Ultraviolet

Discussion in 'Reader Reviews' started by dwatts, Feb 13, 2007.

  1. dwatts

    dwatts New Member

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    Well, we all know people don't like to read long reviews online. Oh well. If you clickety click and go to my site there's a more reader friendly format (at least for long bits of writing) and also lots of cool screenshots from this film (and lots of Milla.) Don't forget, if you click the small images on my site, you get larger versions.

    But if you want to remain within HorrorDVD's, here's the text. In full. Long. Boring. Waffling. Rambling. Ultra-rambling.

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    Have you ever looked at something, something you were thinking of purchasing, and then found the smallest most minor flaw and thought, “Nah, it’s not perfect.” Perhaps it was a cup, a vase, a second-hand DVD with a fingerprint that just wasn’t close enough to perfection? So you passed on it. How about a CD, nine good songs, three bad, so you just went and bought the singles. Have we lost interest in everything that isn’t pristine?

    You know, if we demand everything be perfect, we’re going to miss out on some good old fashioned entertainment. For sure, Ultraviolet isn’t perfect, but then, nothing is.

    Science fiction, as it happens, has been decimated. I was going to write that it was in decline, but that suggests it was once at the top of its game. The fact is, while there have been some sci-fi greats, the genre has always been peppered with third-rate knock-offs. Sci-fi is one genre that isn’t simply hampered by a low budget, it’s trampled to death.

    In modern times sci-fi can get the necessary budget – aided by the relative cheapness of CGI – but only if it allows itself to be blended with the action film.

    Along with this, it must also incorporate our apparently insatiable appetite for martial arts. You know what the future is? Kung Fu. And yes, I know it isn’t called “kung fu” anymore – there are variants, regional differences, and martial arts from all over the world. But you know what, it’s all Kung Fu to me. None of it does anything good old Bruce Lee hadn’t done before, or wanted to do, but he deemed it too silly.

    There have been complaints about the lack of creative talent in Hollywood, with the never-ending stream of remakes and rehashed story lines. However, while we insist the horror film is the prime victim of this malaise, I think it’s fair to say that a good case could be made that it’s the action film that has suffered the most. Just how many times must we put up with thin-as-a-rail women killing countless muscle-bound soldiers who are armed with guns – knives - pepper sprays – immobilizers – drugs – friends – gangs – armies – tanks – planes – viruses – bacteria – knives – swords – and finally, the killer punch line. How many? You want a film bereft of creativity, then you need go no further than a modern action flick.

    I partly blame the source. The “source” is much lauded, the source is the truth! I’m not a comic book fan, but I flick through them on occasion, and this ridiculous conceit is borne out there for all to see. Don’t blame only the filmmakers.

    Still, all action and tired emoting leaves a hollow taste in the mouth (one cliché for another). If you want gravitas for a character, then you have to fall back on the traditional roles in our society. Family, friends, and maybe a dog.

    In the lead we get a woman, with a hard-as-nails exterior, willing to do some good old fashioned ass kicking on occasion, but whom strangely can be transformed by any (or all) of the following: Love, maternal instincts, other peoples children, and/or pity. You see, women are, in the end, mothers. Mothers who bat off armies of 700 or so men with nothing more than a stick, but mothers nonetheless. Yes folk, add some human attributes from “humanity 101”, and you have a fully formed character.

    Still, these comments are addressing the basic problems faced with many movies today. At an emotional level we really don’t get affected. Claymation actors don’t help either, and at times, Milla Jovovich might well have been replaced by a claymation version in this film.
     
    Last edited: Feb 13, 2007
  2. dwatts

    dwatts New Member

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    Surprisingly, I’m not going to bash Ultraviolet for any of the things I have listed so far. It’s guilty of all of it – the basic story here is a remake, conceptually, of dozens of other films. The action is daft, the CGI overbearing at times, and on top of this sheen is laid a dose of womanhood in order for the audience to connect with something otherwise totally alien. I’m not going to bash it, because if you want to watch sci-fi today, you simply have to accept that this is the way it is. This is what you get. I’ll only bash it if it promises to be something else. In the case of Ultraviolet, I was never lulled into expecting something other than what I got.

