It’s one thing to offer up stylish visuals to astound audiences. You also need to have the right director to handle all of the action and visual effects wizardry, not to mention a budget that can produce results. Ulraviolet has the visuals, but neither of the latter to make it work.
Set in one of those oppressed futures humans keep finding themselves in, Milla Jovovich finds herself struggling to survive after being granted some sensational powers that also seem to let the motorcycles she’s riding in defy gravity as well. Short on logic and heavy on action, Ultraviolet is all missed potential.
The problem is that the movie might have worked as mindless action. However, the action that is here is either overdone (glass armor… really?), impossible to follow, or filled with hokey effects that give this a made-for-TV feel. Long shots of the cityscape fall flat, failing to generate the intended effect. Costuming is hilarious, including nose plugs that would never catch on even if your life depended on it.
At a brisk 87 minutes, this one should have flown by. It feels a lot longer. Interaction between Jovovich and a small child she rescues (Cameron Bright) is rushed, but when they’re on screen, it’s not interesting either. Obnoxious techno blares behind everything, ruining its fair share of sequences.
The other visuals, those that bring out incredible color, also flatten out faces. Half the scenes look as if the cast has pasty white make-up smeared across their faces, doing nothing to aid the incoherent and ridiculous dialogue. 2004’s Sky Captain handled all of this much better (albeit with less color), and provided a decent narrative to go along with it.
In a movie era where we’re bombarded with visual treats, Ultraviolet is instantly forgettable. The superhero/comic book genre is too crowded for lackluster efforts such as this. Maybe if director Kurt Wimmer had his way and the studio didn’t edit this down severely (you can see many of the cuts online), this would have fared better. Either way, what we’re given is sloppy and uninteresting.
With all of its attempts at style, judging this HD transfer is difficult. Yes, the transfer is wonderfully sharp, offering rich color and rock solid black levels. Yes, there are countless scenes of immense detail, many of which make the hefty flaws in the visual effects even more obvious. Yet, the constant close-ups that reveal smudged faces are glaring, though it’s a source issue. It looks blurred, so consistency is a problem… maybe. Also, some significant artifacting can be found on long shots, especially those of the medical truck with its bright red hues.
The soundtrack delivers much of the bass, so the action sadly sounds somewhat flat. Explosions are not beefy enough. On the other hand, the sound field is active, and tracks with the firefights amazingly well. Even close combat with weapons shines, as thrusts and swings move through appropriate channels. The high ends are crisp and clear.
With his battle over the film, Kurt Wimmer doesn’t offer a commentary. Instead, that job goes to star Milla Jovovich. She seems happy with the film and happy to have worked on it. Secondly and finally, a 30-minute making-of titled UV Protection is fairly average, but does dish out some fun footage from the green screen-loaded sets.
If you want to see for yourself how some of the original scenes worked prior to the studio getting their hands on it, that’s available online. There are significant spoilers, so only watch if you know the finished product. It’s doubtful it would have created a better movie, although it does give better insight into the film’s world.