Sorry for disagreeing so furiously... Lol. I love your blog. There's no accounting for tastes after all.

Taliesin_ttlg said...

The T, hence I wrote: "How long have I avoided writing this review?

"You see, as I type these fateful first words I know that you, dear reader, already have an opinion and that opinion is likely to be in variance to mine...

"Most people are going to love or hate this film..."


Though i think it good of you to admitting to taking a lot of mushrooms before watching this... lol ;)

The movie does what it sets out to do, it creates an MTV movie and, in many respects, creates the perfect MTV movie... it is throw away, it is out with the books, it is out with "Interview", but it does what it intended to do.

Given that I can understand why many hate it but many others enjoy it.

One thing I will actively disagree on, however, is your thoughts on Mr Townsend's performance. I thought it perfect (if awfully similar to Dorian Grey in LXG), he captured the Brat Prince - for that is what he was meant to be at that point... superficial, arrogant and up his own arse... yes, but that is what was called for...

It’s kind of like Sting in Brimstone and Treacle. Sting is not the best actor in the world but his performance in B&T is perfect because it is exactly what the role calls for.

Then again, even a performance can be seen in different ways. I found Kirsten Stewarts performance in Twilight rank amateurish rubbish and yet she won a best actress for it (at, amusingly, the MTV awards).

However, cheers for bringing in another side to the debate... your comments are welcome.