January 4th, 2004
This is one of those times I wish I had the hindsight to steer clear of a screenplay. Sometimes all it takes is reading the first act of a script – getting that early feel for it – and you get that feeling within your chest that you know it will underwhelm. But, somehow, I still plowed ahead with Kurt Wimmer’s “Ultraviolet,” when I should have instead put it down and moved on to another. I’ll put it this way: If I would have had the choice of reading this screenplay again and going to the dentist’s office, I likely would choose the latter. And I hate dentists.
To say this effort is ‘uninspired’ and ‘hackneyed’ would be giving this script too much credit; this is a lesser attempt at this past summer’s “Underworld” (minus the love story and werewolves) if such a thing is even possible. “Ultraviolet” focuses on a woman, Violet (Milla Jovovich), who becomes the protector of a 9-year-old boy targeted for death in a world of humans versus vampires Altogether, it mashes elements from “Underworld,” “Resident Evil,” “The Matrix” and “Kill Bill” into an unsightly pallet. It’s a race against time, and a wholly uninteresting one at that.
As Wimmer was the writer/director responsible for “Equilibrium,” this should come as no surprise. His 2002 effort scored an unimpressive 30 percent score (out of 100) at RottenTomatoes.com, with critics there charging that the film was an “illiterate, often inert sci-fi action thriller" and “Cold, sterile and lacking any color or warmth." Kirk Honeycutt of the Hollywood Reporter probably put it best, saying the film “borrows from so many literary and cinematic sources that this future world feels absolutely déjà vu." And the critics will most likely have another sense of déjà vu when they write the reviews for “Ultraviolet.”
Again, Wimmer uses far too many of the devices that a college professor would train his or her students to avoid in a Screenwriting 101 class. Were a novice screenwriter to read this, I’m sure they would blush at the effort. Some of these areas include:
That said, there are sure to be some good visuals here between the clean cityscapes that the filming locale of Shanghai will provide and some nice action setpieces, as well as some neat futuristic tools that should be interesting to see realized on the big screen. But it’s not enough for me to want to catch it either on the cinema screen, on DVD or any other means. Surely, those involved with this project can do better than this.
This script review includes major plot points to “Ultraviolet.” Read at your own risk.
After a quick voice-over introduction intoned by Violet, the film begins with a sleek helicopter weaving its way through the city of Chicago. Set sometime in the latter part of the 21st century, the city has changed from its current landscape, as it is now replete with architectures of striking simplicity and beauty; gone are the neo-Gothic masterpieces. The back-ramp of the helicopter opens and out come 7 steel spheres, each containing a figure clad entirely in black, from head to toe. Hurtling downward, they freefall into a laboratory, crashing through several ceilings at a time. Eviscerating each of the scientists and security personnel who come into contact with them, they make their way to four silos filled with blood, described as “10 stories tall and containing millions of metric liters of blood.” Realizing that something is amiss there, the remaining black figures (one didn’t make the hurtle into the building) are then ambushed by waiting Marines.
Examining the dead figures, police detectives find they are dealing with “hemophages,” men and women stricken with an illness that renders them the appearance and capabilities of vampires. It seems they have been hitting a number of blood banks in the U.S., with similar results; and their speculation is that the vampires didn’t come there to drink from it or to transport the large tanks elsewhere, but to infect it; they want to make the entire human race like them. The next morning, the Marines set a sub-nuclear device off in the Chicago laboratory, as a precautionary measure against contamination.
Violet returns to tell the viewer what exactly is happening. “Yes, I was born into a world you may find hard to understand…the 20th century was the last century of any mystery. In the 21st, all mysteries were unraveled. There was no place left that was unexplored. The common cold was cured. String theory was unified. And everything that could be known, was. If you had a question, we now know the answer.”
One of those questions was whether vampires truly existed. They had, and still do, although it is explained here it is nothing more than a blood disease, which came to be known as hemophagia. The disease accelerated the victim’s metabolism, so much so that they were dead within 10 years. As Violet tells us in this long voice-over, “All that stuff about silver and stakes— total fantasy. It turned out that while they were a little faster and a little stronger than everyone else, they died like everyone else.”
During an international conflict, it seems, an American weapons lab got hold of the virus, hoping to create a more virulent, highly contagious strain of the virus in order to form a group of hemophage supersoldiers. Soon, the infection spread beyond these labs. After requiring those who had the disease to register with the government, hemophages were – in short order – ordered to wear identifying symbols and then quarantined in special camps. Ultimately fighting back, the “Blood Wars” began, pitting man against hemophage. With the hemophages now on the verge of extinction, the U.S. is now readying the knock-out punch: a weapon that can locate and kill every hemophage on the planet in a number of days. Throughout almost a dozen pages of voice-over, scenes helpfully illustrate what had happened up to this point, with some gruesome scenes.
This promising beginning and premise are squandered by the script’s twentieth page, as soon as the lead character makes her first appearance. Violet, a hemophage who is a lead member of the hemophage cabal, is given orders to mask herself as the human courier that has been charged with delivering the weapon. Feigning her way inside – despite a number of tests she is given to make sure she is really the courier– she collects the package at a government facility and is able to escape after the government realizes what she has done. Told expressly not to open the small package by the leaders of the resistance, she inexplicably does and finds a seemingly-innocent nine-year old named Six inside (via the aforementioned “flat-space zone”).
With her maternal drive kicking in (she was pregnant when she became infected herself, but doctors euthanasied the baby when she became infected), she rescues Six from certain doom. Being tracked by both sides of the conflict – especially Nerva, the leaders of the hemophages, and the People’s Republic general Ricard Daxus, who hides his own secret – the pair runs a gauntlet through a futuristic unnamed city before Six releases the weapon, while Violet tries to see if she and a hemophage scientist named Garth can replicate a virus to cure her kind.
I’m sure a measure of our readers will like what they see above, but it all plays out extremely poorly in the script. Dialogue, characterization and the settings are all spotty, as it plays out as something more suited to the comic book or videogame form than a major motion picture. In addition, the majority of the “twists” are unsurprising, unfortunately. If you caught more than a half-dozen films within the monster genre in the last 10 years, you’re likely to have figured the bulk of them out before they are choreographed on screen. I have to give Wimmer some credit for coming up with these fantastic concepts (albeit borrowed), but the action and premise that he slates against it has fallen short two times in a row now.
But I’m struck most by two questions I came away with from the script: Why a studio like Screen Gems would want to invest $30 million in this and why would Jovovich attach her name to something that stylistically patterns itself on a film she has been in already? And to a lesser extent, why is the name of the screenplay “Ultraviolet?”
Unlike “Equilibrium,” this film does have the faint sound of a heartbeat in the Violet-Six pairing, but it’s not enough to overcome the rest of the film. It’s about time Wimmer develop these concepts and give them into the hands of a more competent screenwriter to fully flesh out the worlds he has envisioned. In the end, I give this effort a D.
My rating: D
The 109-page script is written by Kurt Wimmer and undated, although sources indicate it is close to the final production draft. The front page of the script boasts a drawing of central character Violet by “Bastol03.” Production for the film begins February 9 in Shanghai.