Judge Jonathan Weiss likes Milla Jovovich's "inter-dimensional hoozy-whatsis." No, not those, you perv.
Our review of Ultraviolet, published July 10th, 2001, is also available.
The blood war is on
Ultraviolet got short shrift in theatres. Let's see if there's reason to believe it will enjoy a new and better life on DVD.
Facts of the Case
The short version:
It's the future and a hot vampire chick in a skin-tight colour-changing costume kicks all sorts of ass as she fights everybody and everything in sight.
The long version:
After research into a new biological weapon to turn regular people into super-soldiers went terribly wrong, the remaining people left on earth were divided into two distinct segments: humans and hemophages. Those stricken with the incredibly contagious hemophage virus possessed vampire-like abilities such as increased strength, stamina, and lightening fast reflexes. Shunned by a germaphobic and technologically advanced human society led by Daxus, a ruthless anti-hemophage despot, the hemophages were rounded up, incarcerated, and subsequently experimented on—until those who were able to, rebelled, escaped and began living on the fringes of society.
Determined to systematically track down and eliminate all remaining hemophages, Daxus creates the ultimate weapon. When word gets out, hemophage leaders send their best warrior, Violet, to infiltrate and steal this weapon—only to find out that the possible extinction of her race has been cultivated in the bloodstream of a nine-year-old boy.
Not willing to let the boy be murdered by her own people and hunted by human forces suddenly determined to kill the boy at all costs, Violet finds herself on the run and on the offensive, doing everything in her power to keep the boy safe, until she can figure out what the hell is going on.
If you want to get all cynical about it, Ultraviolet is basically a cross between Aeon Flux and Underworld with a little Blade thrown in for good measure—so basically you've seen all this stuff before. But guess what? That doesn't make it any less fun.
Ultraviolet makes no bones about its comic book roots even though there is no Ultraviolet comic book to speak of (yet). You know this because the opening credits are scattered creatively across a whole plethora of imaginary Ultraviolet comic books before transporting us straight into her universe complete with customary voice-over—giving us a bit of background to set the futuristic stage.
There are certain actors that just suit the science fiction genre and Milla Jovovich, Ultraviolet's ass-kicking vampire heroine, is one of them. Whether it's in this one, The Fifth Element, or the Resident Evil series, this chick is the underrated Sigourney Weaver of her generation. Violet's back-story is a sad one. The virus infected her when she was pregnant so the scientists under Draxus were extra curious as to what was going on within the fetus. They experimented on Violet mercilessly. In the end, they terminated her pregnancy. Somehow she managed to escape and was not seen or heard from for the past twelve years. Obviously she was busy taking ju-jitsu or something because when she comes back to steal the mega-weapon, well let's just say this lady be some kind of fierce. Oh, and by the way, Violet's a loner, but you probably already knew that.
And then there's William Fichtner. William Who? Don't worry, you might not recognize his name but if you've seen Contact, Equilibrium, Strange Days, Virtuosity, or the television show Invasion, then you'll definitely recognize his face. That's right, if it has anything to do with the future, aliens, technology, or aliens with futuristic technology, then this dude is somewhere smack dab in the middle of it. Here he plays Garth, the brilliant hemophage scientist who is searching for a cure while helping revitalize Violet anytime she rubs up too close to her own mortality. He's also instrumental in helping her figure out what the young boy, otherwise known as Six, is carrying in his blood. Oh, and by the way, he secretly loves Violet, but you probably already knew that.
The baddie of the piece is called Draxus (Nick Chinlund) and the viewer might not be quite clear on whether he's being played as an eccentric or for laughs. There's something goofy about the performance. It's not that it doesn't work; it's just kind of quirky. Chinlund plays Draxus as the next-door neighbour in Bermuda shorts you simply loath—you know, the guy who invites himself to your BBQ or borrows your lawnmower and forgets to give it back. Only this neighbour rules an army of loyal foot soldiers and will kill you without mercy. Either way he definitely has the one quality good sci-fi villains all must have—the ability to make you want to smack the smile right off their face—and Draxus, for whatever reason, has that in spades. Oh, and by the way, he seems to have some kind of history with Violet, but you probably already knew that.
