Saturday, December 17, 2011

Werewolves Who Love Unwisely Fail To Sell Me On Blood And Chocolate

The Good: Moments of effect, Moments of mood/acting
The Bad: Is there a plot? Light on character, acting, DVD extras
The Basics: Formulaic and utterly disappointing, Blood And Chocolate is far more boring than sexy or even interesting, even for science fiction/fantasy fans.

I was five minutes into watching Blood And Chocolate the other day when my partner called. Eager for the distraction, I asked her - for I knew she owned the movie and had seen it several times - if this was just another "vampires and werewolf love story" and her simple response was "There are no vampires in it." She was right, this is a pretty straightforward "werewolf/human hate/love story." As I sit down to write about it, I realize that it is much more on par with the Jack Nicholson/Michelle Pfeiffer flick Wolf than the more current Underworld (reviewed here!).

I ended up breaking my viewing of Blood And Chocolate into no less than four sittings, which is pretty much unheard of for me and what makes it easier for me to rate this as a below average film with remarkable ease. It is an astonishing thing for me to be so bored by a film that I cannot stand to keep watching it. But Blood And Chocolate is boring (it looks good and some of the acting is just good enough to save it from outright damnation) and that my "not recommend" is far more vociferous than the apparent ambiguity the rest of my words might convey.

Vivian is a werewolf of prophecy. Betrothed to the leader of the pack, Gabriel, Vivian lives in as much denial as she can of her animalistic duality. She refuses to hunt with the pack and does not show deference to the alpha wolf. Instead, she spends her days working at a chocolatier and her nights hanging out in an abandoned church. It is at the church that she meets author and visual artist Aiden, who invades her sanctuary to do a sketch.

Aiden pushes past some of Vivian's defenses and into her heart and soon the two are romancing one another. Younger members of Gabriel's pack, especially Rafe, are furious about this and they essentially declare war on Aiden and Vivian, sending both of them into a run for their lives.

Blood And Chocolate - apparently - was based upon a book series, but I can unabashedly say that I have never read the books. So, this evaluation is entirely of the film, not the book or how it was adapted to film. In a word, it is boring. Blood And Chocolate is boring. There is a preponderance of violence, but no real passion. In other words, those tuning in for the "chocolate" aspect will be woefully disappointed.

Moreover, I'll be the first to say I'm tired of young love with violence. Every supernaturally-themed love story seems to degenerate into a brawl and frankly, we get it. There is conflict when teenage girls fall in love with immortals or young men fall for immortal women. We get it. But why is the sole source of conflict always a violent altercation between one faction or the other? In other words, there can be inherent conflict within love itself, overcoming insecurities, bonding and that can be made more interesting by the supernatural elements of what happens when a woman and immortal fall in love, etc. But Blood And Chocolate follows the most formulaic pattern that declares that mystery love must be tinged with violence and I'm ready for something new. This is not it.

As a result, there is very little character development in this film. Instead of being rich with interesting characters, Blood And Chocolate is filled with types. In this type of movie, there is the powerful love interest, in this case, Vivian. She is the supernatural who has the power to save the damsel in distress, in this case, the lad Aiden. There is the Alpha Villain, in this case Gabriel, and his lackeys, at least one of whom must be disposed of in the course of the film to set up the supposed dramatic moment when the heroine must choose which side she is ultimately on.

In Blood And Chocolate, that choice is made with a ridiculous sense of formula. Everything happens exactly as it happens in the archetypal story of this type. In other words, there are no surprises, little of interest that is truly unique in this outing and even less that makes the viewer want to keep watching. Everything happens with a romantic drama sense of timing, from the Initial Misconception upon meeting to the Conflicted Love to the Choice Resolution. And having seen uncommon love stories or even stories where this formula is presented in such a way that it feels fresh at the least, this is impossible to get into.

This is largely from the lack of character in the film. All of the werewolves are presented as monolithic man-haters who fear humans and hunt them because it is in their nature. This is true of all of them, of course, save Vivian. Vivian is supposed to be a prophecy girl, but the prophecy in the film is presented as vague and she does not seem to believe it herself. And she is a courier for the local chocolate company. All right . . . what is the significance of that? After its initial mention, it is not explained or explored in any meaningful way and if "chocolate" is in the title, one expects that its relationship to Vivian might well be important. In this film, it is not.

At least as bad is Aiden. He is bland and provided with character through a lone expository scene. He is on the run from his father in the States because he responded to his father's violence by pushing back. All right, there is an assault warrant out on him. The problem here is that all crimes have a statue of limitations. If Aiden truly misses the States and is hiding out in Romania, he indicates no understanding that when he hits a certain age, he can go back to the U.S. Instead, he just cowers in Europe looking like he's 24 (right at the threshold of the age the warrant would expire) without any understanding that his trials might be over soon enough.

In addition to a stunning lack of character, there are no great performances in Blood And Chocolate. The men are universally bland and seem to have been cast based on how good they look with contact lenses in their eyes and no shirt on their chest and there is a whole Harlequin Romance look to the lot of them. As for the women, they are pretty much all Hollywood beautiful (and yes, I am aware that this was filmed in Europe) and none truly make a mark on the viewer.

The most problematic aspect of this is in the lead, Agnes Bruckner. Bruckner made her mark on viewers like me with her astonishingly good performance in Dreamland. Her performance in Blood And Chocolate as Vivian is bland, lacking in anything but understatement. She emotes terribly and her facial expressions are more blank than expressive. She is the love interest by virtue of casting. She has no on screen chemistry with any of the male leads and this, too, is a black mark against the film.

But ultimately, Blood And Chocolate is just a boring film. On DVD one is given the option for widescreen or pan and scan versions. There is a collection of deleted scenes which do nothing to enhance the movie in any meaningful way. There are trailers to other films and a commentary track that I refused to sit through. I gave this movie enough chances. And I can safely say, outside those who might want to watch the trippy special effects scenes with wolves transforming, there is no real good reason to subject yourself to this movie. There are plenty of better films out there.

For other works with werewolves, please visit my reviews of:
The Twilight Saga: Eclipse
Underworld: Rise Of The Lycans
Buffy The Vampire Slayer


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

© 2011, 2009 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.
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