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How do you make a ‘hit’ movie? Well, if the makers of the latest film to fall into my lap are to be believed, you simply take one incredibly hot ‘vampire’ chick, dress her up in a chameleon-like costume, arm her with a ton of high-tech weaponry, pit her against hoards of disposable enemies and then throw out anything resembling a coherent plot. Yes, ladies and gentlemen, Ultraviolet has arrived.

Ultraviolet: Unrated Extended Cut

Feature


Ultraviolet takes place in a futuristic world where mankind has managed to eradicate all but one disease—hemophegia. What started as a genetic experiment quickly mutated into an uncontrollable plague that spread throughout the world, infecting and transforming those it came into contact with into hemophages, genetically altered superhumans who exhibit many of the characteristics of vampirism, such as enhanced speed, strength, regenerative capabilities and a sensitivity to bright light. However, with these enhanced abilities comes the need for regular blood transfusions, along with a drastically shortened lifespan.

Fearful of the spread of the disease, the medical establishment initiated ‘containment protocols’, rounding up victims and sending them to special camps that served as cover for mass experimentation and genocide. One such victim was Violet Song jat Chariff, a young woman who lost both her husband and unborn child as a result of her condition. After years of enduring torture and abuse at the hands of her captors, Violet escaped and joined an underground resistance movement in an attempt to prevent the annihilation of her race.

Before long a civil war—dubbed the Blood Wars—begins between the humans and the hemophages. Violet is charged with infiltrating the Arch Ministry and stealing their ultimate weapon, one that is capable of targeting and killing all hemophages on the planet simultaneously. However, after completing her mission she becomes suspicious of her compatriots’ motives, and against their explicit orders she opens the case containing the weapon. She is stunned by what she finds inside—the body of a young boy. Of course Violet’s maternal instincts kick in and she finds herself unable to hand the child over to her superiors, and so begins the second act of the film as Violet goes on the run with the boy—who we discover is named ‘Six’—while trying to avoid the attentions of the authorities and her former comrades.

Ultraviolet: Unrated Extended Cut
Much of the above is delivered to the viewer in the first ten minutes of the film in the form of a number of flashbacks and a voiceover by Violet. Normally such a large amount of exposition would take up the entire first act of a film, but when you consider that around thirty minutes of footage was reportedly hacked out of the movie, it’s not surprising that a few shortcuts had to be taken. Yes folks, Ultraviolet appears to be the latest in a long line of films to suffer from ‘studio interference’, which results in one set piece after another without any of the character development required to make the audience actually care about the protagonist. I know there are people out there who like their action mindless—hey, that’s up to them—but there’s a difference between mindless action and a brainless film.

According to various ‘sources’, Screen Gems didn’t like the direction Kurt Wimmer had taken with the movie and shortened the film’s running time from two hours to eighty eight minutes, removing much of the core story, changing the sound effects and the score. Much of the violence was also omitted, resulting in a choppy feel to the fight sequences and a distinct lack of blood for a vampire movie in which about a billion faceless stuntmen are gunned/scythed down. Now normally I take these Internet rumours with a pinch of salt, but there are just too many websites claiming that the finished film does not represent the director’s vision to ignore in this particular instance. Perhaps one day we’ll see the director’s true vision brought to the screen, but I for one won’t be holding my breath, or indeed standing in line to watch it.

Ultraviolet: Unrated Extended Cut
Before I move on to the next section, it would be remiss of me not to mention the special effects and action. I use the term ‘special’ very loosely, as I personally felt that much of the CGI looked incomplete. Perhaps it’s just me, but numerous shots just didn’t look right, almost like a lower budget Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow (which I guess it sort of is). Unfortunately many of the fights are somewhat pedestrian in their execution, with some moves looking like they’re being run through at half speed (which they obviously are) and then ‘fixed’ in the edit. It’s also all too obvious when Milla’s stunt double is on screen, which kinda pulled me out of the moment during a couple of the scenes. With that said there are a number of visually impressive set-pieces, such as the ‘Gun Kata’ fight with the Blood Chinois gang or the motorcycle chase up the side of a skyscraper, but it’s nothing we haven’t seen done before and with more style elsewhere.

Video


Sony Pictures Home Entertainment presents Ultraviolet in an anamorphically enhanced 1.85:1 aspect ratio transfer. The film was apparently shot in high definition, which should have allowed for a virtually flawless transfer to DVD. However, this is not the case. In the first moments after the opening credits sequence alone I noticed a considerable amount of posterisation, but it is the strange ‘Vaseline on the lens’ phenomenon that really lets the side down. A number of scenes are just too soft; and I mean completely and utterly out-of-focus soft. The first really obvious instance occurs at around the forty-seven minute mark, but there are numerous other shots that suffer from the same problem. I honestly can’t decide if it’s a stylistic choice or a genuine error, but whichever it is I can’t stand to look at it.