You know what? It doesn't really matter that the plot is confusing, the love interest angle is dropped in our laps out of nowhere and then forgotten, Violet changes hair and outfit colour for some unexplained reason, and the big surprise near the end isn't that much of a surprise because on the whole, it's still a pretty cool action flick.
Visually, Ultraviolet is a feast for the eyes. When you first start watching, the images are in high contrast and the colours are incredibly saturated giving the movie a real otherworldly glow—almost as if the cells were hand coloured. It's a really nice touch and thankfully writer/director Kurt Wimmer doesn't overdo it.
Though he might have skimped on plot and characterization, he definitely put a lot of detail into this world he created. Shooting in Shanghai and using a liberal amount of green-screen, Wimmer has created one incredibly impressive cold and sterile environment—the kind of place a race of germaphobe humans would feel comfortable inhabiting. Everything here is sanitized for their protection; coffee cups are hermetically sealed, rubber gloves seem mandatory, filtered facemasks are worn by most of the population and have become part of every day fashion; even the military are decked out in hazard like suits for fear of being exposed to the disease through tainted blood. A particularly nice touch in this world building exercise is that even written language has evolved to the point where we, as people living in this movie's past, can no longer read it. No, it's not relevant to the story at all, but it does show the level of thought that went into this future Earth.
Yeah yeah, funky futuristic writing, nice touch; get to the fighting already. Okay, sheesh. Ultraviolet has a tonne of fighting in it, and there's no doubt that Violet is a one-woman killing machine. If you're into guns, then you're going to like Violet's inter-dimensional hoozy-whatsis that pop up whenever she needs them to clear a room. If you like martial arts, this lady is seriously skilled in all forms of ass kicking and bullet evading. Kind'a dig a little swordplay—which for some reason always seems to be the perfect weapon of the future—then sit back and enjoy some swashbuckling shenanigans the likes of which you've never known. (Okay so maybe that's an exaggeration—but you get the idea.)
The weird thing is that even though each fight scene tries to be different, there are so many of them, that they all kind of blend together and after a while actually get a little tedious. Still, there's some great stuff here—especially if you can suspend your belief long enough to buy into the idea that Violet is so good that she can take on an entire army by herself and have a good chance of winning. If you can't, then why in the world would you want to watch Ultraviolet anyway? The only downfall of seeing Violet as the ultimate killing machine is when it comes to the climactic battle between her and Draxus. If she can hack her way through hundreds of fully trained soldiers, a brood of hemophage gang members, and countless other well armed killers then what chance does a guy who looks like he jumped out of a mid-80's Joe Isuzu the lying car salesman TV commercial have? The answer might surprise you.
Nahhhh, just kidding, he's toast. But you probably already knew that.
There aren't a load of extra features on this extended and unrated cut of the movie, but you'll be happy to know that there is the prerequisite making of documentary as well as a commentary by the very sultry Milla Jovovich herself. Listening to the commentary was quite the eye-opener but not in the way you would hope. There's really not a lot to say about it except don't listen unless you want to be completely disillusioned. Let's just say it wasn't exactly "rad" and leave it at that. The making of featurette, on the other hand, is put together in a very nice and polished package and should satisfy any questions you might have about the production.
Without seeing the rated and not extended cut, it's hard to know how this version is different. It's not like there's a lot of blood, or nudity, or even excessive language. Even without a rating it's probably a PG-13 tops. There is, however, enough wicked action, eye candy, and a couple of killer one liners to make watching Ultraviolet (Unrated, Extended Cut) a pretty fun way to kill an hour and a half—if your expectations aren't through the roof.
Violet is free to go. Milla, on the other hand, is under house arrest until she promises never to do another solo commentary (and no, her two miniature doggies don't count). Case dismissed.
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Scales of Justice
• "UV Protection" Making Ultraviolet Featurette
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