Friday, June 26, 2009

First Impression – Blood: The Last Vampire (2009)

Based on the anime from 2000 and completely ignoring any of the lore or background the subsequent series Blood + introduced (as the series is deemed alternate universe), this Chris Nahon directed film is the latest vampire offering to hit the big screen and, given the pedigree of coming from the producers behind Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, I was hoping for something a little special.

Unfortunately, what I ended up with was a film desperately looking for an ending, some general storyline clichés, bad cgi and a bit of a problem with the actual action. This does include spoilers but the story was thin enough to mean it doesn’t really matter.

The film, set in 1970, starts of with promise, a scene on a subway train in which Saya (Gianna Jun) despatches a demon (the term chiropteran is lost). The scene was faithful to the anime and gave an opening atmosphere that worked well. She is met by her contact from the mysterious Council, Michael (Liam Cunningham), though subordinate Luke (JJ Fields) believes that Saya has killed a human and is out of control. The undercurrent of distrust is not explored deeply enough in the film and so when said distrust is used as a plot device it feels too plot-lite.

Saya is a halfling – as they term it in this – half demon/half human and like her demonic brethren needs blood to survive. The Council provide bottled blood for her and in return she despatches demons as she searches for the one called Onigen (Koyuki). There have been three murders at a school on a US airbase and Saya (despite being older than all the Council operatives put together) is sent undercover. At the school we meet Alice (Allison Miller), daughter of base commandant General McKee (Larry Lamb).

There is a lesson where Frankenstein is discussed and Alice’s insights into the nature of the monster is obviously to make her open, as a character, to interacting with Saya later. Saya quickly gets a sense that two of the students are not all they seem. Alice is left to 'spar' with said students by aikido instructor Powell (Colin Salmon, who was in the Tales of the Crypt episode Cold War), clearly they aim to kill Alice. Saya has checked their records – for what purpose, given the records will be forged, isn’t actually revealed – and comes to the rescue, locking Alice out of the room and killing the demon girls.

The blood is very cgi but I could live with that for the point is made that demon and human blood are different. The fact that it looked almost lumpy worked – it just didn’t work later, when we saw human blood and it looked the same! Alice has spied the events and gets her father but the Council operatives (posing as CIA) are already on the scene, cleaning up. Alice follows Powell who very quickly reveals he is a demon – as is everyone in the bar he is in.

Saya to the rescue once more and a rather large action scene that was marred a little by fast cuts and some camera shakes, though it also went into slow-mo at times. All told it wasn’t that bad, compared to some, and some of the film techniques were clearly used to disguise the fact that Gianna Jun is not a martial artist. However, I just expected more from a film from these producers. After Saya has despatched a lot (and I mean a lot) of demons, Powell changes into his true form and nicks off with Alice. This leads to a roof top chase that was spoiled by the fact that the cgi was so bad. The true demon form was badly created and the actual interaction with the set looked too cartoony. Following this he tries to fly off and we get a runway chase, which takes us to where the original anime ended (of course there were elements not in the original during this first section, as described).

And here we fell over. It became a film looking for a plot, a purpose and an ending. Some of the flashback scenes to Saya’s youth worked – especially a ninja demon battle involving her companion/trainer Kato (Yasuaki Kurata). There was a Luke and Darth moment with Saya and Onigen that was just so obvious as to be clichéd and thus not a spoiler – after all her half demon side had to come from somewhere. There is a set piece with a truck that seem lifted from Underworld Evolution, which then morphs into the train piece from Wanted – though was more satisfying and less film damaging than the Wanted scene.

The ending just kind of petered out. The film wanted to do clever things – the human character is called Alice and there are references made to Through the Looking Glass but the script failed to capitalise on this. There was a moment when, despite having seen her fight and heard her called halfling, Alice feeds an injured Saya her blood and we wonder why she would do that, where did this knowledge that Saya would need this come from? The acting wasn’t brilliant, though that might have been as much to do with script and direction as it was to do with the actors' skills. Gianna Jun seemed dour, perhaps even stoic, and distant but that works for the character.

It sounds like I am down on the film but it certainly isn’t the worst film I’ve seen at the cinema this year – Lesbian Vampire Killers will take some beating where that dubious honour is concerned – but it failed to be what it might have been. The imdb page is here.


Anonymous said...

I watched this the other day. A B-movie script with a patchy plot, some very bad acting and a few standard martial arts fight scenes thrown is just too short.

Taliesin_ttlg said...

Cheers for the comment Simon. I'd only say that the standard martial arts didn't even really seem that due to the fast cuts... Roll on Vampire Girl Vs Frankenstein Girl... it might be a B (or less) but it looks like it'll do what it says on the tin...