One of the things that recurs in the repetitive, bombastic dialogue of “Ultraviolet” is the title character telling us: “I was born into a world you might not understand.” She’s not kidding, either. And we’re going to continue not understanding as long as the movie continues to avoid explaining it to us. In the meantime, I guess we’ll just look at the pretty pictures.
The place is: I don’t know. The time is: THE FUTURE!! It’s one of those pristine, litter-free futures, where everyone wears white and there are no homeless people. A plague spread among the people some time ago, leading to fear and chaos and a concerted effort by the semi-fascist government — led by the obviously evil Daxus (Nick Chinlund) to wipe out all its carriers. But the carriers don’t necessarily see themselves as victims, and they’ve banded together underground to fight against their oppressors.
People who have been infected are called Hemophages — “blood eaters,” literally, though the movie doesn’t tell you that — and they have super-strength and other powers. They are casually referred to a few times as “vampires,” which surprised me, since the movie hadn’t mentioned that before and since none of them ever does anything vampire-y. I guess it makes sense, being known as “Hemophages,” but I didn’t remember what “-phage” meant, only “hemo-.” My Greek isn’t what it should be.
Anywhich, a Hemophage freedom fighter named Violet (Milla Jovovich) steals a government weapon that turns out to be a young boy (Cameron Bright). Contained in this boy’s blood is an antigen that will either kill all the Hemophages, or possibly all the humans. (There is some confusion among the characters on who the weapon is meant to harm.) Either way, it’s slowly killing the boy, so Violet has to act fast to … um … figure out … how to … um … something.
In order to do whatever it is she’s doing — saving the boy? Curing her people of hemophagia? Killing Daxus? — Violet must kill a lot of soldiers, security guards, police and secret agents. Once it is established that she always emerges victorious no matter how many opponents she faces in a given battle, the fight scenes take on a certain irrelevance. There’s no suspense, no chance she’ll even be captured, let alone killed. At one point she seems to be killed, and then her friend Garth (William Fichtner) is shown waking her up, explaining that … um … she was … I guess … sleeping? … or something? I didn’t catch it.
The movie was written and directed by Kurt Wimmer, whose “Equilibrium” (2002) had a little cult following. With “Ultraviolet,” it would seem he wrote a coherent, plausible script, then went through and removed every other line. How else to explain this confusing jumble of sci-fi jargon and random plot twists, where the characters know perfectly well what’s going on but the audience doesn’t?
I said the characters know what’s going on. The actors, I think, don’t. The line readings are all flat and bland, except from a few minor characters who, apparently never having acted professionally before, chose to speak their lines in an exaggerated, comical fashion.
What I like is the film’s “look,” with sets that emphasize primary colors (hinted at by the comic-book opening credit sequence) and a style of photography (and perhaps makeup) that makes characters’ faces look waxy and mannequin-like, almost otherworldly. Many sequences look like a combination of live-action and CGI, and the effect is dazzling to behold. Like I said, if we can’t figure out what’s going on, at least we have pretty pictures to look at.
C (1 hr., 28 min.; )