ULTRAVIOLET – A REVIEW BY J.D. LAFRANCE

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Ultraviolet (2006) presents a future ravaged by a disease known as hemophagia that mutates its victims giving them enhanced speed, strength and intelligence but with a drastically shortened life-span of 12 years. The government tried to eliminate all of the diseased but a number of them eluded capture and formed an underground terrorist group dedicated to bringing down the oppressive regime. Caught in the middle is a deadly infected agent named Violet (Milla Jovovich), who retrieves a case that provides the key to destroying all of the infected people or it might save her because her limited life-span has almost expired.

Director Kurt Wimmer packs in a lot of exposition in the first ten minutes (almost too much) forcing the viewer to absorb a lot information as this world and its rules are established. He certainly doesn’t waste any time, getting right down to the story but at the expense of any kind of character development. Ultraviolet doesn’t settle down until halfway through its 94-minute running time as it attempts develop its characters but by that point we really don’t care because we have been bombarded with all of this eye-popping action and vibrant set design. After awhile, all of the exposition becomes too much to absorb and you just have to surrender to the film’s arresting style.

Like he did with Equilibrium (2002), Wimmer has created a protagonist that can kick major ass and look really cool doing it – what more could you ask for from a film like this? Sadly, Milla Jovovich still can’t act worth a damn but fortunately the movie doesn’t give her much of a chance to as it goes from cool action sequence to the next at a near breathless pace. After working with such a talented actor like Christian Bale in Equilibrium what possessed Wimmer to work with the acting black hole that is Jovovich?

That being said, Wimmer ups the ante with the action sequences, using way more extensive CGI in this movie, most notably in an eye-popping chase sequence where an attack helicopter pursues our heroine along the side of a building, defying gravity as she rides along its face. Even the fight scenes feature a lot more CGI, which is a shame as part of the charm of Equilibrium was the au natural combat.

Wimmer adopts a striking primary color scheme against bleached out silvers befitting Violet who can change the color of her hair and clothing at will. In the background of a given scene there can be splashes of yellow or purple and then someone could walk by in a red outfit. It sounds like a jarring effect but Wimmer makes it work somehow. His command of composition of what is contained within the frame has become more advanced and his skill as a director has improved greatly (as has his budget, apparently) – this is a great looking movie.

Ultraviolet is similar in terms of story to the live-action Aeon Flux (2005) movie only with infinitely better action sequences. However, Wimmer’s screenplay is quite weak with very wooden dialogue. He should have adopted the less is more approach of Aeon Flux, which was a nice example of visual storytelling. The set design and visual effects are much slicker and infinitely more colorful compared to the almost monochromatic color scheme of his previous film. Ultraviolet is all a bit silly – scratch that, very silly – but it is completely committed to its own sci-fi hokum in a way that is strangely admirable. In a perfect world, the major Hollywood studios would give Wimmer $100 million to make a big, splashy summer movie instead of hacks like Brett Ratner who has no personal style. What Wimmer needs to do is stop writing his own screenplays and work with somebody who can – that would surely result in an infinitely better movie that he is clearly capable of making.

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