Thursday, 15 July 2010

ULTRAVIOLET (2006)

Now here's a film that a lot of people hated. Personally I find it hugely entertaining, but really only on a visual and kinetic level. As released, the film is a disjointed mess of scenes and action set pieces with nary a character moment in sight, but it does look pretty. The thing is, there is an interesting tale to tell behind the film and why it came out so godawful.

The original version of Ultraviolet was much longer, clocking in close to two hours as it was originally intended by the makers of the movie and its star, Milla Jovovich. While that cut would still never have won any oscars, it did apparently contain a massive amount of plot and characterization. During the editing process, it became clear that Screen Gems wanted something different from the film, and hacked it to pieces. The resulting product is too short, too empty and too silly to be taken seriously. There are ridiculous leaps in logic and plotting, and the while thing just comes across as one fight scene after another.

Yvonne Navarro wrote the novelization of the film, and that book is truly remarkable. It is one of those rare movie novelizations that is actually a hundred times better than the source material it is based on. That excellent book features a ton of the excised material that didn't make it onto the screen, as well as better characterization and a more interesting ending. Seriously, it's an amazing book. I have both the DVD and the novel, and while the DVD looks fantastic, the novel is where the whole story is, so if you do want to check out Ultraviolet, I suggest you check out both versions.
The film itself is a sci-fi retelling of the old vampires-vs-humans war storyline. It is told in a surreal/hyperreal visual style that is evocative of both comic books and anime. The opening title sequence of the movie features a montage of comic book covers to comics that never existed, with art from some of the industry's big names, to give the viewer a visual clue as to what to expect.

While I am more than happy to point out the shortcomings of the film in a narrative and character sense, I am eager to promote just how cool the thing looks. The strange soft focus effects on the cast make them look unreal and quite unique, while the intentionally not-quite-photoreal CG backgrounds, cityscapes and other effects resemble the midway point between a video game and an anime series. The visual flair on display is fantastic, and I'll stand by that statement. It does look like a comic book come to life.

What about the performances? They're fair to middling. Milla Jovovich (as Violet) is on excellent action-movie form during the elaborate fight sequences (and indeed the controversial 'Gun Kata 2.0' scene which echoes director Kurt Wimmer's earlier movie EQUILIBRIUM). However, her actual character is flat and lifeless, which I'm putting down to both a dull script and the massive amount of stuff chopped out. ULTRAVIOLET could have been something great, but instead all we got was an elongated trailer that looked pretty and went 'Bang'. Considering the thing with the most screen time is Milla Jovich's midriff, what more could we expect?