Pitched as the next great stylistic driven sci-fi action movie, Ultraviolet hit the big screen on March 3rd with, well, a fizzle. Kurt Wimmer wrote and directed the quasi vampire movie starring Milla Jovovich who plays Violet, the ever-color-changing vampirishthing. It is March and 2006 has now seen
two three (including BloodRayne) vampire movies, Ultraviolet and Underworld Evolution not screened by critics (BloodRayne not screened by anyone). Underworld Evolution, which I liked, got its first in the series panned so they didn’t bother screening the second to the critics. Ultraviolet, on the other hand, was withheld from the critics because they knew it was horrible.
Equilibrium, another Kurt Wimmer science fiction movie featuring gun kata (Wimmer’s invented gun-based martial arts fighting style,) had a low budget feeling, but was decent. Ultraviolet, however, is so far from decent that it can’t even see the sign for the exit for decent. But before the bad, a little (very little) good.
Gun kata continues to impress me. Some find it rather dumb because if you have a gun why would you fight hand to hand combat? Regardless, I still find it a cool visual fighting style. I enjoyed it in Equilibrium and when I wasn’t cringing from the horridness in Ultraviolet I enjoyed it there too. Along the same lines, I liked the compress flat-space technology where weapons, ammunition, etc were stored in a very small space. Wimmer’s ideas about personal gravity were cool as well.
If there was a point to the color changing clothes and hair it would have been kind of cool. The special effects were neat, but really, why? Were her clothes made of mood changing pigment? Did she do it on command? Did they help her blend in? Give me a reason to think it’s cool beyond the special effect. It seems entirely possible Violet had color changing clothes because they were trying to make up for the lack of continuity between the randomly pieced together scenes.
What was bad? “Everything else” just about sums it up. Acting, filming, story, dialog… oh the horrid dialog… many of the special effects, did I mention the story? It’s a little unfair saying the story was horrible because really, there wasn’t a story, at least, there wasn’t a cohesive one. We got a five minute speech at the beginning of the movie and then at the end explaining what happened in the middle. Let me sum up the middle for you:
A giant clusterfuck of dialog, story bits, and special effects.
So here is the story (as best as I could figure out): Violet, a vampireishthing, is trying to stop from dying because I think they don’t have enough blood to feed on (but really who knows, it’s not explained), so she keeps saying she’ll do anything possible to try and fight the humans and stay alive. Somehow a boy, in a suitcase (yes, I said suitcase), ends up being the key to saving or destroying all humans or vampires or both (it changes every ten minutes). In the end, Violet decides saving the kid is more important than whatever other issues were going on, including her own, and while she doesn’t explain why, it doesn’t matter because the plot is shit regardless.
Dialog was bad, including these gems: [when asked why she won’t hook up with some guy] “Because these beautiful moments turn evil when they’re over.“, “Are you mental?” and the always classic, “Oh, it’s on now!“. Painful. If you listened to the dialog without the visuals it might make a smidgen more sense, but only because you wouldn’t have to worry about matching up what you heard with what you saw.
I mentioned before that, while some of the visual effects were interesting, many were not. I think the director was trying to go for a comic book feel, but it felt unfinished. Buildings often looked poorly rendered, textures were simple and boring and many scenes seemed to be in soft focus making it difficult to make out detail. Some effects – like the few times there was smoke – were downright bad. Several 3D effects shots were used more than once, often within a ten minute period, resulting in a very repetitive feel.
Acting was bad all around. I think Milla Jovovich was mediocre, especially considering some of the bad lines she had, but “Six” (played by Cameron Bright,) was unemotional and dull. The rest of the characters either overacted or didn’t seem to be trying to act at all. I am guessing part of the reason this movie was only 88 minutes is because some of the absolutely worst acting was cut.
My final complaint is about the excessive use of biker-helmet-wearing bad guys. They all were martial arts experts and that means they likely played many roles over and over which is why helmets were needed. This just means, however, that when I see a helmet, I know they are going to quickly get their asses kicked. Any bad guys without helmets will be around a lot longer. This takes away any suspense that helmet men will be any kind of threat to the hero of the movie.
All of this is not a budget issue like many people have claimed. Resident Evil, not a half-bad horror movie, cost $30 million, the original Underworld had a $20 million budget, but Ultraviolet had a $32 million budget; more than enough considering the lack of big name actors and shooting locations. With an extra $12 million, you should be able to pull off something coherent, something Ultraviolet failed at miserably.