Ultraviolet: Unrated Extended Cut
Oddly, the rest of the transfer is actually pretty good. The opening comic book sequence is particularly crisp and colourful, and the transfer handles the varied locales thrown at it with comparative ease. Blacks are very solid, but I found shadow detail a bit lacking, especially during one key scene where Violet is talking about her tattoos—I simply couldn’t even see them on my set-up. Obviously I didn’t view the film theatrically, so it’s very difficult to gauge if the transfer is an accurate representation of the experience, but from what I can tell it does remain faithful to the ridiculously stylised look of the picture. Whether that’s a good or bad thing is largely down to the viewer, but if you liked Casshern you should feel right at home with Ultraviolet’s visual style.

Audio


The sole audio option takes the form of a Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack, which is a little more consistent than the video. Right from the opening you know you’re going to be in for an energetic mix if nothing else, as the pounding video game-esque score blares from all channels, fully immersing the viewer in the Ultraviolet universe. Apparently the score has been heavily criticised on the ‘net, but I really can’t see why. Ok, so it’s hardly going to live long in the memory, but it’s a suitably cheesy effort that provides a decent enough accompaniment to the over-the-top action portrayed in the film. To be fair, having John Williams compose the score wouldn’t have prevented the film from sucking.

The rest of the speakers get a solid workout courtesy of the various discrete effects on offer, be it gunfire, explosions or, well, it’s mainly just gunfire and explosions actually. There are a few missed opportunities for surround action, and I found the bass somewhat lacking during a number of the gunplay sequences, but on the whole this is a pretty decent effort. Oh, and for what it’s worth dialogue is also crisp and clear throughout, although that’s a bit of a mixed blessing given the standard of some of the lines that are forced upon the characters.
 
Ultraviolet: Unrated Extended Cut

Extras


Let me preface the following by saying that I like Milla Jovovich. Seriously, she is a fine looking woman and was very cool in The Fifth Element. However, she just isn’t able to carry a ninety minute commentary track by herself. I enjoyed her silly, over-the-top participation in the Resident Evil commentary, but there she had Michelle Rodriguez and Paul Anderson to bounce off of. This solo effort is full of agonisingly long pauses, so much so that at times I forgot I was actually listening to the commentary. When she does speak she says very little of interest and instead falls back on the ‘that was cool’ style of commentating, which is a real pity. Of course Wimmer’s absence is hardly surprising given the studio problems, but Sony could have drafted someone in to help Milla out. As it is, this is not the worst commentary I’ve ever heard, but it’s not a million miles off.

Next up is a thirty-minute ‘Making of’ featurette entitled ‘UV Protection’. This is further broken down into four shorter featurettes, entitled ‘The Beginning, ‘Turn of the Wheel’, ‘Through the Lens’ and ‘Fighting Stance’. Although the featurette covers a lot of ground in its comparatively short running time—from the beginnings of production, through the stunts, to the cinematography and combat sequences—most of the information is presented in a very glossy, promotional manner that delivers little real insight. All of the principle cast and crew are interviewed (with the notable exception of Wimmer), with each interview punctuated by clips from the finished movie, but the featurette really tries to cram too much into the running time. I would have preferred a separate section with more detailed featurettes on the visual effects, score and stunts, but I guess that’s asking too much for a film that tanked so badly. As it stands, ‘UV Protection’ is not a total washout, but I wouldn’t have given it a second look were it not for the fact that I was reviewing the disc.

Ultraviolet: Unrated Extended Cut
The only other material on the disc is promotional in nature, but has nothing to do with Ultraviolet itself. Instead, we get trailers for Final Fantasy VII: Advent Children, Mirrormask, Marilyn Hotckiss Ballroom Dancing & Charm School, i The Fog, The Benchwarmers and Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby. Yawn.

Overall


Ultraviolet is an incoherent mess of a movie, filled with bad dialogue and career-low performances. I’ll admit to finding the premise intriguing, but the laughable execution quickly put paid to any fun I might have had. Arguably the biggest problem is that Ultraviolet reminds me of a number of other movies, all of which feature superior execution. Blade, Underworld, The Matrix and yes, even Casshern, all came to mind while watching the film, and all are infinitely more enjoyable (well, maybe not Casshern). Perhaps it had the makings of a decent film before the studio suits got involved, but there’s little to no evidence of that from the feature on this disc.

Occasionally a poor film can be transformed into a worthy purchase when given a decent selection of extras, but sadly even the bonus material is sub-par. Here’s a newsflash Sony: a tedious commentary, one glossy but dull ‘Making of’ featurette and a few trailers pimping your other wares does not constitute value for money. Even the above average audio-visual elements can’t help to salvage this one. If you’re a die-hard Ultraviolet fan—and I have to question the existence of such people—then I’d advocate picking this up over the standard theatrical version, but if you’re not a total masochist then I strongly suggest that you steer well clear.


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