Michael Spierig, Peter Spierig
The Spierig Brothers
Ethan Hawke, Sam Neill, Willem Dafoe, Claudia Karvan, Micahel Dorman, Vince Colosimo, Isabel Lucas
R for strong bloody violence, language and brief nudity.
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What if society became wholly controlled by vampires and human food sources were hunted to near-extinction? That is the question Daybreakers vainly attempts to answer in this violent comic-like adventure.
Edward Dalton (Ethan Hawke) is a genetic researcher working desperately to develop a synthetic blood source that will please the public as existing blood supplies dwindle after years of hunting human beings to extinction. While performing his research, he vainly searches for a cure to vampirism hoping that the people will rejoice to find there’s a cure.
The only problem is many don’t want to be cured. As corporate sponsor Charles Bromley (Sam Neill) embodies, those who have gladly taken on the curse have done so for mostly personal reasons. Immortality. Immunity to disease. The inability age. These are just a few of the things that many like Bromley wish to possess even if it means eliminating all those who would attempt to cross them.
Thus the battle of the film is established. One man wants to eliminate the curse. The other does not. Sounds fairly simple and that’s exactly what the film is.
Hawke is supported by a number of friendly and unfriendly associates on his quest to rid the world of vampirism. Isabel Lucas plays Bromley’s human daughter Alison who escaped her father’s grasp and has been fighting with a group of rebels to save as many humans as possible while thwarting the government and corporations controlled by vampires. Claudia Kraven plays Audrey Bennett, another such freedom fighter whom Edward befriends. Michael Dorman plays Edward’s pro-government, soldier brother Frankie. And Willem Dafoe portrays Lionel “Elvis” Cormac, a vampire who managed to find a cure to his ailment and become human again.
The performances aren’t the offal one might expect in such productions. Hawke is charming at times, conveying his intense desire to rid himself of his affliction. The rest are average to above average with Neill and Dafoe performing well under their capabilities.
Twin brothers Michael and Peter Spierig act as writers and directors on the film. Their screenplay is shallow and immature, providing the audience with little more than a big screen graphic novel adventure trading in that medium’s depth and contemplativeness for extra helpings of unnecessary action sequences and derivative moral observations. There’s a great film trying to get out of Daybreakers, but the Spierig Brothers can’t seem to grab onto that concept and develop it the way it needed to be. It reminds me stylistically of V for Vendetta but without anything remotely close to it’s emotional heft or sociological commentary.
On the surface, Daybreakers is a common vampire flick masquerading as ruminative social statement. But, below the surface, there is nothing but a husk of a premise left superficially explored.
April 30, 2010