As ambitious as any comic book adaption can be short of a hard R-rating, Ultraviolet feels incomplete, as though the production ran out of time, money, or both.
Violet (Milla Jovovich) is a “hemophage,” which we’re told is the result of exposure to a pathogen that alters you genetically (and hinted might be the origin of vampire myth); the disease makes you faster, stronger, and so forth but apparently requires transfusions to keep you from dying (as opposed to drinking blood). In a future where a megacorp pharmaceutical firm has been allowed to run the world by keeping people in fear of such disease and those transformed by it, Violet is sent to intercept an item which could mean the complete destruction of those like her. The truth, however, makes her question her motives and even turn against those like her to pursue what she believes to be right.
Where to begin? Director Kurt Wimmer has a lot of ambition for story and concept, setting his sights on nothing less that an entire world and futurist history on a studio backlot; everything about his cult hit Equilibrium supports this thinking. Ultraviolet does the same, but where Equilibrium seemed padded to make a theatrical running time, Ultraviolet feels incomplete, either unfinished or underfunded, and that’s really a shame. Milla Jovovich gives each sequence her all and looks great doing it, but no one outside the Wimmer-Jovovich bubble involved with the production seemed willing or able to support it.
Principle photography must have looked great, even in a comic book sense (Milla enters room, kills everyone, repeat as necessary). The sequences leading up to and following these scenes rely heavily on computer animation to complete Wimmer’s world, but poor resolution, quick cuts, blurred backgrounds, and repeated sequences suggest he neither had the tools nor the budget to actually finish what he started. Dramatic moments for his players are undermined by television-quality “Buck Rogers in the 25th Century” sets and a basic lack of anything resembling modern security (it becomes obvious after a while that a few booby traps might be cheaper and more effective than hiring guards who only seem trained to die).
Also missing are adequate explanations for things, such as where all the weapons keep disappearing to (Spatial displacement technology? Cool! Tell us more!) and why EXACTLY does Violet’s outfit keep changing or even have to (yes, it looks cool, but it’s not for stealth, so what’s the point of it?) What was supposed to be a superior concept to Equilibrium actually ends up falling short of its predecessor; it’s nowhere near as bad as Halle Berry’s Catwoman but makes about as much sense as last year’s Aeon Flux, maybe less. Fans of Milla and these kinds of action sequences may find a little to love, but like last summer’s The Island, it falls too short of expectations to recommend for anything else.
(a one and a half skull recommendation out of four)