Ultraviolet: Unrated Extended Cut
US Theatrical Release: March 3, 2006 (Sony Pictures/ Screen Gems)
US DVD Release: June 27, 2006
Running Time: 1:34:38 (29 chapter stops)
Rating: None (Has lots of stylized action violence, a little blood, the occasional cuss, and some brief tushie action)
Video: 1.85:1 anamorphic (Extra Features: 1.33:1 non-anamorphic)
Audio: English DD5.1 (Extra Features: English DD2.0)
Subtitles: English (Extra Features: None)
TV-Generated Closed Captions: English (Extra Features: None)
Menus: Some transition animation, which may be skipped.
Packaging: Standard keepcase; insert features cover images from other Sony DVD titles on both sides.
THE WAY I FEEL ABOUT IT: 2/5
Going into a film with low expectations is always an interesting experience. Will the lowered bar compromise objectivity? If I enjoy the movie, can I be sure that I’m not just subconsciously giving it the benefit of the doubt? Ultraviolet, the latest episode in the Hot Vampire (sorta) Chick Kicking Ass genre, raises these questions with a thrilling opening, but then puts them to rest by eventually sinking in a sea of foolishness.
The film begins on just the right note, with a fantastic credit sequence involving various styles of comic book art. This is a good sign that it’s not going to take itself too seriously, a promise that it doesn’t always live up to. This is followed by a brief but cool action sequence that’s tangentially related to the story and about 15 minutes of expository voiceover to set the scene. Once that’s out of the way, things kick into high gear.
Our heroine, Violet (Milla Jovovich), lives in a futuristic world of concrete and gleaming skyscrapers. She suffers from a strange virus that grants folks superhuman strength and speed while rendering them highly sensitive to light and eventually killing them. Those who suffer from this disease, dubbed “Vampires” by the press due to the bizarre (and, dare I say, contrived) side effects of enlarged canine teeth and a requirement for frequent blood transfusions, are outcast from society to the point of actually being rounded up and spirited off to camps from which they never return. (If the images used to illustrate this point bore any more resemblance to certain events that took place about 70 years ago, they’d be stretching the bounds of good taste.) The remaining “Vampires” have formed a resistance to fight back against the (wait for it) Evil Medical Establishment, which is ruled by the nefarious Vice-Cardinal (!) Daxus (Nick Chinlund) from his enormous crucifix-shaped (!!) headquarters. Are those black-clad, machine gun-toting troopers the evolutionary descendants of HMO actuaries? Take two aspirin and a wooden stake, and call me in the morning!
Speaking of cheesy one-liners, Ultraviolet isn’t going to set any records, but it has its fair share of them. Between this picture and the Resident Evil series, they appear to have become Ms. Jovovich’s forte. (Now that she’s found her niche in entertainingly crazy sci-fi action, I can almost forgive her for The Messenger.) When Daxus informs her that he has 700 adjusters – whoops, I mean soldiers – waiting for her and asks what she thinks she’s going to do, she responds, “I can kill them.” When she actually shows up and faces the vast ranks of masked gunmen, Daxus asks simply, “Are you mental?”
The extended action sequence that runs through the first half of the film is full of highly stylized stunts and effects that perfectly fit the comic book atmosphere set up by the opening credits. Violet sneaks into an incredibly secure (or so they think!) facility to steal a powerful weapon that could wipe out the “Vampires” (sorry, I really have to keep using quotes with that term) and has to fight her way out. Don’t trouble yourself with the question of how she manages to fool all of the high-tech identification and scanning equipment; just try to enjoy the visuals. Granted, some of the effects are less than convincing, but they work all right within the context of the stylized comic book atmosphere.