    So what about Ultraviolet? Don’t believe the hype that this film is about utopian societies and what not. This film is the ultimate anti-abortion movie. It’s about the revenge of a woman denied motherhood. After losing her unborn child due to evil corrupt science, our lead, Violet, is further persecuted because she’s different. She’s infected; she’s a danger because she has attributes others don’t like. This lean mean fighting machine is turned back into a human by, of course, a child. A young boy. A boy she finds in a suitcase. Violet never got over losing her own offspring, it stayed with her forever, the pain, the anguish. If only she could put it right. And as it happens…

    Violet adopts the child; she’ll do anything to help this boy she’s found. She’ll turn on her friends, take on the army, and destroy all of society. She’s lost one child, she won’t lose another. The evil in society robbed her of childbirth, so now it must pay. You see, in the great battle over women’s rights, the child is a weapon.

    And who is on the other side of this little debate? Well, surprisingly, there are no pedestrians in this film. Everyone we meet is either a government official or a soldier. No civilians were harmed in the making of this movie – which is quite something given what occurs.

    For the enemy we must go to the head of the government, the greatest evil a woman can face, something so void of humanity, so sick and depraved, so impossibly arrogant and cold, we all want them to die - yes, it’s a man of course. This man is heartless, and he too will do anything to maintain his position of power – yes, he’ll even make the children suffer!

    So there you have it. The film quickly follows the predictable break down of this atomic family: Distant, calculating father figure, caring and over nurturing mother, and their offspring, a young boy who lives in a suitcase who is in need of, above all else, love. They each want the child, but for different reasons. It goes without saying, love wins, right?

    You could take this basic premise and retrofit it into many different scenarios, the family drama, a romantic comedy, or courtroom epic. Oh, or you can put into a sci-fi film in order to add a human edge to the impossible. That’s what we have here. So along with the broken family unit we get martial arts, CGI, electro soundtrack, and more CGI. There’s icing in the cake, and on top of the cake too.

    The martial arts are really nothing of the sort. Rather, they’re choreographed dance routines with weapons. Indeed, the stand-in for our beloved Milla is a “break dancer” (amazing really, I thought they’d all died in the 80’s). The “fights”, as Hollywood wants us to think of them, take not seconds, but weeks to put together. I sometimes wonder how disappointed those that bother to go learn these “arts” are when they find out that doing a back flip while dodging a bullet and having to catch a fragment of a sword in mid-air in order to thrust it into the face of the soldier who you must knock over on the downward spiral is, well, a bit difficult to actually pull off. If only you could live your life with a wire tied around your waist. But that’s an aside.

    Frankly, martial arts aren’t exciting enough because we’ve all become a bit jaded with all that, so you have to add in some fast cutting and the incessant beat of some anonymous electro “band”. You’ll like the music not because it’s decent, but because it batters your synapses into submission. Once you have all that – you almost have a film.

    Almost, because the next thing you need is a location, a place. And while I might have come across as a tad cynical up to this point, let me assure you here, I am not. It is often the locations that are, in the end, the most fabulous to behold. In the case of Ultraviolet, it’s surprising to find out that most of the fantastical locations are, in fact, real. China is a country modernizing like crazy. However, the architects are clearly products of our hyperactive western world. After one too many comic books they have decided to build a film set. Yes folks, life impersonates art in Shanghai. People are made to live and work in buildings that put every other country to shame. If aliens come down and land there first, they’re going to think we’re far more advanced than we really are.

    Around these real locations the filmmakers have laid a vision of the future that is, as is often the case, simply marvellous. The Director, Kurt Wimmer, has used primary colours throughout, and to great effect. Every frame has been coloured, tinted, put through goodness knows how many filters. Everything is in a soft focus, behind a haze, imbuing buildings, cars, motorcycles and doors with a glamorized sheen. If you’re looking for subtlety, you wandered into the wrong theatre.
     
    Last edited: Feb 13, 2007
  3. dwatts

    dwatts New Member

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    All we need now are one-liners. Whenever someone kills someone else, deliver a one-liner. Whenever someone leaves a room, deliver a one liner. Whenever someone contradicts someone else, deliver a one-liner. No matter the age, the health, or the planet of origin, you need a one-liner. No alien, criminal, or Samaritan of worth would venture out into the world without being armed with a gun, a knife, lethal hands and feet, an exposed mid-riff, and a one-liner. We need a little bit of creativity here, but only a modicum of it. One-liners don’t really have to be all that funny, just appropriate and repeatable – even if it’s only once.

    Boy, the elements are coming together. Have I forgotten anything? Oops, I forgot, we need a cute female. No worries, Ultraviolet brought in one of the cutest out there - Milla Jovovich. She’s been busy kicking ass in the Resident Evil films, and since Ultraviolet requires the exact same character, Milla must have been the obvious, and only, choice.

