Ultraviolet (United States, 2006)

A movie review by James Berardinelli

Kudos to Sony for not holding advance screenings of Ultraviolet. This is the kind of crap you want to keep away from critics. Masochist that I am, I went to see this on my own dime, and regret every cent spent to gain admission to the theater. This is another one of those pointless action superhero movies that unfolds like a video game in which the viewer is unable to participate. On more than one occasion, I have written that there's nothing more frustrating than watching someone else play a video game. Now I have found an exception to the rule - watching someone cheat while playing a video game. Because that's what the makers of Ultraviolet do: cheat.

Uwe Boll would be proud of this movie. It's pretentious and oh-so-serious. The tone of the movie is one of high art, but it stinks like a landfill. It doesn't matter that the acting is wooden, the storyline is incomprehensible, and the action sequences are plodding. All the filmmakers care about is that there's a dash of panache to the proceedings. It's hard to argue that Ultraviolet has a unique look. The live actors appear as computer generated as the backgrounds. Considering the lack of humor and emotion displayed by the performers, one might assume that their only participation was to allow their three-dimensional images to be programmed into a computer and reproduced. (A better guess is that they did all their "acting" in front of a blue screen, then their images were digitally touched up.)

To the extent that the plot makes any sense, it goes something like this: Violet (Milla Jovovich) is a "Hemophage" (a woman inflicted with a blood sickness) who has been exiled from a society paranoid about pathogens. Possessing extraordinary agility, strength, and dexterity with weapons, she becomes the best hope her race has for a champion against the military forces of Daxus (Nick Chinlund), who seeks the destruction of the Hemophages. He has recently created a doomsday weapon, and Violet is charged with destroying it. The agent of destruction turns out to be a boy who goes by the moniker of Six (Cameron Bright). Unwilling to commit cold-blooded murder, Violet is forced to go on the run from her own people as well as Daxus. Her only ally is Garth (William Fichtner), a scientist who loves her.

Director Kurt Wimmer (Equilibrium) intends the movie to unfold more like a comic book than a generic computer game. He succeeds in this aim for the film's opening credits. After that, as we move from one lifeless fight to the next, the sameness of the proceedings reminds one of level advancing in video games. Because the PG-13 rating demands bloodless violence, the battles are antiseptic and confusing. Violet twirls her sword and a dozen opponents tumble to the ground. On those occasions when the so-called action takes a break, we are subjected to inane exposition that explains little but treats us to passages of embarrassingly cheesy dialogue. While Wimmer may be proud of his stylistic approach to directing, he should have chosen a pen name for the writing credit.

It occurs to me that the lack of lucidity in the story could be the result of extreme cuts to the final print. There are times when events jump forward in a jarring manner. If that's the case, maybe the DVD release will contain a director's cut that might make sense. As for the actors... I hesitate to say anything about them because it's unclear how much of their performances are attributable to the computer. I'd like to say that Jovovich doesn't display much range (except in hair color) but shows admirable physicality, but who knows? Even the butt shot might have been generated inside some animator's computer. When it comes to comic book-ish science fiction action movies not screened for critics, Ultraviolet falls short of mark set by Aeon Flux, and that bar is already so low that even a dwarf would have trouble doing the limbo under it.

Ultraviolet (United States, 2006)

Director: Kurt Wimmer
Cast: Milla Jovovich, Cameron Bright, Nick Chinlund, William Fichtner
Screenplay: Kurt Wimmer
Cinematography: Arthur Wong, Jimmy Wong
Music: Klaus Badelt
U.S. Distributor: Screen Gems
Run Time: 1:25
U.S. Release Date: 2006-03-03
MPAA Rating: "PG-13" (Violence, Brief Nudity)
Subtitles: none
Theatrical Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1