Storyline: Our Reviewer's Take
I'll say. 'Ultraviolet' just may be the worst (and most incomprehensible) of the new wave of videogame action movies currently infiltrating Hollywood. And if it isn't the worst, it certainly isn't for a lack of trying. Saddled with a lame story, dull characters, terrible dialogue, barely competent CGI and ho-hum action, it is a concept in search of movie. Cobbled together like borrowed parts from parts of other, better movies ('The Matrix,' 'Blade,' 'Resident Evil,' to name a few), you know you are in trouble when your movie makes even the recent disaster 'Aeon Flux' look good.
As 'Ultraviolet' begins, it is the late 21st century, and a subculture of humans have emerged who have been modified genetically by a vampire-like disease (dubbed "hemophagia"), giving them enhanced speed, incredible stamina and acute intelligence. But now the world is on the brink of civil war under the rule of totalitarian dictator Daxus (Nick Chinlund), with the "hemophagiacs" are set apart from "normal" humans who fear the destruction of their "diseased" population. Before you can say 'X-Men United!", an infected arch-warrior, Ultraviolet (Milla Jovovich), emerges to prevent a massive and bloody conflict. Does she alone have the power to save the future of mankind?
Okay, maybe I was a bit harsh on 'Ultraviolet' in my opening paragraph. It has the ambition to be nothing more than a cool, kick-ass sci-fi videogame flick, and there is nothing wrong with that. But unfortunately, it is all surface. Written and directed by Kurt Wimmer (who also wrote 'The Recruit' and helmed the little-seen 'Equilibrium'), he does have a coherent vision for this future world, and a pretty good sense of pace and action. Unfortunately, his film just doesn't have any characters we care about or want to root for. Jovovich is easy on the eyes as always as Ultraviolet, and proves here along with 'The Fifth Element' and the 'Resident Evil' movies that she is quite adept at physical action and ass-kicking. Unfortunately, that is all she gets to do -- we could give a crap about her predicament or her backstory. And Chinlund as the evil Daxus just doesn't have the spark and oiliness of the best screen villains -- it is hard to even remember him ten minutes after I just finished the movie. Also largely wasted is a decent supporting cast, especially Cameron Bright as "Six" and the ever-dependable William Fichtner ('Crash,' 'Contact,' TV's 'Invasion') in a small role as Garth, the cliched "helper" character (think Bishop from the 'Alien' flicks).
But more than just dull and uninspired, 'Ultraviolet' flirts dangerously with C-movie territory for a film released by a major studio. Aside from the overdone CGI (seriously, just about every shot in the movie looks like a PlayStation game, and that is not a complement) I haven't heard this much bad dialogue since 'Showgirls.' I just didn't know what to make of such clunkers as "You got hemo blood on me...it is on!", or Ultraviolet, after getting a romantic proposal, saying "Because these beautiful moments turn evil when they're over." Uh, what!? Unfortunately, the film is just competent enough technically that it doesn't work as camp, which is a real waste. For all its hi-tech sheen and thrill-ride bombastic, had 'Ultraviolet' only been a little bit funnier, it might have been more an enjoyably dumb popcorn flick instead of an endurance test.
Presented in 2.35:1 widescreen and encoded at 1080p, 'Ultraviolet' looks about as a good as film created almost entirely in a computer could. It is colorful to the point of being gaudy, never looks remotely photo-realistic and is in general so whacked-out that even the word "inconsistent" doesn't do it justice.
On a positive note, since this a direct-from-digital transfer, there aren't any film-related anomalies to speak of, such as blemishes or dirt or the like. Unfortunately, the image has been so heavily tweaked that I did notice some unfortunate side-effects from all that digital plastic surgery. While all the blown-out whites are fine, there is too much edginess around sharply contrasted objects in some scenes, which gives the transfer an artificial, standard-DVD feel. I also noticed some pixelization and even banding of colors in select shots, which I'm not used to with high-def. However, overall this is still a pretty detailed image, with eye-popping visuals at times and rich blacks which do give the transfer real depth. However, all the processing kept me distracted, and personally prohibits 'Ultraviolet' from looking as smooth as the better transfers I've seen on HD DVD or Blu-ray.
The audio is more effective than the video. Presented in uncompressed PCM 5.1 surround (a Dolby 5.1 option is also provided), 'Ultraviolet' boast a very aggressive soundtrack. Dynamic range is generally excellent across the entire sonic spectrum, with low bass especially pronounced. As the film is almost wall-to-wall with an incessant, pounding techno-drums, you'll feel a steady stream of vibrations if you turn this one up loud. Directional effects are also nicely spread across the entire soundfield, both for overt sounds as well as more subtle atmospherics. Granted, 'Ultraviolet' is never anything less than over-the-top, but at least sonically it is a fun ride.
Like their Blu-ray release of 'Basic Instinct 2,' Sony has once again elected to not include the unrated cut of 'Ultraviolet' that's currently available on standard DVD, instead opting only for the 87-minute, PG-13 rated theatrical version. Of course, it is hard to imagine a few extra minutes of footage could really save 'Ultraviolet,' but fans deserve the film uncut.
The extras we do get are fairly thin. The screen-specific audio commentary from star Milla Jovovich earns points for enthusiasm. Unlike a lot of name Hollywood actresses, she never condescends to the material; rather, she seems to love doing sci-fi/action/horror flicks. She also makes no bones about her appreciation for director Kurt Wimmer, though unfortunately seems to admire his vision and futuristic inventions for the movie even if she doesn't understand them at all. That gets a bit old after awhile, as Jovovich doesn't ultimately impart much in the way of depth about either the film's narrative or its production. Still, you Milla fans (and you know who you are) should give it a listen.
The only other extra is a four-part featurette, "UV Protection: The Making of 'Ultraviolet.' Director Wimmer is only seen via EPK on-set footage, and it is clear that whatever one thinks of the film he made, he was certainly a passionate, engaging presence on the set. From the film's locations, production design, costumes and props, he appears to have been there every step of the way. Though I didn't think the eventual look of the film was all that pioneering, after watch this doc, I did gain a better appreciation for Wimmer. I only hope he picks better scripts in the future.
Also included are a few previews for other Sony titles, though no actual theatrical trailer for 'Ultraviolet.'
I didn't care much for 'Ultraviolet,' and judging from its meager box office returns, neither did moviegoers. It just never differentiates itself enough from other, better sci-fi action movies to truly resonant, and even the effects and action feel a bit tired. As a Blu-ray release, the transfer accurately represents the film's intended visual look despite some problems, and the audio is effective. But the fact that the unrated cut of the film currently available on the standard DVD release is not included here is yet another disappointment from Sony. So I wouldn't recommend this for a purchase unless you absolutely love this movie, or Milla Jovovich.
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