Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Nothing Ultra Here, Except Suck. Is Ultrasuck A Legitimate Classification? Ultraviolet

The Good: There are moments that Milla Jovovich looks good
The Bad: Every line Jovovich says is terrible, Acting, Character, Continuity, Plot, EVERYTHING!
The Basics: Ultraviolet is a special effects-driven movie is not special. It sucks. Unspeakably lame.

When I write reviews, I tend to go to the IMDB to get the correct spellings of character names and actors names and for the information involving any crew members (director, costume designer, writers, etc.) that I need to cite. Occasionally, I accidentally see a review of a movie there (I say "accidentally" because I try not to let other people's opinions influence my opinions on such things). In the case of Ultraviolet, when I was doing my fact-checking, there was a review that was whining about how Ultraviolet was unfairly being compared to other special effects-heavy movies like The Matrix and, well, whatever else. I say "whining" because the special effects in Ultraviolet were nothing to write home about - more on that in moments - and the reviewer seemed infatuated with this movie beyond any sense of reason. But more than that, the assertion that Ultraviolet was somehow unfairly compared to other special effects movies is a lame argument. The moment a movie pushed forth the envelope on special effects, every other special effects-driven movie becomes judged by or against that standard. So, for example, Star Wars: A New Hope revolutionized special effects in the late-70s and from that moment on, it was a standard by which effects were judged. Make a movie with A New Hope effects now, it's camp; the envelope has been pushed. And there has been a series of leaps since: Jurassic Park, The Phantom Menace, The Matrix, Return Of The King, each moved forward effects and pushed the envelope to create a higher standard of special effects for special effects movie. Trading on spectacle means playing in the field as it stands. If you can't create the new best thing, you're not going to have the biggest special effects movie of the year. And if you're behind on the special effects and you're creating a special effects-driven movie you're going to have a lemon. It's unfair to compare non-special effects movies to a special effects standard (i.e. complaining that Magnolia's special effects aren't up to The Matrix is an unfair comparison because Magnolia is not a special effects movie).

That said . . .

Violet is a hemophage who was experimented on, died and was essentially brought back to life. Now, she is acting as a courier for a weapon that is supposed to be able to wipe out all hemophages, who are a nearly extinct race of infected humans who have some vampiric qualities. Violet, despite all of the orders she is given, opens the case to the weapon and discovers in it a child, Six. Six is somehow related to the industrialist leader Daxus who is determined to recover the child and bury Violet with his army of utterly incompetent soldiers.

Every now and then I watch a movie like Ultraviolet and I wonder if there are movies that are sent overseas to entertain our troops in their barracks that they just get pissed off watching. If I was a soldier and I watched Milla Jovovich cutting down a virtual army, I think I could get annoyed enough to go kick some ass. I mean, soldiers who have any pride in their ability to kill other human beings ought to be offended by seeing legions of their numbers - especially with adequate amounts of body armor - cut down by a half-dressed chick with no real superhuman abilities.

There is one cool thing about Ultraviolet and I'll just write what it is. Near the end of the movie, Violet and Daxus fight with swords with the lights off. The battle is remotely interesting only for the fact that they put a flammable liquid on their swords and do battle by flaming sword. It's a pretty cool concept and it's the sole well-executed moment of the movie.

The problem is, it's the only well-executed moment of the movie. There are shots that make absolutely no sense, save to present Jovovich and accent her looks. I swear, the soldiers in this movie are so ridiculous that director Kurt Wimmer presents a shot of Jovovich as Violet swishing her hair, as in a Revlon commercial, before she slaughters a bunch of them. Why don't the soldier's shoot? I don't know. Are they dazzled by her looks? I suppose it's possible . . .

Milla Jovovich is terrible as Violet, but to her credit, the part is absolutely abysmal. Violet, as presented by lines delivered, is either multiple personalitied, the most abrupt shifter of moods or just has no idea what is coming out of her mouth. One moment, she will say someone is trying to kill Six and he needs to trust her and then when she runs into an obstacle with the boy, she threatens to kill him, then she implores him to trust her again. It's ridiculous and lacks any continuity, not only from scene to scene, but line to line.

None of the characters are interesting, believable or compelling. The whole cast of characters could be wiped out and it would not appreciably change the emotional resonance of the movie. Sadly, the performances all suffer as a result of the terrible characters. One of my favorites, William Fichtner, appears in Ultraviolet and even his appearance cannot help the movie. Fichtner plays Garth, an ally to Violet who interacts with her infrequently in her bloody run away from both the hemophages and Daxus. Fichtner is responsible - via Garth - for a great deal of plot exposition to make sense of what essentially is the prior forty-five minutes of Milla Jovovich on the run. Fichtner gets around the dull as dirt explanations and is then subjected to injecting one of the most hackneyed romantic subplots in recent movie memory. The leads in Scary Movie 4 had more reasonable emotional resonance and reason to hook up than Garth and Violet in Ultraviolet.

And the special effects are nothing to scream about. In fact, for a movie from 2006, the effects are pathetic. What makes the effects so insulting is that the movie tries to be clever and interesting with the effects, but creates entire sequences that look animated. So, for example, as Violet is fleeing someone (at this point, I don't even care to stretch my memory to remember who she was running away from at the time) on her motorcycle, she is driving up the side of skyscrapers and the image is so overdone with computer animation that the entire sequence looks like it is computer generated. It is so overdone and poorly done that the texture and lighting of the sequence devolves from live action into CGI cartoon for the duration of the sequence. It's insulting and it's bad. Just bad.

What is worse - and go ahead armies of Christian soldiers, lambaste me for calling the film on this! - is the overt subtext (not as much of an oxymoron as it might sound) of modern day Paulist-Christian propaganda peppered throughout the movie. Violet implores her fellow hemophages not to destroy the container carrying Six because of the importance of the life of a child. And while it might be a stretch to some to read Ultraviolet as a subtle doctrine on wiping out homosexuals (The Other!, "the infected") and the desperation of the modern Paulist Christians to demonize anyone who is different, the prevalence of cross imagery and associations with such strong Christian imagery is undeniable. One of the last shots of the movie involves a giant cross-shaped building that has domes conspicuously at the stigmata points. One needs to be either in denial or oblivious to ignore the Paulist-Christian proselytizing in Ultraviolet.

Fortunately for me, for those who wish to complain about any sort of anti-Christian bias on my part, Ultraviolet is such a homogeneously terrible movie before getting into any deeper readings or associations that it's impossible to say I'm rating the movie even lower because of the overt Christian doctrines being pushed on the audience. From Violet's opening assertions that this is "a world you may not understand" to the string of nonsensical events that follow throughout the movie, this is so bad that it doesn't even have camp value.

Thirty minutes into Ultraviolet, Violet asks, "What am I doing?" which is right around the time the viewer is so baffled by the inane content of the movie that they are asking the same question. This movie is PG-13, though I can't imagine even a 13 year-old being entertained by it.

For other works with William Fitchner, be sure to check out my reviews of:
Date Night
The Dark Knight


For other movie reviews, please visit my index page by clicking here!

© 2011, 2007 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.

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