I am interested in how films get made. Not just the nuts-and-bolts of choosing film stock, lens, lights and what-have-you, but how ideas get turned into something that someone decides is worthy of investment money. In the case of Ultraviolet, the premise is so thin that one wonders if the entire pitch was "We watch Milla Jovovich kick serious ass for an hour and a half."
Here it is: in the near future, a blood-borne pathogen has split humanity into two classes – the uninfected, and the Hemos, who are stronger, faster, have longer canine teeth, and only live for 12 years after infection – they're called vampires, of course. The Hemos are in danger of being wiped out in a civil war of sorts, and Violet (Jovovich), who is close to her 12th year and has quite the mad-on against the norms, steals a new secret weapon. Upon discovering that the secret weapon is being carried in the blood of a six year-old boy, and that each side wants to kill the boy, Violet becomes his protector. Which involves wasting a few hundred guys, give or take a thousand.
Maybe the pitch was, "I didn't get to direct Aeon Flux, and you didn't get to produce it. Let's show 'em."
This is doubtless what a videogame movie should ideally look like; the action is practically non-stop, and so awash in CGI eye-candy (not all of it successful) that we should be hearing reports of retinal cavities. The problem is, of course, that non-stop action gets wearing after a while. This is the Extended, Unrated Version, but I doubt any of the action was excised for Ultraviolet's brief theatrical run; more likely the mawkish emotional scenes are what have returned for this DVD.
What is here, though, is certainly not a total loss. Action and Milla fans will find things to like. Writer/director Kurt Wimmer, who logged the same duties on the equally entertaining but equally troublesome Equilibrium, uses his technology well, and if several of the fights overindulge in the pretty (and at least one is cribbed from a Lone Wolf & Cub movie), he has a good idea of what he wants and how to achieve it. There are some really good science-fiction ideas in here (disposable paper cell phones and pens that automatically prick your finger so you can sign in DNA), but the sci-fi definitely takes a back seat to the action.
The digital format usually serves heavy CGI films well, but in the case of Ultraviolet, it unfortunately only serves to heighten the artificiality, especially in outdoor scenes. There is a lot of attempts at softening the image and blooming colors to make the sequences look like actual photographic film registering visible light instead of sharply defined computer objects, but this doesn't gel well with the rest of the movie - it only serves to draw attention where the filmmakers didn't necessarily want it.
Since this is a Sony disc, you will begin with previews for Final Fantasy VII: Advent Children, MirrorMask, and in a case of one-of-these-things doesn't-belong here, Marilyn Hotchkiss' Ballroom Dancing & Charm School. These are all skippable via remote control, and can also be accessed through the Special Features and Main menus, along with The Fog, The Benchwarmers and Talladega Nights.
UV Protection: The Making of Ultraviolet is a four-part doc covering the origin of the project, the stuntwork, the director and fight choreography. There is plentiful behind-the-scenes footage, which is to say in a movie like this, there is a lot of blue and green screens on display. Nonetheless, it's an interesting viewing, with a welcome Play All feature.
There is also an audio commentary by Jovovich, which is maddeningly spotty; everytime she seems to be on the verge of saying something interesting about the production, she drifts off. Perhaps it was the first time she had seen the flick with all the FX in place, but it becomes very apparent she's just watching along with us, instead of illuminating our way.
Dr. Freex, 10/11/2006