Ultraviolet is the latest entry in the Revisionist Vampire genre, where evil bloodsuckers are recast as a fashionable but oppressed minority in a world gone mad. Or as repressed supermodels. Instead of stalking innocent damsels in their bedrooms, they now stalk the runways of Paris and Milan, picking up aviator sunglasses and other accessories that match the exclusive-club nature of their blood type. The unfortunate need to inject a little blood now and then - so bourgeois - is handled with the discretion of a coke habit. The pointy canine teeth are retained by some of these new vampires for retro kitsch value, such as the character of Garth in this film, who is a model for a sort of English-Humanities Professor Vampire. As he paces the floor, fulminating on the existential problems of vampirism, the teeth make a nice contrast to his furrowed brow and unkempt hair. Not to get your hopes up. Ultraviolet is an ultra-careless action-vampire mash-up that will satisfy neither action fans or those who enjoy the typical Wikipedia-culled hodgepodge of vampire lore. It rarely even makes sense. After the movie informs us that vampirism was recently created by a viral mutation, for example, we see the vampires brandishing swords with ancient glyph writing burned onto the blades. Looks like they've been around for a while.
Why the vampire glitterati in this film have recruited Milla Jovovich's Violet (ultra) character to fight on their side is not hard to understand. She is practically a deity, with the ability to take on hundreds of opponents at once by thinking up any weapon she wants and having it materialize into her hands. There are scenes in the film where Violet is circled by a group of armed thugs, and then, they inexplicably fall over dead. Why is that? Answer: she is able to move so quickly that we, in the audience, don't have the heightened senses necessary to see her move. Uh-huh. I would have been more willing to believe that they were momentarily distracted by her perfectly sculpted abs. Violet's motivations for fighting are somewhat unclear, although we know that she is a Hemophage (21st-century PC-speak for vampire) and she is the only hope of Hemophages everywhere to retrieve an antidote for Hemophagia that is being kept under lock and key by a repressive government. For those who want to go deeper - I don't advise it - there's a convoluted backstory about retroviruses, anti-viruses and pathogens, all of which can be mutated, used against the other side, and so on. The film throws a hundred balls up into the air, so that pretty much any kind of action scene can be justified later.
Those action scenes, and the visuals in this film in general, are borderline incompetent. Thanks to some apparent devil's bargain between Milla Jovovich's agent and director Kurt Wimmer, every close-up of Jovovich is gauzy to the point of distraction. In some scenes, despite deep focus in the rest of the frame, Milla's visage remains a purplish-white orb. With most of the film's action occurring in a two-dimensional, circa-1991 CGI universe, Jovovich's face is practically the only thing worth looking at, making this all the more inexcusable. The cheapness on display here is just impossible to conceal. Scenes that begin with a real person charging off on a real-life motorcycle change into a near-animation sequence once outdoors. The motorcycle will surge directly up the side of a building, then make a Grand Canyon-sized leap to an adjoining building, landing with no sense of force or gravity whatsoever. The motorcycle could land upside down, on Milla Jovovich's head, and then bounce upright, and it would feel just as plausible. There's also a climactic sword battle that occurs in the dark, with only the occasional flash of firelight illuminating the proceedings. It has the same kind-of "we think the audience is a bunch of suckers" feel as the so-fast-you-can't-see-me action I already mentioned.
Cameron Bright, the spooky child actor from Birth, co-stars as a boy in a briefcase. His blood contains a special antigen or pathogen or something, which makes him a valuable pawn to both sides of the blood war, so he is transported around from place to place in a white, laptop-thin travel case. When the case is opened, he emerges to three-dimensional life and steps out. Don't ask. When Violet comes into possession of the case and opens it, she of course takes an immediate motherly shine to the boy and must vow to protect his life, whether or not draining his blood would provide her side in the war with a checkmate. Garth, the Professor vampire, seemed to have an opinion on what should be done with the boy, but I can't remember what it was. Needless to say, the boy exists only to be in jeopardy. Violet drags him around by the wrist while she unloads entire ammunition factories into her enemies and they do the same to her. To avoid having him be killed, why not stuff him back into the two-dimensional briefcase untl the fighting is over? Isn't it bulletproof?
Ultraviolet fails on pretty much every level, including the most basic level of having the actors look interested in what they are doing. Coming from source material that's supposedly rich with detail and makes some kind of internal sense, there should have been some attempt to educate the actors on what was going on, so that the audience could follow the emotional through-line of the plot even when we were lost. Instead, Milla Jovovich looks, in many takes, like she has no idea what her words mean. There's one scene where, in between spouting techno-babble about antigens and Hemophage vulnerabilities, she is required to say 'But he's a child!' She suddenly comes to life and really chews into that line. She shouts it out with conviction. I think she understood what that line meant.