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Reviews » DVD Video Reviews » Queen of the Damned
Queen of the Damned
Warner Bros. // R // August 27, 2002
List Price: $26.98 [Buy now and save at Amazon]
Review by Aaron Beierle | posted August 27, 2002 | E-mail the Author
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The Movie:

A film that's alternately strange, silly and involving (although the first two more than the last), "Queen of the Damned" starts off with a wonderfully creepy, almost black & white credits sequence filming eerie statues. The film really doesn't ever reach those heights afterwards, unfortunately. "Queen" opens with the vampire Lestat chattering about what a bummer it is to be an immortal, eventually taking a little nap before being awakened by...heavy metal.

The absurdities continue, as this vampire (who, according to vampire law, is apparently not supposed to blab about the fact that he is one) suddenly finds himself in a heavy metal band that's crusing up the charts and becoming an MTV success. In one of the film's funnier moments, when he first meets the band and they ask who he is, he loudly announces, "I am the Vampire Lestat!". They all give him a look like, "gee...really? Huh."

Elsewhere, researcher Jessica (Marguerite Moreau) is learning more about vampires at some secret society called the Talamasca. Apparently, Jessica was raised by a vampire (Lena Olin), but handed off when it was decided that it'd be better if she was with her own kind instead. She has gotten posession of Lestat's journal and, along with the aid of her fellow eggheads, sets about learning some vampire gossip before setting out to find the vampire himself.

Halfway through the picture, Lestat unleashes Akasha (R & B singer and promising actress Aaliyah), who just happens to be the Queen of all vampires who wants to take over the world, with Lestat as her husband. To top things off, the vampires are ticked at Lestat for the publicity his music has given them and they plan their eventual attack.

I've honestly never read any of Anne Rice's vampire novels, but the differences between this picture and Neil Jordan's adaptation of "Interview With a Vampire" are pretty startling. That film seemed to be a stronger adaptation, presenting a clear storyline and well-defined characters, not to mention a sense of respect and elegance. This film, on the other hand, seems as if the writers had too much difficulty finding a way to compress the book. The result is often incoherent, seeming as if patches of the book were taken out with little thought to structure. Tone and mood are also off; the film is bland when it attempts to be creepy and occasionally, goofy when it's attempting to be serious.

The acting isn't entirely satisfactory, either. Stuart Townsend, who was reportedly fired from "Lord of the Rings" and who I didn't care for in "About Adam", once again offers a bland, unremarkable performance here. Aaliyah, on the other hand, is terrific in a small-ish role, providing exceptional presence and an intense, powerful performance. There's not much to the supporting roles, although Vincent Perez ("Crow: City of Angels") is decent as Marius, who, in this film, introduced Lestat to vampire life.

The worst flaw of "Queen of the Damned" is that, quite simply, it's pretty uneventful. Little of interest happens for the first hour, where the occasional loud music is really the only element of the film that tries to command the attention. Although Aaliyah's entrance into the picture does give a rather sleepy film a needed boost of energy, it's really not enough of a character to sustain involvement. As for technical credits, the film attempts a stylish, cold appearance, but usually just seems drab. The less said about the dated-looking visual effects, the better.

Although I was largely disapointed with "Queen of the Damned", I will admit the film's second half did have some enjoyable moments. In the hands of someone else, this seemed as if it could potentially have been a very entertaining movie. However, director Michael Rymer only had what seems to be a rather weak and heavily compressed translation of Rice's work to go from.


VIDEO: "Queen of the Damned" is presented by Warner Home Video in 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen. The picture quality is on-par with the rest of the studio's new releases, offering a top-notch picture that remained crisp and well-defined throughout.

Few problems arose throughout the presentation - while the intentionally dark film looked a little too dark at times, most of the film remained well-defined and crisp. Edge enhancement, in very minimal amounts, is occasionally spotted, as were some little specks on the print used. On a positive note, no pixelation or other faults were seen.

Although brighter, richer colors were occasionally visible, most of the film makes use of a rather cold, dark color palette that seemed accurately rendered here. Overall, a nice transfer.

SOUND: The film's soundtrack, by composers Richard Gibbs and Korn's Jonathan Davis, is certainly the focus of attention throughout much of the film. Surrounds largely offer the score, although they occasionally present some decent sound effects. As with the film itself, the soundtrack had the potential to be more moody and add atmosphere, but it really doesn't succeed in being all that active.

MENUS: Basic, non-animated menus with static images from the film serving as backgrounds.


Commentary: This is a commentary from director Michael Rymer, producer Jorge Saralegui and composer Richard Gibbs. The director and producer do most of the talking, occasionally narrating scenes but often discussing what they were trying to do in their way of adapting the Rice novel. While their discussions of what they were trying to do as well as the differences between the Rice novel and the film were mildly involving, the commentary does suffer from some slow spots and, as previously noted, moments where the three are simply telling what's currently going on in the film.

Also: The remainder of the supplemental section is broken into three parts: "The Unseen", which offers 13 deleted scenes; "The Vampire Annals", which offers three documentaries (Creating the Vampires, Aaliyah Remembered and The Music of Lestat) and "Gothic Melodies", which offers a music video and complete concert clips from the movie.

Rounding out the supplements are a short, strange and not terribly funny gag reel; cast/crew bios; extended concert sequences; text notes about Rice's work; stills gallery and the film's theatrical trailer. DVD-ROM materials include a weblink.

Final Thoughts: Alternately goofy and corny, but rarely exciting or that interesting, "Queen of the Damned" was a disapointment. Warner Home Video's DVD edition offers fine audio/video quality and a decent helping of supplements. Fans of the film should check it out, while others who haven't seen it should skip it and wait for "Blade II", which is available on DVD one week later.

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