If you've been dying for the first big-budget live-action anime film, the good news is your wait is over. The bad news is that it comes in the form of Ultraviolet, the new wire-fu sci-fi flick from Sony's Screen Gems genre studio.
The plot revolves around a concept that sometime in the future, scientists will stumble upon an ancient disease (one for human vampirism) and modify it in hopes of creating a super soldier with enhanced, speed, strength, intelligence, and healing ability. Things go awry, and the virus mutates to become very infectious. Society devolves into a war to save itself, led by a pseudo-religious inquisition bent on the extermination of the infected. No, that wasn't a spoiler because it is never fully explained in the film, although an attempt is made over the beginning credits.
The film stars Milla Jovovich (Resident Evil, The Fifth Element) as Violet, William Fichtner (Invasion, Armageddon) as Garth, Cameron Bright (Stargate: SG1, The Butterfly Effect) as Six, and Nick Chinlund (The Chronicles of Riddick, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, X-Files) as Daxus.
A few things work very well in this film. A true fan of freeform plot anime or wire-fu (Matrix, Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon) films will probably thoroughly enjoy this film. The special effects are stunning, the camera shots are gorgeous, and the feel is very ... Japanese. As a semi-silent film or a work of visual art, this film succeeds.
But alas, films in the American action-adventure tradition tell a story with a clear beginning, a clear middle and an end that resolves something. Ultraviolet lacks these conventions. Now, for an audience that doesn't care, that can be a good thing.
But, for an audience who wishes to find a good hour-and-a-half of swashbuckling fun, this lack of clearly defined story is not good at all. For the vast majority of the American film-going public, Ultraviolet will probably be seen as boring or confusing. The writers and director fail to explain to the audience why they should care if the main character lives or dies.
Otherwise it is a gorgeous, dreamlike and exciting film destined for cult status. But as a mainstream film, something is missing—something big. After watching Ultraviolet, I left the theatre with a definite feeling that I had witnessed a film with much potential that just didn't live up to its promise. In essence, there was no there there, to borrow Gertrude Stein's famous quote.