UltraViolet
Sony Pictures // PG-13 // $38.95 // June 27, 2006
Review by Joshua Zyber | posted July 13, 2006
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Parental Advisory Warning:
The following review may contain excessive usage of crude, profane, juvenile, offensive, and just plain potty-mouthed language. If you're likely to take issue with that, please jump right down to the technical portions of the article below.
Reader discretion is advised.

The Movie:
Where to begin?…. Where to begin?.... OK, I've just got to ask it….

Are you, and I really mean this now, so pay attention to what I'm saying, are you FUCKING kidding me?! No, I mean it, seriously, could it possibly be that this rancid piece of shit was produced with the specific intention of torturing poor movie reviewers who are forced to sit through it? Would someone really spend $30 million just for a cruel joke? Holy motherfucking Christ on a stick, I've seen some bad movies in my day, but UltraViolet is truly in a whole different class of suck than just about anything ever made before. Now, in the history of filmmaking there have been plenty of directors who were flat-out incompetent. You've got your Ed Woods, Andy Milligans, Uwe Bolls, and Michael Bays, all of whom couldn't put two shots together in a coherent manner to save their lives. That's at least understandable. You can wrap your brain around the idea of how their movies turned out as badly as they did. How they ever got money together to finance their films is another story, but you can see what went wrong when the cameras started rolling. But why, dear sweet lord why, would anyone ever exert the energy to make a movie as deliberately fucking godawful as UltraViolet? A movie like this isn't the result of incompetence. It's premeditated malice. It's assault with deadly celluloid. Making movies like this should be a felony.

I blame the Wachowski brothers. OK, fine, if you want to get technical about it they didn't actually have anything to do with the production of this movie. That's nit-picking; they're still responsible. If The Matrix hadn't been such a cool, fun rejuvenation of the sci-fi action genre, we wouldn't have so many two-bit hacks like Kurt Wimmer trying to imitate it so desperately. Wimmer made his directorial debut a few years ago with a ridiculous piece of sci-fi crap called Equilibrium that had a handful of admittedly kick-ass kung-fu gunfight sequences wrapped up in an idiotic Matrix/Fahrenheit 451/Brave New World ripoff story. Those action scenes were so cool that the movie built a small cult of fans willing to overlook niggling little things like its braindead story, awful acting, and atrocious dialogue. Even though it made about $1.50 at the box office, Equilibrium inspired some gullible financiers desperate for tax write-offs to give Wimmer $30 mil more to make his follow-up. And so now we have this… this… gigantic flaming ball of suck.

Milla Jovovich stars, and at the risk of getting a little side-tracked let me just say that I adore Milla Jovovich and will put up with a lot of garbage for the chance to look at her for 90 minutes or so. The Fifth Element is good goofy fun, and I even count both Resident Evils (yes, both of them) among my favorite guilty pleasures. Anyway, where was I? Right, Milla Jovovich stars as Violet, member of a race of goth-techno ninja vampires in a generic distopian future society ruled by germophobe humans who really don't want the vampires to get their hands on an 8 year-old boy that's been stuffed in a briefcase (don't ask) and is really a dangerous biological weapon that could destroy all of… well, depending on who you ask either he'll destroy all the vampires or all the humans, or maybe both. It doesn't really matter. He's a fucking full-sized 8 year-old kid that she can carry around in a briefcase. What the fuck? No, it doesn't matter. Let's just keep going. That's the least stupid of what happens in the movie. So, now we've got this clichéd child-in-danger plot because both the humans and the vampires are afraid of the kid and want to kill him, but Milla turns out to be a good vampire with a heart so she bonds with the kid and has to rescue him. Some other stupid shit happens (this movie has a lot of long-winded exposition, none of which makes any sense), but it's all just filler to string together some amazingly inane video game action scenes. And when I say "video game" I don't just mean that metaphorically. The movie is filled with wall-to-wall CGI that's somewhere around Sega Genesis quality, and all of the action sequences look like the cut-scenes from the worst game you never wanted to play.

