Review — Ultraviolet (2006)

Posted: September 10, 2010 in Film, Martin Keller, Reviews
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[Reviewed by: Martin Keller]

When reviewing a film it’s easy to get caught up in broad generalizations, to be caught up in your deep love or utter disdain for it. The art of film reviewing is a happy marriage between being subjective and objective. You are charged with the duty of endorsing or condemning this piece of art, and being fair isn’t usually a first response. Rather, we respond from our gut or our heart: shooting from the hip and asking questions later. However, the responsible reviewer will offer a fair opinion: an opinion based on examples from the film, specific analysis of scenes or actors or cinematography or directing or any of the many facets of the film. The responsible reviewer is trying to edify the film, to offer insight or constructive criticism, to be “fair and balanced.” I say all this because, in my review of Ultraviolet, I find being responsible nearly impossible.

Ultraviolet was written and directed by Kurt Wimmer, director of 2002’s sci-fi, action flick Equilibrium. Wimmer wrote the screenplays for The Recruit (2003), Street Kings (2008), Law Abiding Citizen (2009), and most recently, Salt (2010). The movie is set in a future when a disease has spread amongst humanity that causes the infected to exhibit vampiric characteristics such as, elongated canines, sensitivity to light and increased senses and strength. Due to the fear of spreading the infection, a militarized, medical organization, the Arch-Ministry, gains power by rounding up the infected and quarantining them. Years of dehumanizing experiments ensue, and thus enters our protagonist Violet, played by Milla Jovovich. She is infected, and due to countless experiments while she is pregnant, loses her baby. It is now years later and Violet is a killing machine hell-bent on revenge.

Released in 2006, a short three months after Aeon Flux in December of 2005, it was overshadowed by its similarities to Aeon Flux. Both were action films set in dystopian futures, and both had strong female leads. But Aeon Flux had the edge with a built in fan base and cultural awareness due to the impressive MTV cartoon of the same name that preceded it. I wish I could say that Ultraviolet suffers only from obscurity, that it’s a hidden gem, but alas, no. It suffers many flaws and, for me, is a new echelon of bad filmmaking.

The first major flaw in the film is the pacing. There is no space in the film. It moves from one plot point immediately to the next, never allotting time for the audience to grow invested in the narrative or the characters. Instead we are barraged with action sequences that are tepid at best. They feature Gun Kata, a martial arts/firearm fighting style originating in Wimmer’s Equilibrium. While it was interesting, due mainly to its novelty, in it’s first go ‘round, the Gun Kata fails this time, being more ridiculous and unnecessary than anything.

The film is laden with CGI. Almost all of the environments were CGI and the entire film looks airbrushed and sugar-coated. The CGI and the action sequences are the axis of the film, with the plot and characters taking a backseat. This is not to say I’m not a fan of spectacle. I’ve been writing the ‘Action Stars’ column for a month now, and have done nothing but endorse gratuitous violence regardless of narrative justification. But the action is bloodless, which to me is unacceptable in fights containing nothing but guns and swords. It’s over-stylized, and the airbrushing gives 300 (2006) a run for its money.

Even after all the over-the-top violence and effects I found myself bored and apathetic about the outcome of the story. I didn’t watch Ultraviolet for an interesting story. I watched it for pure visceral action. But even that was dull and poorly edited. I rarely think of a movie as a complete waste of time, that there is at least something redeeming within the ninety minutes, but this film is truly one of the worst I have ever seen.

*I should make one qualification before finishing this: the film was taken over by Screen Gems in the post-production phase, leaving Wimmer and Jovovich shut-out of the editing process all together. Screen Gems re-cut the film to be more action packed, whereas Wimmer wanted to focus more on Violet and her loss of humanity. I don’t know if that would have hoisted the film that high, but I think it would have fixed some of the pacing issues.

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