Ultraviolet (2006): *½
Directed by Kurt Wimmer
Huh. This movie is an absolute mess. But what a
fascinating set of choices.
As I was watching the movie "unfold"
it suddenly struck me that, more than any other movie I've ever
seen, Ultraviolet feels like reading a comic book. The
closest any other movie has ever come is the brilliant Sin City.
But while watching Sin City I still felt like I was watching
a movie. While watching Ultraviolet I felt like I had a
(rather average mainstream) comic book in my hands and was reading
I can't rightly explain it, but everything from
the dialogue to the visuals to the pacing made the movie feel like
a comic book.
And you know what? It doesn't work. At all.
I know the comic-booky feel is an intentional choice,
because the opening credit sequence (which, by the way, is one of
the most clever and fun opening sequences I've seen in quite a while)
is a series of (nonexistent) comic book covers. The font that declares
the end of the movie is comic book font. So Kurt Wimmer was obviously
trying to make a live-action comic book. But all of the choices
he makes in editing, sets, special effects, cinematography, and
dialogue make the film feel like a comic book. Not a live-action
comic book, either.
There are some ideas that are good on paper (this
being a printed comic book after all). Violet has a device that
can create arbitrary gravity orientations. She uses it at one point
to walk along the ceilings of a building. At another point she uses
it to make a motorcycle drive along the sheer sides of skyscrapers
while trying to evade a couple of helicopters. A technology called
"flat-space" that allows people to store weapons and such
in little pocket dimensions, so you only have to carry around the
hilt of your sword. When you need it, the entire three-foot sword
pops out of the hilt. The flat-space technology can also deconstruct
and reconstruct objects for (presumably) even more compression.
The best single sequence in the movie is when an
unarmed Violet is attacked by a group of Blood Chinois on a rooftop
and manages to kill them all simply by maneuvering herself in such
a way that they all ended up shooting each other. This scene is
a good successor to Kurt's brilliant "Gut Kata" scenes
in his previous film, Equilibrium.
This scene, the opening credits, and a handful of other things here
and there made seeing the film rather enjoyable (though not always
in a good way), which is what urged me to give it an extra half-star
instead of just a one-star rating.
But the movie is pretty much a mess. The story
centers around a very unspecific blood disease that seems to be
some form of vampirism that gives you super powers but also kills
you very, very, very slowly. The film moves in fits and starts so
that no single event is really given any more weight than other
event. The production values are shockingly poor, making the film
look far more like a low-budget picture than it probably was (even
if it does make it look more like a comic book). Much of the action
seems to have been edited poorly (heck most of the film seems to
have been edited poorly), and most of the closeups in the movie
had a weird blur effect on them. It did make it look more like a
comic book with big expanses of solid color, but I found it way
It looks like all of the choices that Kurt made
in the course of creating this film were made in order to create
this very specific type of film. But much like a couple of Gus Van
Sant's experimental films (like his shot-for-shot remake of Psycho,
or Gerry), Ultraviolet doesn't really work.
After writing this review I went and looked up whatsoever information
I could find about the movie, as is my habit. It turns out that
Screen Gems took the movie out of Kurt Wimmer's hands in post-production
and edited 32 minutes out of it. Some of the "choices"
I mentioned above might not have been choices at all, but victims
of sloppy post-editing. So it would seem that most of the suck factor
of the film might rest on the shoulders of the assholes at Screen
Gems, and not on Kurt Wimmer's. But Kurt still gets the blame for
the poor-feeling production values. Can't save that with editing!
Hopefully Kurt will get the chance to release a director's cut
that might make all the story and editing problems simply be nonexistent,
and turn this mess into a good movie. I wouldn't put it past impossible;
a half hour is a lot of screen time. But I haven't seen that movie.
I've only seen the severely chopped down movie. I can only review
the movie that I have seen, so for now the one-and-a-half stars