Sadly, that's actually intentional. Wimmer wants the movie to look like a cross between video games and comic books (in its one saving grace, the movie does have really cool comic-themed opening credits). As such, the entire thing is digitized, and processed, and color-filtered, and animated to hell and back. It's a gaudy, obnoxious, utterly hideous assault on the eyes. It's so bright and clean and sparkly and gauzily smooth and oversaturated that it may just make you nauseous. Even the stunningly beautiful Milla has been put into an ugly wig and a lot of midriff-baring outfits that kind of make her look like a transvestite. And let me tell you, as someone who's already admitted that he loves Milla even in some of her dumbest movies, she is just AWFUL in this. She's an actress who needs a good director to keep her performance on track, and she didn't get one here. She's bad, the plot is stupid, and the dialogue… oh man, the dialogue! Some of the lines in this movie are just… well hell, just try to imagine someone saying these lines with a straight face:

"These moments, as beautiful as they are, they're evil when they're gone."

"You got hemo blood on me. It is on!"

Or my absolute favorite:

"There's a war going on to the death."

Fucking hell, this movie would be hilarious if it weren't so agonizingly tedious. How can an 87-minute movie feel like it's never going to end? When it's as stupid, boring, and nonsensical as this one, you count every ticking second.

Kurt Wimmer was reportedly shut out of the editing process during post-production when the studio saw what he was putting together and panicked. Allegedly, the director disowned the movie after a half hour was cut out of it without his consent. Fuck that. The problems with this movie are so fundamental to its very concept and execution that no amount of re-editing or (god help us) extra footage will ever make it watchable. There will be no passing of the buck here. UltraViolet sucks because Kurt Wimmer is a goddamn hack who made a shitty movie. Hopefully it'll be the last time he gets the chance.

The Blu-ray Disc:
UltraViolet debuts on the Blu-ray format courtesy of Sony Pictures Home Entertainment. In their infinite wisdom, the marketing geniuses at the studio have opted to only include the PG-13 theatrical cut on Blu-ray. If you want the "Unrated Extended Cut", that's only available on standard DVD. No, the Unrated version isn't Wimmer's intended cut either; it's just a marketing ploy to throw in a couple minutes of extra tits and gore. Hey, I find the promise of some extra nudity or violence as titillating as the next guy, but frankly anything that might prolong the torture of this movie isn't worth the pain.

Blu-ray discs are only playable in a compatible Blu-ray player. They will not function in a standard DVD player or in an HD DVD player. Please note that the star rating scales for video and audio are relative to other High Definition disc content, not to traditional DVD.

Video:
The UltraViolet Blu-ray is encoded in High Definition 1080p format using MPEG2 compression on a single-layer 25 gb disc. The movie is presented in its theatrical aspect ratio of approximately 1.85:1 with tiny letterbox bars at the top and bottom of the 16:9 frame.

To say that this is one of the best looking Blu-rays released so far is damning the format with faint praise. After my initial batch of reviews criticizing Blu-ray quality, I was assured by a number of people that UltraViolet is really the first disc to show off the potential of the High-Def format. Well, maybe it does, but that's not much of a compliment. Shot entirely in HD video, the disc features a direct-digital transfer that I'm sure is extremely accurate to the intended look of the movie. Unfortunately, the movie has an infuriating visual style that has been extensively digitally manipulated to smear away any semblance of texture or detail. The movie is all surfaces, literally. Selected shots look superficially sharp but everything is flat and smooth. Close-ups of faces look waxy, with sort of a gauzy blur about them and absolutely no visible skin pores or variances in complexion. The sets and props (even those not CGI) are perfectly blank and neutral. This is all very deliberately done to imitate comic book and video game visuals, of course, but it still looks awful.

The color palette is made up almost exclusively of primaries with little use of subtle shadings or hues. What colors we do see have been cranked up as far as computers will push them, and are often oversaturated and smeary. Contrasts have also been pushed at both the high and low ends; the picture has a very deep black level but poor shadow detail, and the bright portions of the screen also clip away detail there. Compression quality is hard to judge because the minor digital blockiness and artifacting visible in many parts of the movie may in fact be endemic to the production. It's hard to tell which flaws are caused by the disc and which are caused by the overuse of crappy CGI in every shot. Some color banding is also problematic in a few scenes, which I'm inclined to blame on the disc mastering.

