Friday, September 4, 2009

Vampire Hunter D - Bloodlust

With the phenomenon of Twilight, the question of whether or not vampires were ever cool is raised. Certainly, the Twilight vamps aren't, they're sparkly and get involved in treacly teen romance novels, and play vampire baseball. But were they ever cool? More often than not, they're portrayed as thin pale losers who never get out of the house. They can only get ladies by kidnapping them and then they bite their neck right away, which is just rude. Lame as Twilight vampires might be, were they any worse than the traditional ones?

This, naturally, brings us neatly to Vampire Hunter D, which is about a vampire hunter, named D. He's a half-vampire, which seems to mean that nobody likes him and he's slightly more magical than most. As it turns out, a sexy lady has been kidnapped by a vampire, and her family wants her back if she's still a human, and dead if she isn't. So, D and his trusty hand of comic relief, along with a different band of rival vampire hunters set off to rescue her, whether she wants to be or not.

The trouble with Vampire Hunter D is that it seems to have inherited a complex and fully drawn world - it's both a book adaptation and a sequel to a movie from 1985, which was 15 years before this one came out - but has no real idea what to do with it. There are blocks of action that seem to be done specifically for the fans, but there's real idea of where a normal person can find a foothold. Things happen without any clue what they are supposed to be, and there are both moments where it expects you to know what's going on, and others where it explains everything in an info dump. I'm all about films just using the medium instead of explaining things, but sometimes I felt as though this needed to take a step back and give me a grounding in where I was, in both the narrative and just what the world was supposed to be.

Not that getting gifted a well established world is entirely a curse. The film is a validation of animation, simply because it has such an inventive, beautiful, and visually interesting world to exist in. The original book was illustrated by Yoshitaka Amano - he might be familiar to you if you're a Final Fantasy fan - and the design and atmosphere almost carries it even when the plot is at the most haphazard. This is a beautiful film, with many moments that can elicit a gasp or a silent wow. Plus, very little else actually looks like this, and there is definitely the touch of a talented and individual artistic style in the mix.

Plus, once the movie finds its feet in the last half and gets moving, it does get pretty good. The climax is both emotionally complex and tense. The various set pieces and characters come together in unexpected and ultimately satisfying ways. Add in a fairly bittersweet ending, and we've got a film that, at the end of the day, manages to be satisfying in spite of some serious flaws early on.

There is merit here, but it is ultimately a disappointing experience, mostly because it takes so long to really find its way. You can feel the filmmakers drifting along on the good will of curious fans, not completely sure what they want to do with the material they're given. With a little more work at creating a coherent cinematic world, it could have been a good movie, as ending proves. As is, it's merely almost good, relying a bit too much on great animation to carry it when it doesn't know where it wants to go.

No comments:

Post a Comment