For a while, the spectacular shooting and smashing is enough to carry the story, which contains a number of elements that don’t quite hold up to close logical scrutiny. However, as Ultraviolet progresses, it lets up on the action and loads up on the clichéd and not terribly interesting plot devices. In addition, none of the action towards the end of the film can compare to the set pieces that came earlier. Violet dispatches preposterous numbers of enemies throughout; however, she appears to exert less and less effort with each battle, and it eventually becomes rather tiresome, not to mention less exciting visually. In fact, the big gimmick in the climactic showdown between Violet and Daxus, which probably looked great in storyboards (and would have been perfect for a comic book), just doesn’t work on the screen. It’s more confusing than intense.
If there is a point at which this flick could be said to kill any chance of redeeming itself, it comes around the 70-minute mark with a scene that's such a non-sequitur, I assumed that it was a dream sequence. It's such a jarring change from what came before it, and it ends so ridiculously, that no other explanation could make sense. But no -- we're asked to buy it. Bad move. (I'd be interested to know whether this scene was even in the theatrical cut; it'd be trivial to replace it with something reasonable that gets the story to the exact same place.)
The steadily decreasing quality of the set pieces in this film is a flaw that simply can’t be overcome by the throwaway plot, which is a shame. Had that slope pointed in the opposite direction, building up from good to great action instead of sinking from great to lame (and sparse) action, then Ultraviolet might have worked.
THE WAY I SEE IT: 4/5
Ultraviolet has a heavily processed look that combines a lot of CGI with the background of Shanghai’s actual business district. It’s very artificial and surreal, but that is almost certainly intentional. The generally high bit rate manages to preserve a good amount of detail amidst the rich, saturated colors. There are occasional moments where digital effects such as EE can get a little distracting, but they are the exception, not the rule.
THE WAY I HEAR IT: 4/5
The soundtrack works very well, although it falls shy of being truly awesome. The energetic score features an immersive surround mix that carries things along at a brisk pace. The surround and LFE channels are applied to the effects to an extent, but they lack that extra oomph that would really blow people away.
THE SWAG: 1.5/5 (rating combines quality and quantity)
Commentary With Milla Jovovich and her two dogs
Milla is her usual entertaining self here, with one major exception – about 75 minutes' worth of dead air. I kept forgetting that I was actually listening to a commentary. She oughta be ashamed of herself. And her little dogs, too!
UV Protection: The Making Of Ultraviolet (30:51)
This featurette is divided into four parts, although their names aren’t listed on the menu – there are just “Part I” through “Part IV” and a “Play All” button. Some of the interviews are hokey, and there are perhaps a few too many film clips, but there’s also a good amount of neat behind-the-scenes footage. Overall, it’s worth watching.
When the disc is first inserted, the trailers for Final Fantasy VII: Advent Children, MirrorMask, and Marilyn Hotchkiss Ballroom Dancing And Charm School play automatically. They may be skipped.
- Final Fantasy VII: Advent Children (2:26) (DD2.0; 2.35:1 anamorphic)
- MirrorMask (1:55) (DD2.0; 1.85:1 anamorphic)
- Marilyn Hotchkiss Ballroom Dancing And Charm School (2:27) (DD5.1; 1.85:1 anamorphic)
- The Fog (2005) (2:13) (DD2.0; 1.85:1 anamorphic)
- The Benchwarmers (2:30) (DD2.0; 1.85:1 anamorphic)
- Talladega Nights: The Ballad Of Ricky Bobby (2:10) (DD5.1; 1.85:1 anamorphic)
The Way I Feel About It: 2/5
The Way I See It: 4/5
The Way I Hear It: 4/5
The Swag: 1.5/5
Ultraviolet looks and sounds really cool, and for a while it acts really cool as well. But its second half is so devoid of fun that the whole experience is pretty much spoiled. (According to IMDB, the film was re-cut by the studio without input from director Kurt Wimmer – whether his original version worked better or was even worse shall remain a mystery, at least for now.) The disc is of near-SuperBit quality, and the making-of featurette is nice, but the commentary is embarrassingly bad. Give it a rental if you like, but don’t expect too much (at least after the first big action sequence).