I really hope this isn't the best that Blu-ray can do. An 87-minute movie with next to no fine object detail or complex rendering of colors is hardly a digital compression challenge. Even inefficient MPEG2 on a single-layer disc burdened by PCM audio should be able to handle it. Blu-ray will need to overcome bigger obstacles than this to prove itself.

The UltraViolet Blu-ray disc is not flagged with an Image Constraint Token and will play in full High Definition quality over a Blu-ray player's analog Component Video outputs.

The photo images used in this article were taken from the DVD edition for illustrative or reference purposes only, and are not intended to demonstrate Blu-ray picture quality.

Audio:
The movie's soundtrack is encoded in uncompressed PCM 5.1 format or in standard Dolby Digital 5.1. The picture has a generic action movie mix with plenty of zippy surround effects, rumbly bass, and obnoxious thumping techno music. I wasn't particularly impressed with the fidelity of either the DD 5.1 or PCM tracks, unfortunately. Music and sound effects sounded particularly dull. This is probably more of an issue with the movie's production than with Blu-ray technology, but in any case the audio is merely satisfactory.

Subs & Dubs:
Optional subtitles – English, English captions for the hearing impaired, French, Spanish, Portuguese, Chinese, Korean, or Thai.
Alternate language tracks - French DD 5.1.

Extras:
All of the bonus features on this Blu-ray title are recycled from the DVD edition and are presented in Standard Definition video with MPEG2 compression. In a Blu-ray first, it appears that all of the supplements from the DVD have carried over. Sadly, the DVD didn't have much on it.

  • Audio commentary by Milla Jovovich and her two dogs - I love looking at her in movies, but audio commentaries are not this woman's strength. At least she's not obviously drunk during this one as she was for Resident Evil, if that counts for anything. This is a truly insipid, worthless track in which the vapid model/actress gushes about how "unbelievable" or "rad" every single thing in the movie is. Don't waste your life listening to this.
  • UV Protection: Making of UltraViolet (30 min.) – Viewable either in four separate parts or run all together, this is a surprisingly lengthy EPK overview of the design, visual effects, cinematography, and fight choreography of the movie. Director Kurt Wimmer is seen in some behind-the-scenes footage but declined to be interviewed directly (out of spite, no doubt). Instead, we get hilarious talking-head footage of producers and technicians trying to hype up the importance of the movie with deadly earnestness: "There is a very real sense of mission on this film, a purpose that is no less than trying to reissue a new definition of a modern science fiction picture." You've got to be joking! What movie were they really working on?
That's it for content related to the film, though we do get HD previews for two unrelated Sony movies and a generic promo for Blu-ray itself.

No interactive features have been included, not even the "Blu-Wizard" thing advertised in the booklet that comes in the case.

Easter Eggs:
Hidden on the disc is a selection of HD test patterns. You can access these by entering 7669 on your remote control from the disc's main menu. Use the Skip button to page through the patterns. Please note that due to an error in the Sony encoder used to author the disc, blacker-than-black and whiter-than-white portions of the video signal have been clipped, essentially rendering the Brightness and Contrast calibration patterns useless.

Final Thoughts:
UltraViolet is an awful movie in every respect, so awful I'm almost tempted to advise a rental so that more people out there can share my pain. Fortunately, I'm just not that cruel. The Blu-ray edition probably looks about as good as this crappy movie can possibly look, which isn't saying much. It's also only the PG-13 theatrical cut, so anyone who does actually have an interest in watching it should rent the "Unrated Extended Edition" on regular DVD instead. Skip it.

Related Articles:
The Fifth Element (Blu-ray)
Immortal (Region 3 DVD) - Another craptastic CGI-fest in the same vein as this turd.
HD Review Index
Samsung BD-P1000 Blu-ray Player



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