BluRay/DVD Reviews

BLOOD: THE LAST VAMPIRE

By • Nov 17th, 2009 •

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Whether you’re a viewer or a crew member, nothing is more depressing than realizing the filmmakers of a movie really don’t care.

In the year 2000, a 48 minute anime called BLOOD: THE LAST VAMPIRE hit the festival circuit. Critics hailed it as a wildly entertaining joyride, packed with stunning animation, crazy action scenes, and top-notch storytelling. I, myself, enjoyed it immensely.

Since that initial release, BLOOD: THE LAST VAMPIRE has acquired a type of cult status, spawning a manga sequel, three light novel adaptations, a fifty-episode anime series, and a video game. And in 2009 a live-action adaptation was released that insulted my intelligence as a movie watcher as no other film had done before.

The story of BLOOD, the live-action version, takes place during post-WWII Japan at an American military base in Tokyo. Saya, “the last vampire,” is on a mission to hunt down bloodsucking, bat-like demons who hide themselves amidst society by taking the form of humans. She is teamed up with a secret organization called the Shadow Council, who convinces her to go undercover as a military high school student. There, Saya discovers demons pretending to be students, and befriends an American general’s daughter, who she then protects. The katana is Saya’s main weapon of choice.

Now, the character of Saya is supposed to be Japanese. But the actress playing Saya (Gianna Jun) speaks her stilted English with a heavy Korean accent. Most Westerners would never notice, but for those of us more familiar with Asian language and culture, it’s the equivalent of watching a film set in England with the actor speaking with an American accent. Think Kevin Costner in ROBIN HOOD. Also, the American actors look like they’re doing line readings. The acting is so poor that it actually caused me to unconsciously utter “Wow” out loud. (And I’m the one person I know who actually didn’t mind Mark Wahlberg’s acting style in THE HAPPENING.) The Asian actors were probably equally awful, but they get off easy since none of them were actually fluent in English.

When all the acting in a film is terrible, who is to blame? The director, Chris Nahon, speaks English, so how could he not notice? Or is it the fault of the editor, who perhaps was so lazy that he picked the very first take for each scene? Then again, unless you’re Nick Nolte, how do you make a cheesy line like “Time to suffer, little girl!” sound believeable? So maybe it’s the fault of the screenwriter. That would explain the gaping plot holes. For example, at one point Saya chases a demon who has kidnapped the general’s daughter, jumping from rooftop to rooftop for about half a mile. Then after a quick skirmish, the demon retreats, and flies off into the distance.

Into the distance…with Saya and the general’s daughter left on the rooftop.

CUT TO:

Saya and the general’s daughter are in a jeep at the military base, trailing the flying demon across an airport strip. Saya was just on a rooftop in the middle of Tokyo, with that demon long gone. How did they get to the jeep? How did they know the demon was going to the military base? How did they even catch up? It’s just too much of a jump in logic to not make you realize there is no way this script went through more than a draft and a half.

Which brings up another point: This scene in which Saya is chasing the demon on an airport strip via a jeep is taken straight from the anime, except the scenes leading up to this point in the anime actually make sense and are much more entertaining. (In the anime, the demons lock Saya in the army warehouse in an attempt to kill her, the warehouse catches fire, Saya almost burns to death, and then she escapes in time to hop in a jeep and chase the demon on the airport strip.) Why on earth would you borrow a scene from the original just to make it worse? Do what Jimi Hendrix did to Bob Dylan’s “All Along The Watchtower” and actually improve upon the original. Don’t be Madonna and make a cover of “American Pie.”

I wish this was the only scene “inspired” by the anime, but not so. Here is a video to illustrate how both the anime and the live-action each handle an identical plot element involving Saya’s first encounter with two student demons.

Creepy and memorable versus cheesy and forgettable?

Poor acting. Poor writing. Poor directing. What does that leave? Cinematography. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a big-budget Hollywood movie do the following: In the middle of a steady closeup shot, the camera abruptly jolts up and down for no reason at all. It was a mistake. The camera operator must have hit the handle or missed a cue. Was there no other take the editor could have used? Or was everything shot in a single take like a soap opera? That sure would explain the acting. Seriously, where is the care for your craft?

And the list goes on: The CG looks as bad as it did in SPAWN (even the demon dogs in GHOST BUSTERS look better); color grading of certain scenes don’t match the rest of the movie (and sometimes, not even within the same scene); and racism is tastelessly used as a way to get us to sympathize with Saya (as if the demons, which aren’t even human to begin with, can be racist).

BLOOD has two saving graces: 1) The fight scenes are decent, but really should be better considering that the producer, William Kong, helped produce CROUCHING TIGER, HIDDEN DRAGON. 2) The Korean actress Gianna Jun has a cute freckle on her nose. (Yes, I know it’s arbitrary, but I’ll take anything I can get at this point).

I’m always forgiving with directors and screenwriters; making a great movie is like making a miracle. So if an element of a film doesn’t work, I first think, “Yeah, poor choice, but who knows what was happening behind the scene.” But this movie really got under my skin. I had to say a prayer to keep myself calm. It’s one thing to make a bad movie when you’re actually trying to make it good. It’s another to make a bad movie because you flat out don’t give a shit about the details, because you think no one will notice. (Yes, you can tell the difference between the two). And with a feasible budget of $25 million, this adaptation is embarrassing and shameful.

Please go watch the original anime, and enjoy yourself as you feel the passion and thought that went into every scene and cut; and leave this exploitative live-action flick to be forgotten.

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One Response »

  1. Cool vids, man. This review was actually helpful, haha.

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