Zechs has one last Halloween treat up his sleeve. He's gotten his hands on Blood: The Last Vampire (2009). Will it live up to its anime predecessor?
Ah, Blood: The Last Vampire (2009), what a quest it has been to watch you. Being a fan of the 2000 anime of the same name, when I heard they where adapting it into a live action movie I couldn't believe it. More so, when I saw the first trailer. I wondered how they where going to approach this. Honestly, how do you adapt a forty minute animated film, which obviously will be a far longer one? More, will they adapt any of the elements of the tv show/manga, Blood+ (2005-2006)? Going into this, I just didn't know what to expect. I was hoping for homage’s to both and possibly do its own thing.
Well, I have to say the answer was just that. That alas is also one of the many numerous problems with the movie. There's just too much given in such a short time span. The movie is all over the place. You get Saya's origins, Saya trying to adapt with her cover, this thing with Council and inner conflict within them, and you get the main plot which is Saya trying to off the biggest baddest demon of them all, Onigen. To say the least, it taxes you to try. That or make you're head pop wondering what the heck is going on? Did I miss something? Even more, some plots don't even go anywhere in the end (said Council subplot goes nowhere). However, like I said before this is but one problem in the herd of many. To me it wasn't the most glaring save for one flashback scene. There where two more that stood out for me. Then there are the last minute plot twist revealed in the climax that obviously anyone could see coming. But I digress it does work, I just wish it were built upon more.
That leads to my second problem I had with this movie, its use of the supporting cast it had. The fact that here you have Colin Salmon and Michael Bryne and they're just utterly wasted in their parts is a damn shame. Bryne obviously was phoning it in for his one lone scene, while Salmon does the best he can with his short role, but at least he puts a somewhat more memorable stamp on it. I guess Salmon's just so used to Paul Anderson roles where he's killed twenty minutes into the movie thus knowing how to use them to the best of his ability.
Though the true crime of utter waste I have is Kokyuki's performance as Onigen. Heralded as the big bad of all demons, we get just bare glimpses of her throughout the movie until the climax. You can tell there's possibly more toward her, but we never get that payoff save for killing some weak poor fool. We never get to see her take down any council member or some foolish soul thinking they can go mano-e-mano with her, except of course our hero, Saya. The threat level was there but it could have been so much more. Thus, when we get to that climax I just felt there was no great payoff. I mean the final fight is beautiful, but nowhere did I feel an ounce of threat from Onigen. Yet, the worse crime with her is that they dub her voice while also having her native Japanese in some scenes as well. Like why the heck couldn't the scene be purely spoke in Japanese? Did it have to be done in English? But I digress, it's a personal nitpick I doubt people will realize the difference.
The last flaw I had with this flick is literally the blood, but more so with the effects of the film. It's all computer generated and it really show's. You think given this is a more foreign produced film the liquid would be more real here, alas it isn't. I guess they where saving too much for the scenery and the fight choreography more than the actual effects. The CGI is just too damn obvious when the vamps are cut open. Speaking of the vampires themselves in their true forms, I swear the effects team went medieval and used stop motion for one. It looked like it, but horribly bad and that it sticks out like a sore thumb. I couldn't help but laugh at the actual design when the creatures where so much more frightening in the anime movie. Why the heck couldn't they use those designs more?
So with all this negativity I've laid was there any good at all with this film? I mean there's has to be something? There are, and I'll start with the lead of this piece, Gianna Jun (Jun Ji-hyunn as she's more known as) as Saya. She almost redeems this movie for me as she totally captures the character. There are glances that tell just so much of what the character is reeling with: guilt, sadness, and yet so much anger. You totally believe this girl has been fighting vampires for a long time and struggles with the possibility she might be losing her humanity. The relationship she has with contact Mr. Henry is also good (but alas also wasted as there's no really good payoff with it). Plus yes, she spends most of the movie in a schoolgirl outfit. So really um.. there's nothing wrong with that either. *ahem* Ok moving on.
I know others will cry how horrible Allison Miller is as Alice, but honestly she didn't annoy me. Yes, she played the stereotypical normal human who reminds vampire of lost humanity and they bond possibly share a somewhat subtexual relationship with giving her blood to them complete. Still, I loved the character she kept me interested instead of skipping over or cringing at the other scenes (again the cringe inducing english dubbed Onigen).
There are also the visuals in the piece, which the director, Chris Nahon, totally nailed perfectly. The sets to the atmosphere created for the scenes were just great. Nahon also nails the time for me capturing the hot water the era is in (Vietnam yet still dealing with Post World War II slights). There are errors though for the history buff such as myself (they had screw on caps in the 1970s? Is the Council that damned advanced? Same goes for they're choice of weaponry when they try and take out Alice.) They really do ruin the flow when you're mind begins to ponder, "Wait a second they didn't have that during that time period."
The fights themselves almost reminded me of a Kung Fu superhero the Heroic Trio saga. Not surprisingly, the fights where done by the same person, Hang-Sang Poon. Honestly, I have to admit that some of the fights where actually pretty good and if you're a fan of some original or beautiful fights they are to be had in this flick. The climax fight Saya has with Onigen is just jaw dropping seeing Oni's costume. Again it's a damn shame the fight is just so short compared to the long-winded and never-ending alley fight which feels like it goes on forever.
In the end, Blood: The Last Vampire was a huge disappointment for me. The effects where just too much a distraction for me even with the kung fu and visual stylings of the direction. Add the go nowhere plots, the horribly build-up clichéd climax, and a lackluster bad guy. All that and I haven't even mentioned the ending make's about as much sense as me sometimes. Again an utter and complete disappointment for me. I can see now why this project was so rushed through theaters silently. Avoid this movie unless you want to see flashes of what could have been or just for the performance of Jun. Or the kick ass kung fu sequence in which Saya fights about twenty or more vampires then we get a homage to the anime movie. Those are the only reasons I would reccommend in seeing this film.
2.9 out of 5
Tune in next week when I look at Crank 2 due to fellow Outhouser, eltopo, positive rants of this movie. That and he said it had man in suit action.
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About the Author - Zechs
Zechs is the lord and master of The Toy Shed, Character Spotlight, and Cartoon Reviews. He's also an aspiring comic book writer trying to get some of his works published on the Outhouse. If there's any greater quality to Zechs, it's that he's an avid fan of comic book characters and would defend them to the bitter end against the companies that use them wrongly. Zechs walks the lonely path in Chicagoland area.
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