    Milla, once a Ukrainian emigrant, is now a valley girl from California. This realization is driven home by the commentary track on the DVD of Ultraviolet. If you want to know what horrors American society can inflict on civilians, you need look no further than Milla. Hearing her talk, outside of a movie, is akin to taking a cheese grater and rubbing it upside your face. What the hell happened to her? Yes she’s cute, and I love her so, but she’s best served today either a) With a script, or b) mute.

    Moving on, with all elements in place, we finally get an end product, we get a film called “Ultraviolet”. When writing a review, I suppose there has to come a point when one states whether they actually liked the film or not, whether I enjoyed it. You know, I suspect you’re thinking that I want 80-odd minutes of my life back. But you’d be wrong – because everything I’ve written so far is a given, it’s expected. With Ultraviolet we mix the fantastic, the fabulous, and the ridiculous in equal measure to produce spectacle.

    It’s perhaps the biggest conflict in Hollywood today. How do you make movies that are real, movies that touch the audience and affect them, while at the same time providing a spectacle? Youngsters are so hyped on sugar, music videos, and internet speeds that you have only fleeting moments to impress them, to gain their attention. In short, you need spectacle. In between moments of spectacle you must try to fit in some drama. Not too much mind. Good honest drama is like a commercial break between moments of spectacle. Too many commercials and the audience hit the fast-forward, or worse, turn off entirely. Ultraviolet, like many films of its type, gives it a shot.

    Sadly, it doesn’t pull it off. Wimmer, our Director, lets his commercials run a bit too long. There was a moment or two when I would have appreciated a barf bag to be honest. All of these scenes revolved around Milla having tender moments with the child. Wimmer needs to cut away faster, after maybe a minute or so, but he lingers too long.

    Well, for the most part. There is one instance when he gets things brilliantly right. Milla and the boy (Cameron Bright: Birth, X-Men: The Last Stand), are sitting in a car. Overhead a firework display is going off, providing the only lighting. Greens, yellows, reds, ripple across their faces like rain. I recall Argento’s Suspiria, but with impossible over-indulgence. For once, we found a use for the psychedelic 60’s that wasn’t an offence to good taste.

    Having been somewhat dismissive of the fight scenes I should also mention that some of them are pretty damn cool. The film offers us a technology they call “flat technology”. Basically, this allows people to flatten objects so they fit into a small place. The point of this is obvious – Milla gets to carry, wait for it, a 100 guns, a four foot long sword, a cell phone and credit card – in her wrists. Yes, her wrists. The stupidity of the idea is excused because of what it really allows – it allows Milla to wear skin tight clothing at all times. I mean, we can’t have Milla going to battle dragging behind her a Santa Claus sack full of weaponry, right? This is the same technology that allows them to ship their children in suitcases. In the commentary, Milla infers that this would be a good thing, but I’m not so sure.

    The thing is, Ultraviolet ends up working. The divide between those liking and disliking it is mostly a set of people who remember the spectacle on one side, and those that remember the plot on the other. The spectacle is astonishing. The plot isn’t.

    You also can’t fairly judge this movie by looking at screenshots. We all know sugar sells, and that many find it irresistible. Looking at stills from this film will tweak the addiction nicely, thank you. You get overloaded, you go into meltdown.

    Films like this are as much a feast for the eyes as they are anything else. They’re akin to ditching the jam doughnut and going straight for the sugar bowl. It’s so good while it lasts, but for every sugar high, there’s a sugar low. The low here is, well, the script.

    You see, they forgot the rule about the one-liners. You can’t just say: “You are all going to die,” but that’s an actual line from this movie. Since I’m writing a review, I really ought to give you more examples, but sadly, the one-liners are so forgettable, I forgot them. This is a bit disappointing. Good one-liners are the only device writers have for disguising the fact that they don’t have an ounce of talent. We remember one line, maybe two or three, from 120 pages of script, and we’re lulled into thinking the writing is actually good. In truth, the script to Ultraviolet is no worse than any of the other sci-fi epics we’ve been treated to lately (Aeon Flux, Serenity). However, we can’t repeat anything from it, because the one-liners are missing. Surely they realized this? If so, maybe they should have included some new one-liners as an extra on the DVD?

