Whirr2006-03-17
Ultraviolet
It's not really that Ultraviolet was so good, it's just that the reviews were so bad. Let's not beat around any bushes here--Ultraviolet had really execrable acting, I really didn't like the way anyone delivered their lines. No question, either, that the movie had terrible, terrible writing. As for plot, I confess that I barely understood it... it had something to do with vampires, and a miracle weapon that would kill them all, except it wouldn't, actually, oh and I guess that spooky guy in the suit was evil. People died, and then didn't die and then came back to life in an utterly baffling way. The plot was especially galling, because it seemed to revolve around the fact that Milla Jovovich lost her baby when she was nine months pregnant, and so now she'll fight like a tigress to protect the child. The maternal instinct, don't you know. To top it all off, Katya remains convinced that the CGI was intentionally pixilated and crappy, as some sort of meta statement.

Myself, I don't think that the CGI was intentionally bad, I think that they lacked technical skill. This is also probably true of the actors and the plot and the writing--none of it seemed intentional, it just seemed poorly done. The fight choreography was interesting, in that they really tried to get it right, and yet somehow they never managed to really find the right amount of passion. On the QN2Ascale, it was never above a 6.

All of these drawbacks mean that the movie will never be another Equilibrium, or Matrix, and that's sad. On the other hand, those are the easy parts. New York City is teeming with waiters and waitresses who are classically trained to deliver their lines well. The recent crop of television shows (ranging from House and Firefly to West Wing to, I presume, The Sopranos) show that there are plenty of hungry young writers who can really turn out engaging dialogue. This stuff is a dime a dozen.

What's harder to find is Beauty. In terms of color, this movie was better than anything I've seen since American Beauty, with the possible exception of the anti-color work in Avalon, although that's another story. (Mental note: remember to watch Dick Tracey again).

In Ultraviolet, everything was pure, nothing was dirty, walls were solid blue or solid red. There was an exraordinary use of contrasting blacks and oranges. Her outfit was constantly changing color to create the most visually exciting contrast with the current scene. Her hair changed color from purple to black, as necessary.

This movie made use of phenomenal set pieces, like a floor-to-ceiling library full of armed guards, or an all-white clean room. Needless to say, the guards in the first room was dressed entirely in high-gloss black, while the guards in the latter wore high-gloss white.

This movie wasted little time of things that interfered with it's artistic flow. If hair needed to become purple, they wasted a few seconds showing that there was some technological method of changing it, and then they kept it whatever color they needed. During the final battle, for no reason that I could see, both of their katana burst into flames. Did it make sense? No it did not. Art doesn't have to--it was Beautiful.

I guess all I'm saying is that I find it terribly provincial to critique this movie as harshly as people do. Perhaps its plot and acting were bad, but maybe that wasn't the point, anymore than the plot was the point of Cremaster. Critiquing the plot is a waste of time that could have been spent applauding the color choices and the flagrant disregard for vile, squalid notions of cause and effect, sense and logic, and all of that Apollonian crap--it's only half the story. Sure there are plenty of things to criticize the movie for, but until mainstream America starts to break free of its American Idolic stasis, this movie is better than nothing.

In short, this movie tried to be the modern Pistol Opera. It failed, and it's important for critics to point out the ways in which it failed. The plot, the acting, the writing, these are not the important failures, here.




Ok, end of rant. Random points about the movie:
  • I'm still a little intoxicated, I admit. I had read nothing but vicious review for a week, so I armed myself with a glass of white wine, two shots of tequila, and a flask full of 99 proof banana flavored schnapps. I won't say that it didn't help.
  • Even for people who haven't been exposed to Foreman and Pistol Opera, I wouldn't have thought that the movie was so bad. I'm a little surprised by the vehement nature of the attacks...
  • The film doesn't work very well as a narrative experience--one reason that I much prefer the director's previous movie, Equilibrium. The hype was that he had included an updated version of his gun-kata in this movie, but it was nowhere to be seen... with one exception. There's one scene in which our hero, Violet, is surrounded by Blood Chinois, all of them with loaded pistols to her head. To people who aren't as into gun-kata as I am, it looks pretty lame: there's a loooong montage where the camera flies around aimlessly. Then she ducks, and the goons all shoot each other. I knew, however, that in the long montage she was carefully memorize every position, and calculating every possible angle such that when the first guy fired she had already won the fight just like a Gramaton Cleric. I'm not sure that the scene belonged in this movie, but for me it was still a very cool scene.
  • Holy Damn, they were bad actors.
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