Friday, October 23, 2009

Blood: The Last Vampire (Movie Review)

Although I've seen the Japanese animated flick, "Blood: The Last Vampire", and I remember enjoying it, that's about all I remember. So it obviously didn't make a lasting impression. But when I saw a trailer for the live action re-make of the original movie, I knew I wanted to see it. And I'm glad I did, despite the fact that the live action version will probably be almost equally forgettable to me.

The story centers on a Japanese half-demon(vampire) girl who has been alive for hundreds of years, hunting the vampire that killed her father. In this story, she goes undercover, in service to a secret vampire hunting organization, as a high school student on a US military base in Japan. It seems this was done to bring more Americans into the script, which does help make the film more accessible. Most of the film was written and filmed in English, with subtitles appearing for Japanese language sequences.

Despite this, the movie suffers from the same kind of weak acting normally associated with dubs of anime. Nothing is outrageously bad, but the script and characters (especially the scenes in the school) are 2-dimensional and performed artificially.

The fight scenes are spectacular, however. Lots of wire work and cool slow motion that Matrix and 300 fans will seriously dig. It's been awhile since I watched a movie with martial arts fighting as enjoyable to watch as this was.

On the downside, the action can get a little far-fetched at times, especially in one fight scene near the end, where a character's strength and determination to fight and live results in emotional detachment for the audience, as he appears to lose 3 gallons of blood before showing any signs of fatigue. I was reminded of some of the old classic kung-fu movies where people get stabbed all over and it seems to have little effect on their amazing motor skills. Maybe that's normal for Asian audiences, but it was too odd for me and kept me from genuinely fearing for his life.

There is also some embarrassingly bad CGI in this movie, and it unfortunately occurs most often when representing the biggest, nastiest vampire of the bunch. They switch between a bad rubber costume and what looks like graphics from a video game. The CGI blood in combat sequences wasn't as bothersome to me, but it still looked very fake.

Some CGI near the end looked very good, however. In a final battle, our hero faces off against a being with flowing 15-foot lines of cloth constantly floating around them, which looks really cool.

In a classroom scene near the beginning, Mary Shelly's Frankenstein is being analyzed, and the subject of God enters the conversation. The teacher asks a student at one point if they thought God is like an irresponsible parent, abandoning his children. The student changes the subject and we never get to see where that might have gone, but it's clear the writers are playing with some significant themes. Or at least they planned to before cutting the development of those ideas short. There is also a subtle subtext relating to the nature of evil within us, but it isn't given much time in the story.

In the end, this is a cool action flick, briefly marred now and then by some bad CGI, with a few short philosophical moments that are clearly present but undeveloped. If you're looking for some cool fighting eye-candy, check it out. Anything beyond that and I'd recommend passing on this one or paying no more than a buck, as I did.

Rated R for strong bloody stylized violence

Quality: 7.5/10

Relevance: 7.0/10

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