When I gave Kurt Wimmer's previous sci-fi action movie, Equilibrium, a bad review back in 2003, there were protests from readers who rather enjoyed his grim mixture of 1984 and The Matrix. It developed a cult following. I'm looking forward to seeing if anyone will be brave enough to stick up for his latest film, Ultraviolet, which is immeasurably worse than Equlibrium. In fact it's far and away the worst movie I've seen in a cinema this year and worse than anything I saw last year as well. You have to go back as far as House Of The Dead and Fat Slags to find films on the same level.
Ultraviolet is so bad, it leaves you scratching your head, wondering how it was ever supposed to be good. Who decided we needed yet another film about a hot chick in tight fetish gear wiping out legions of faceless bad guys? In the future? With vampires? This particular genre has been done to death and Ultraviolet adds nothing to it, absolutely nothing. It just picks bits and bobs out of the Blade movies, the Matrix movies, the Underworld movies and all the rest of them and it slaps them together into a tired, poorly made rip-off.
We learn in the incredibly clumsy opening narration, which is even worse than Aeon Flux's, that a virus created by the US military has been accidentally unleashed and it's turned a lot of people into "hemophages". This means "vampires", although we never see any blood-sucking in the film, just the occasional pointy tooth. The ensuing panic led to political power being handed over to the scientific community, which rounded up most of the hemophages and exterminated them.
The survivors formed a resistance movement and its number one agent is the beautiful but deadly Violet (Milla Jovovich). Violet contracted the hemophagic virus whilst pregnant, she lost her baby and now she nurses a burning hatred of humanity. The resistance learns that the chief scientist and dictator, Vice Cardinal Daxus (Nick Chinlund) has engineered a new virus that will wipe out the last of the hemophages and they send Violet on a mission to steal it. Completing the mission, she discovers the virus is locked in the DNA of a little boy (Cameron Bright) and when she balks at murdering a child, her comrades turn on her and she's forced to take the boy on the run from the resistance as well as the government.
Now where do I start? Of all the film's problems, the biggest has to be its special effects. They're abysmal. I don't think I've ever seen CGI this bad in a major studio release. The motorcycle chase is the low point - there are console racing games in the shops that portray vehicles more photo-realistically. The bit where the bike jumps through the cabin of an exploding helicopter is one of the silliest looking things I've seen. Even the simple aerial shots of the city look totally fake. Ultraviolet clearly doesn't have a fraction of the budget necessary for what it wants to put on the screen.
The production design is more competent but it's uninspired and tiresomely arty. Like Aeon Flux, it imagines a future designed and lit by music video producers who've seen Minority Report. Wouldn't a frightened, plague-ravaged society look a bit seedier than this? The film's costumes aren't very original either. The legions of faceless bad guys wear black ninja costumes with sinister face masks; the mean dictator wears a black suit (and a weird plug in his nostrils); Violet dresses like a disco version of Lara Croft.
Besides them, the city appears to be inhabited mostly by Calvin Klein models wearing designer sunglasses. I don't think there's ever been a movie that featured more sunglasses than this one. It's like a ninety-minute advert for expensive eyewear. In one scene, Milla Jovovich removes her motorcycle helmet, which has a black mirror visor, and she's wearing black mirror sunglasses underneath it. There's a fight sequence that keeps cutting to reflections of the action in people's shades. It climaxes with a pair being blown apart by a bullet.
It's hardly worth taking the time to criticise the script. Its completely incoherent but then you expected that - you've seen Equilibrium. The fight scenes on the other hand are the film's bread and butter and they're astonishingly poor. They're so stylised, you can barely follow them and they've all too obviously been cut down for a PG-13 rating in America. Whether the unrated Region 1 DVD is much of an improvement, I can't say.
Typically, the fights go like this: Violet walks into a large round room, filled with government ninjas who stand around the walls. The ninjas close in on her, she draws her sword or gun, there are a couple of very rapid cuts meant to represent action and then all the ninjas are lying dead on the floor, end of scene. In some cases, we don't even get the rapid cuts: the ninjas close in and then they're all lying dead on the floor, end of scene. This could almost pass for a parody of the ass-kicking sci-fi babe genre but I don't think it's meant to be funny. As in Equilibrium, the only villain able to give the hero a decent fight is the evil dictator. You might think a nerdy scientist would be less adept at fighting than professional soldiers but you would be wrong.
I suppose it's only fair to mention that Ultraviolet was taken out of Kurt Wimmer's hands and heavily re-edited by the producers against his wishes. Wimmer's disowned the finished product but it's difficult to imagine how this could ever have been a good movie in any form. There's nothing interesting or original or entertaining in it. Milla Jovovich is pleasant to watch but she did this stuff before, far better in The Fifth Element and she was wearing less clothes in that too. Good character actors like William Fichtner and Cameron Bright are wasted. Curiously, young Bright is playing almost exactly the same role he plays in X-Men III.
There's a good martial arts action movie playing in the same multiplexes as Ultraviolet - it's called Fearless and it stars Jet Li. Many people will choose to watch this instead because it has a Western star and it doesn't have subtitles. You have no one to blame but yourselves.