Though Kurt Wimmer’s directional debut resulted in Equilibrium, a film which did poorly at the box office – or so I have read – it nonetheless gained a large enough fan base for some studio to give Wimmer another go as a director. With Equilibrium, he managed to mesh social commentary, dramatic emotion, and fast-paced action together, I thought, very well. He attempts a similar endeavor in Ultraviolet, and ultimately, fails.
The story is spelled out for us within the first ten minutes so plainly that even a five-year old could follow along. Apparently in the future, all disease has been wiped out except for one, hemophagia, which translates in layman terms to you’re-a-vampire-but-not-a-vampire. A person grows fangs, develops enhanced speed, agility, and supposedly intelligence, yet their lifespan shortens to twelve years.
Paranoia and fear define this new world, with everyone wearing masks in fear of biological warfare. It’s never explained how Vicecardinum Ferdinand Daxus (Nick Chinlund), aka Obligatory Evil Dictator, has managed to wipe out all other diseases with his faceless and nameless cronies, but that doesn’t necessarily matter. By the sixteen-minute mark, Violet (Milla Jovovich) is naked and kicking a whole lot of ass with such ease that one imagines she puts more effort into deciding which color of hair or outfit she will switch to next rather than who she is currently killing.
Her anger towards all humans begins with her infection years ago, when she had to endure painful experimentation and a forced abortion. And so a mild-mannered nurse goes from expectant mother to chameleon ass-kicker within ten minutes of movie time. Swords, guns, swords within guns, and even flaming swords are all at her disposal; she is a video game character in full, overly CGI’ed three-d.
Ultraviolet’s main plotline follows a boy with a cure for hemophagia in his blood – Cameron Bright, once more a wide-eyed innocent who can save or destroy an entire species, similar to his role in X3: The Last Stand. At first Violet wants to kill him, but by the movie’s end her maternal instincts have kicked in.
The movie seems like a commercial for CGI and a tour guide for Shanghai, China (where they shot the film). Ultraviolet fails on basically every level. The writing is shoddy and the dialogue so inane, it is hard to think Kurt Wimmer wrote both Equilibrium and Ultraviolet as the two are so… different. Sample dialogue, for the morbidly curious: “You got hemo blood on me. It is on.” Short, choppy, and incomplete sentences are meant to convey tense emotion, but only serve, at best, as unintentional humor.
The editing is overdone, moving too quickly and causing quite a bad case of eyestrain. I had to watch multiple times just for completion as, after twenty or so minutes, I started to fall asleep. Rumor has it that the studio removed Kurt Wimmer from the finished product and recut the film the way they wanted it. In such editing sessions, perhaps the first things to go were any scenes resembling plot or logic, though of course I am merely musing aloud.
Violet is the ultimate video game vixen: not only can she change clothes and hair at will, but she can do so whilst single-handedly obliterating an entire room full of soldiers. Nothing can stop her, hell, nothing can touch her, and characters of such perfection do not a good story make. Admittedly, she is beautiful during her fight scenes, swinging swords and guns with the effortless elegance of a trained killer. In the end, that is all that matters, right?
Video quality is what you expect from the DVD of a film overloaded with CGI: crisp, detailed, and with minimal, if any, defects. Every person, particularly Violet, has overblurred and flawless skin – apparently someone in the effects department really, really enjoyed the Gaussian Blur option – which is a nice contrast to the surroundings.
Audio, like the video, is as you’d expect. Loud and blaring during the actions scenes, with dialogue easily heard throughout. No complaints here.
What is featured in the extras is mostly promotional fluff, with a commentary starring Milla Jovovich and two of her dogs (they don’t offer too many comments, how surprising). The featurette is titled “UV Protection: The Making of Ultraviolet”, and it is split into four parts (each part containing their own title, which is pointless in my opinion), with a helpful ‘Play All’ option.
At roughly twelve minutes each, they’re the type of thing you might find on HBO or Showtime in-between movies, or perhaps on endless loop at the TV Guide channel.
The first is a typical who’s who of the film, with Wimmer not interviewed at all, only shown in behind-the-scenes clips. Part two deals with visual effects and in particular the elaborate motorcycle chase scene at the beginning of the film. Three focuses on Kurt Wimmer, or rather a discussion of Kurt Wimmer, and the use of color. And lastly number four concerns itself with choreography and the fight scenes. Again, they’re fluffy little shorts, but I doubt the intended audience’s attention spans could withstand anything of actual material.
Ms. Jovovich’s commentary is an easy listen as she speaks about doing stunts that she can’t watch, her enjoyment of landscape panning shots, or her disgust over China’s mistreatment of animals. By and large, it’s more as if we’re watching the film with her on a couch somewhere, instead of listening for behind-the-scenes secrets.
I wasn’t expecting good cinema when I began to watch Ultraviolet. However, I was hoping for a film that didn’t degrade its plot, emotion, and character to such basic dimensions and clichés. Then again, there are worse ways to spend an afternoon, and worse films to spend one’s money on. This one’s perfect for the rental-only category. I only have one piece of advice for viewers: shut off your brain lest you desire to suffer a very, very bad headache.