Ultraviolet

To say that Ultraviolet is not as bad as one might expect is like saying that drinking kerosene is not as unpleasant as one might imagine: even though it might have been worse, I still do not recommend the experience.

The Story
Set in the future, the movie, which is based on the comic book series of the same name, begins with Violet, played by Milla Jovovich, infiltrating a building of some sort and stealing what she believes to be a weapon. She doesn’t quite make it out before her deception is discovered and a fight which ranges over the entire city ensues. It is quite a long fight scene… in fact I think it is still going on. There are several moments where it appears to be over but it just starts up again.

From Jovovich’s narration, we learn that R&D into weapons development has created a disease which turned people into what are essentially vampires, though they call them hemophages, or something like that. Violet contracted the disease, miscarried her child, and is now fighting with her fellow vampires against a human menace bent on wiping them out.

She brings the newly acquired weapon back to home base only to discover that the weapon she is carrying in a briefcase size container is actually a child (something made possible by the advanced technology of the future society). The leader of the vampires, Sebastien Andrieu’s Nerva, wants to kill the child, called Six and played by Cameron Bright, because supposedly he carries something in his genes that might be synthesized to destroy all vampires. Violet won’t allow it and more fighting ensues. To the best of my knowledge, these fights are also still going on.

The Acting
The acting is wretched, though not uniformly so. William Fichtner of Invasion fame performs admirably despite the script, and, amazingly, the child actor Cameron Bright does a halfway decent job. Those of you who know how truly terrible child actors can be will appreciate the implausibility of a child actor standing out in a movie in which his adult peers fail so miserably.

Milla Jovovich, burdened by the weight of excessive corny one-liners which inevitably precede a stroke of her sword or a burst of shots from her guns, collapses under the pressure. And she does better than most. If you can imagine a movie in which actors poorly chosen for their roles and with only a modest amount of talent are tasked with spouting lines of dialogue that Sir Derek Jacobi would be hard pressed to deliver and sound good doing it, then you have an idea of what goes on in this particular film. It is worth highlighting Sebastien Andrieu, who tries to sound menacing but winds up sounding French (although this may have been on purpose.)

To be fair, there is not much to work with when one dimensional characters are given poorly wrought lines of dialogue. It takes a very experienced and very talented actor to come out of such a situation with his dignity intact. Fichtner, usually kept in smaller, type casted roles, shows some true ability here. Cameron Bright might just have a future to match his surname. The rest of the cast might be better served by keeping this one off their resumes.

The Final Cut
The movie is not entirely a train wreck. The credit sequence is actually pretty good, and any random single frame from the movie is likely to be quite nice to look at. During those moments when the director Kurt Wimmer shows some restraint, the movie has a style to it that could be turned into something useful. The sets are slick and Wimmer is adept at picking out shots. Problems arise however, when those shots are strung together.

The directing style is one that eschews the small details and paints exclusively with broad strokes. But as better directors know, for every massive explosion, for every fight scene, for every major event there needs to be a foil to set them off. Ang Lee’s The Hulk is a great example of a movie which managed to preserve a comic book feel while still succeeding as a movie. It did so by concentrating on the small details, the every day bits of life which, when realistically done, make the bigger events more impressive because of the contrast. The Matrix, another fine example, is full of fight scenes. But in that movie, not only do the fight scenes mean something to the development of character, something that does not occur in Ultraviolet, they are set off by the attention to smaller and more mundane details: the lecture Neo receives from his boss; the window cleaners at the office; Neo’s apartment and his oversleeping; his lack of sleep during his first night on the Nebuchadnezzar.

Another problem occurs with the fights themselves. The fantasy style fighting in The Matrix was supported by the internal logic of the movie and by the fact that it was still grounded in some kind of system of reality with which it kept a strict consistency. There is a point at which a fight scene becomes so over the top that it stops being exciting and just starts to bore. Ultraviolet found that point and passed it. The fights are so ridiculous that they are impossible to parody. Furthermore, there is no consistent logic to them: in one scene Violet manages to kill twenty men who are standing two feet from her with their guns pointed right at her head, but in the next scene she is subdued by a single gun shot that she saw coming only to rebound in the next scene and dispatch another eighty or so guards and make it look easy. But then her plans are foiled by seven hundred guards all lined up to stop her. For those of you wondering just how many warriors Violet can dispatch at once, it is somewhere between eighty and seven hundred.

The problems with the movie which are not attributable to lack of ability are due to lack of restraint. The camera work is over stylized. There is so much fighting that the few moments of down time began to excite me more than the actual combat. What little characterization there is lacks subtlety. The score, though not a terrible one per se, pounds away for most of the movie, making it more of a music video that lasts too long.

If I were to hire a man to take photographs to use for a comic book, I would consider hiring Kurt Wimmer. If I wanted to turn that comic book into a movie, I would choose another to helm it. There is no subject and no genre which cannot yield good results in the cinema. It all depends on the talent of the individuals involved. Unfortunately, comic books are generally, though not always, turned into movies by people who have no business directing them.

The Upside:
A couple of the actors were decent, and there are plenty of pretty shots to look at. For those of you attracted to fit young women in form fitting clothing (and close up shots which manage to include said form fitting clothing), Milla Jovovich will not disappoint. The opening credits were nicely done.
The Downside:
Everything else and some more besides. Bad acting, bad script, bad directorial decisions, bad fighting, bad lack of restraint, bad bad bad bad bad bad bad bad bad.
On the Side:
Milla Jovovich is scheduled to play another fighting femme in 2007’s Resident Evil: Extinction.

Making the Grade:
The Story: D+
The Acting: D-
The Intangibles: D
Overall: D

Tags: Comic Books, Movies, Ultraviolet, Entertainment, Movie Reviews, Film, Fantasy

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