Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Weeks Too Late: Daybreakers

Daybreakers. Directed & Written by Michael and Peter Spierig.
Preconceptions: Well, this movie made me break my premise already, this review is almost timely. But...a vampire movie where the vampires aren't just bad guys or anti-heroes but proper monsters? Woo! That was enough to tempt me out to the theaters before the herd thinned. It has been an awfully long time since I saw something along these lines. It's also been an awfully long time since I saw Ethan Hawke in a movie I was interested in.

General Review (no spoilers, in case, y'know you want to read this before seeing the movie): My first reactions were good. The opening had a great harsh hook and we get to see some monsters in action almost immediately. It appears to be set in the future of the 50's (fashion time travel is a little known a side effect of vampirism) and I always love to see Sam Neill as a mustache twirling
Another pleasant surprise was that blood drinking had nothing to do with sex. In Daybreakers vampires eat their food rather than sleeping with it.The movie doesn't spend setting up the premise, which is also a nice change of pace. After all, at this point unless it's especially clever do we really need hours of technical mumbo-jumbo to explain why there are vampires? No we don't. Magic Bats, good enough for me. And I promise not going to complain about the nonsense science used to get from point A to B in the plot. Some of it was damned silly, but it rarely broke through my iron clad suspension of disbelief. The commercials playing in the background of scenes were another nice touch. They managed to set the scene quickly and get a giggle or two out of me as well.

Unfortunately, with the exception of Ethan Hawe's cute little dracula ears (which were unendingly adorable) that's all the nice things I have to say about Daybreakers. In general, I'm getting toilet huggingly tired of characters having sudden changes of heart. I am aware that sometimes it just needs to be done to get the plot moving along, but Daybreakers had a lot of the dead fish, flip flop dance.

I'm not against the idea of a standard three act movie that follows the conventions we've come to know and trust. But if that's what your movie is, throw a little something else into the mix for pity's sake. Great actors, snappy dialogue, interesting visuals, a slight twist to mess with my expectations. Anything. Believe me, you don't need to see Daybreakers, you pretty well already have in hundreds of other flicks.

Daybreakers wasn't exactly bad. The acting was alright (though Willem Dafoe was even more cartoony than usual), it was competently shot, the monster design was okay (I'm a fool for the emaciated batwing vampire) and the writing wasn't wretched. But it just didn't have anything interesting going on. Not being bad doesn't mean it's worth your time. And this movie really isn't worth your time. It's a tired standard movie using what has become a tired standard monster. It failed to give new life to the vampire mythos or the human vs plague, human vs isolation story. Spend your bucks or loonies on renting Shadow of a Vampire or buying Richard Matheson's book (let us be clear, the book not the Will Smith movie) I Am Legend.

Random Thoughts (oh how I love to give away plot points in this section): In case you should think I'm only discussing eye candy for the hetero ladies out there, may I mention that Jane Wallace (as Sam Neill's assistant) was worth a look or two in her 50's secretary finery?

Alright, just one complaint about the silly science. If the premise is that vampires happen because of a disease that can be explained using microscopes and test tubes, I just need one line of exposition to say why they explode when they're staked. It doesn't have to make sense, but I need just a tiny sentence to set my mind at ease. Seriously, people, like they were stepping on land mines.

Disappointment in another lusterless monster movie may cause smoking.

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