    I don’t usually include a summary in my reviews, but since this one is a bit rambling and long, perhaps I should sum things up in paragraph, and here it goes:

    Ultraviolet is a formula movie. You’ve seen lots of movies just like it, and many more will be made. It has all the perquisites of its type, being successful in some, and failing in others. It’s beautiful to look at, and offers up the necessary spectacle. Don’t believe the haters, the same people that slate this likely think the likes of Serenity is a good film, which it patently isn’t. You’ll be pleased, frustrated, and out and out annoyed. Yet 80-something minutes will go by pretty quickly. Milla is cute.

    There you have it. You can’t insist films are what they’re not. Did anyone really think this was going to be a great movie, even a good movie? Did they really think it would have great dialog, a purpose, a soul? Well, more fool them. This is modern day sci-fi – it’s big, stupid, loud, and brash. It doesn’t make any sense, and the robots are more human than the humans. Anything can happen, and does happen. That includes the impossible. With a running time of 80-odd minutes the film is vacuum-packed with visual splendour, by the time you leave you’ll be suffering extreme visual fatigue. Going to a mall after watching this must be a depressing affair, where are the primary colours, where’s the architecture? The only martial art is dance. Get with it, accept, move on.

    Ultraviolet does what it says on the can. You can’t knock it for that. And yeah, it goes boom. Rad, Milla, huh?

    ps: It has been widely reported that this version of the film is not the one the Director intended us to see. Due to studio interference 30 minutes was cut from the film in order to make it more action oriented. Perhaps one day we can reassess with this footage back in place.
     
    Last edited: Feb 13, 2007
  4. killit

    killit Active Member

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    the extended cut i saw is awesome. i love wimmer. great action flick, the cgi was fine. aeon flux was fucking horrible, that's bad cgi, and that's a bad movie.
     
  5. Shannafey

    Shannafey Don't Monkey With Me!

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    Absolutely hated this piece of garbage!!
     
  6. indiephantom

    indiephantom Horny Spirit

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    dwatts that was terrific review, man. I've been curious about this film as I enjoyed Equilibrium. I'll give this a shot for the reasons you describe.
     
  7. aoiookami

    aoiookami Demon Fetishist

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    the extended cut must have been a totally different movie, because this is definately one of the worst movies I've seen. Excellent review(s) Dwatts, I read them both and I agree with alot of it; what did people expect? It's far, faaaar from high art.
    But even as an action/sfx romp it fails, the action is very un-impressive by todays standards, its essentially what we've already seen in Equillibirum, only more 'rehearsed/fake' looking. Most of the time it was just silly roll your eyes action. And the sfx at some points look like PS1 graphics..
     
  8. dwatts

    dwatts New Member

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    Thanks for the kind words, and for reading all that. :D

    aoiookami, I didn't watch the extended cut - this was the theatrical release. The extended scenes are included as an extra though. The alternative opening is about 100 times better than the one included in the film - goodness knows what they were thinking when they put that final cut together (the studio did this, not the Director who had disowned the film by then).

    We often get films that are overhyped on message boards, and by the same token, films that are unfairly maligned. There is something of a pack mentality sometimes. Before viewing Ultraviolet I'd read many many bad things about it - how horrible and worthless it was, and how silly. So by the time I approached it, I was numb to all the hate. It actually allowed me to be quite positive about the film, no way was it going to be as bad as others were saying.

    And that's what I found. It has potential, though I'd love to see the original two-hour cut. Some of the silly Sci-Fi elements, such as the ability to defy gravity, are hokey - but this is sci-fi, and I thought excusable. The fact that she could jump off buildings and not get injured was equally silly, or the fact that she could beat up all those guys single-handedly. It is indeed silly, daft, unbelievable - but sci-fi asks us to excuse reality at such times, so I did that.

    I'd agree the film is flawed, but I honestly think with the Directors cut of this could be very good. As it is, well I wrote a lot above about what it is.

    The next film I'd like to review is the Wicker Man remake. That's gotten lots of hate, I'm immune to that now too. I'm sure I'll find something good in there, I'm certain of it! ;)

    Thanks again. I know long posts are trying! ;)
     
  9. indiephantom

    indiephantom Horny Spirit

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    I prefer long posts when it's worth reading, as your review was.

    But I will be very impressed if you can find anything redeeming in The Wicker Man Redux.
     
  10. dwatts

    dwatts New Member

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    --I will be very impressed if you can find anything redeeming in The Wicker Man Redux.--

    :D Well, one must try. Hopefully I'll pick it up soon and give it a go. There's surely got to be something, something good in it!!!
     
  11. indiephantom

    indiephantom Horny Spirit

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    actually I think there is. Cage + bear suit = one of the biggest laughs I've had at the movies in awhile. :spit:
     

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