REVIEW: Ultraviolet (Kurt Wimmer, 2006)

In the distant future, disease has separated humanity into two cultures: The familiar breed and a new, physically and mentally enhanced vampire type. These transformations are taking place in growing numbers, and the sub-species is now being viewed as a threat by the government. Milla Jovovich stars as an enhanced being who protects a child caught up in the societal feud in Kurt Wimmer's directorial follow-up to 2002's Equilibrium.

If you've known me for a while, you probably know I'm a sucker for ass-kicking-chicks flicks. Tank Girl, Underworld and Jovovich's other slick ass-kicker, Resident Evil: Apocalypse are all proud selections from my DVD shelves (Screen Gems does my body good,) so it should come as no surprise that I was highly anticipating Ultraviolet's release. My growing excitement as the release date crept up bordered in giddiness. Now that I've seen the movie... will it end up among my DVDs? Only if I'm bored in Best Buy one day.

Wimmer's creation starts strong with an enticing credits sequence involving excellent comic book art, but my heart did a swan-dive the instant I saw Cameron Bright's name. I had no idea the blander than bland child from Godsend and Birth was a supporting cast member, and had I known it would have most certainly been a hesitation. He bugs me beyond belief with his expressionless deliveries - downers for any film he appears in. As soon as the credits ended, however, I was shown that his inclusion would not be the worst aspect of what was to follow, simply described as a bastard hybrid between The Transporter and the film adaptation of Aeon Flux.

It's baffling that some people must have thought the ideas brought to life in the movie were good ones. Sure, there are a few interesting ideas such as the Gravity Recalibrator device, but they suffer in their murky confines, remaining underused with leftover potential. The first half of the film overloads itself with other gadgets, leaving us with a lot of colloquial sci-fi lines akin to the parody ad from in Thank You For Smoking, "Thank goodness we invented the whatever device!"

I cannot yet say whether the soft resolution of the cinematography was necessary for the computer-effects heavy compositions - which are nicely symmetrical but ultimately fail through poor execution - or if it was simply an unavoidable mishap - one that leaves some scenes at a complete loss (I.E. Violet explaining her tattoos). What I can say is that they are headache-inducing and they visually destroy several shots, especially the ones showcasing Milla's beauty. Her gorgeously defined features are lost in the odd streaks that look like someone poured water on an oil painting before it dried.

Possibly the most disturbing thing about the holographic production of Ultraviolet is the script. It features some of the worst writing I have ever heard, loaded with sorely dramatic repeat-takes (a strong peeve of mine) and awful lines that aren't even so bad they're good. For example, the title character says with an unavoidable bland tone when faced with an opposition of about 20 soldiers, "You are all going to die." I'm quaking. The final battle between good and evil impending, the villian (Nick Chinlund) says "It is on," to which Violet replies, "Yeah it is." I can really feel the tension!

At its core, Ultraviolet is in the right spot, but it relies too heavily on gimmick, shrouding the good buried deep inside. If you're into Jovovich, as I definitely am, you won't be let down but you certainly won't find anything else of merit. Thankfully what flair is there promises to be well worth a few rewatches on DVD due in part to eye-candy but also to a massive so-bad-it's-good factor.

UPDATE (3.24.11): So, not a very positive review... but as I'm including in the rewatch portion of my "Month in Review: March '11", "Ultraviolet" quickly became a secret pleasure before I finally, lovingly embraced it on a visual level. Its best stretch is its first 25 minutes - not coincidentally about the amount of time before Cameron Bright is unleashed upon us from inside a tiny suitcase - and, well, here's proof (watch your step, I've drooled rather heavily on most of these):

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