Ultraviolet makes its cinematic ambitions known in the opening-credits sequence, which sees the names of the cast and crew splashed across vividly drawn comic-book covers. (Just so we're clear, the movie itself isn't based on an existing comic.) You've got to give the filmmakers some credit-at least they acknowledge right off the bat that their movie will have the intellectual depth of an issue of Green Lantern or Fantastic Four. Actually, that's not being fair to comic books, the majority of which are smarter, more creative and better written than this instantly forgettable sci-fi picture about a kick-ass warrior woman with a taste for body-hugging outfits who battles an endless army of heavily armed soldiers in a vaguely fascistic future. If this sounds familiar, that's because the same movie was already released last December under the name Aeon Flux. Ultimately, the only real difference between the two films is cost; judging by the cartoonish digital effects and the excessive recycling of shots, Ultraviolet appears to have been made for a fraction of Aeon Flux's catering budget. As is often the case, though, the cheaper film turns out to be slightly more imaginative than the big-budget behemoth. Make no mistake: Ultraviolet is a bad movie. But unlike recent genre duds like Flux and Underworld: Evolution, at least you can see flashes of a better film lurking beneath the surface.
Chalk that up to the fact that this film has actually been made by someone who likes science fiction. Writer-director Kurt Wimmer first came to the attention of genre fans with 2002's Equilibrium, a wonderfully silly B-movie set in a future where all displays of emotion were outlawed. The story didn't make a lot of sense, but the world Wimmer created was intriguing and the film also benefited from some great action sequences (which employed a fighting style that Wimmer himself invented called Gunkata) and the appropriately dour presence of star Christian Bale. At first, Ultraviolet seems as if it will be similarly spirited. The first big action sequence features the titular rebel (Milla Jovovich) single-handedly decimating an entire squadron of government troops before hopping on a motorcycle and leading the remaining soldiers on a high-speed chase through the streets and even up the sides of towering skyscrapers. It's a great set-piece, marred only by the low-rent CGI. But then the plot kicks in and the movie disappears down its own rabbit hole. See, Violet is part of an underground group of freedom fighters called the Hemophages, who have been segregated from the rest of society because their blood is infected with a virus that gives them enhanced physical abilities and pointy teeth (although they don't actually drink blood, so who knows why they need those choppers). Now they are launching their final campaign against the tyrannical government and the key to their plan is a young boy (Cameron Bright) whose blood may possess the secret to...
Oh, never mind. The narrative is so jumbled that even the actors can't seem to keep track of what exactly is meant to be happening. Rumor has it that Screen Gems chopped Wimmer's original cut down to 87 minutes and the finished film does feel as if its been stripped to the bare essentials. The world-building is practically non-existent, which is a shame, as this seems like an interesting, if not exactly original, vision of the future. Little touches remain, like the scene where Violet visits an ATM-like kiosk and prints out a disposable phone. (Look for Verizon or T-Mobile to patent that technology soon.) Even if the longer version contained more of this kind of material, Ultraviolet probably still would have been a letdown compared to Equilibrium. For all her beauty and athletic grace, Jovovich simply lacks the presence to carry a movie by herself, and the supporting cast is equally nondescript. Also, after that slam-bang opening, the action grows increasingly repetitive, with Violet employing the same three or four moves to dispatch the bad guys. It's clear that Wimmer will never join the ranks of genre gods like George Lucas, the Wachowskis or Joss Whedon, but at his best, he's a perfectly acceptable Roger Corman figure. Here's hoping his next film is a better example of his skills than Ultraviolet.