Ultraviolet (2006) / Action-Sci Fi
MPAA Rated: PG-13 for violence, partial nudity, and language
Running Time: 88 min.
Cast: Milla Jovovich, Cameron Bright, Nick Chunlund, William Fichtner, Sebastien Andrieu, Kurt Wimmer (cameo)
Director: Kurt Wimmer
Screenplay: Kurt Wimmer
Review published March 8, 2006
Ultraviolet kicks off with an opening credits sequence shown over a montage featuring various elements of the story done in comic book fashion. What follows after this is about 90 minutes of wafer-thin comic book dialogue mixed with highly stylized anime inspired action, resembling the kinds of cinematics so rare to find outside of the video game realm. Kurt Wimmer, who made a cult film for the techno-thriller loving geeks with Equilibrium, returns for more "gun fu" (or "gun kata") action, only this time, he kicks things into overdrive whenever the story hits a lull, which happens about every two minutes.
The story starts off with star Milla Jovovich (You Stupid Man, Zoolander) stating in a voiceover that she was "born into a world that you may not understand". Truer words may never been spoken, as almost nothing that follows makes much sense, with the plot offering a mere hodgepodge of ideas already recycled by other derivative films in recent years, like Aeon Flux (cloning) and Underworld (vampires). Ultraviolet not only lifts key plot points from these films, but it also replicates the CG-laden, high-flying action, featuring highly glamorized battle sequences so over the top, they would even be too hard to swallow in the fiercest of stylized anime.
The convoluted plot is hardly important in a film like this, as it gets all but completely lost amid the prolonged stunts and action. It is set in a bleak future, where Earth has been "blighted" by a subhuman race known as Hemophages, a group of genetically different beings that are like humans, but with ultra-enhanced abilities, such as magnificent fighting abilities, cosmetic appearance shifting, and high-tech weaponry that they can produce from their bodies at a moment's thought. The human powers-that-be recognize the threat of this emerging subculture of "diseased" people, so they have taken great measures in eradicating them from existence, to the extent that now only a few hundred are left. Jovovich plays one of these creatures, a slick warrior known as Violet, who uncovers a plot to bring the world of Hemophages, and probably other humans, to its knees with the release of a super-toxin produced in the blood from the body of a young laboratory-created boy (Bright, Running Scared).
This plot summary is about the best I can do with trying to make some sense of it all, and to be honest, I'm not even entirely sure I've gotten the premise quite right. Not that it really matters, as it doesn't appear that Wimmer really is all that interested in expository information as to how the world of Ultraviolet works, spending about as much time explaining what's going on as it takes to read the last paragraph. What Wimmer seems more preoccupied with is a reason to throw as many scenes of mind-blowing sword and pistol action as possible, dressing everyone up in the coolest attire incessantly, hoping that we'll go ga-ga witnessing such quick-cut, finely choreographed fights.
If this was the intent, Wimmer clearly overestimates his prowess as an action auteur. Such fundamental storytelling basics like character development, progressive plotting, and story coherence are jettisoned in favor of escalating the scenes of conflict to a fever pitch. These scenes of violent retribution could have been exhilarating if only we had a vested interest in Violet as a character, or in her cause, but by presenting only the scant traces of humanity or explanation of just what her purpose is, we're left with no feeling at all, save to admire how much time and effort Wimmer put into making every set, costume, and piece of choreography as symmetrically cool as can be.
Ultraviolet probably would make an effective video game, or perhaps an interesting Western anime-tinged cartoon series, but as a film, this is a pretty dismal excuse for entertainment. To its credit, the action is well put together, and Jovovich is a whiz in the rigorous training that must have been involved in getting the moves down. However, as much as Ultraviolet might seek to emulate the futuristic action of Underworld and Aeon Flux, it never manages to distinguish itself from them sufficiently to not evoke constant feelings of deja vu, to the point where we can only shrug at the supercharged battles, having seen dozens of scenes just like them before.
For a film about cloning and vampirism, perhaps it's appropriate that this umpteenth attempt at recreating The Matrix should suck so much.
©2006 Vince Leo