Starring Gianna Jun, Allison Miller, Liam Cunningham, JJ Feild, Koyuki, Yasuaki Kurata, Larry Lamb
Directed by Chris Nahon
If you’ve been around here for a long time, you might remember my review of the original Blood: The Last Vampire. It was a popular enough anime to generate two TV series and two more films so far. I came to this live-action version expecting a horrendous piece of crap, and while this is definitely the weakest entry in the franchise that I’ve seen so far, it’s not nearly as bad as I feared. Just don’t get your hopes too high.
The live-action film is a loose remake of the original anime. It takes the same setting and characters and replicates several of the more important scenes, but it also greatly expands upon the original, elaborating on existing characters and adding new ones to the mix. It also drops some of the technical details. It never once uses the term “chiropterans” to refer to the monsters, instead calling them “demons” or “bloodsuckers.” The biggest change to the concept, though, is that it is now a revenge story. Saya is no longer just an aimless wanderer of the night. Now she’s on a quest for vengeance against the demon that killed her father.
For a while, this elaboration had me hooked. The secret society that Saya works for was butting heads with the US military, and the group also suffered from internal disagreements between the main agents about how to operate. The Air Force general’s daughter was a bit less inspiring, but on the whole I felt this was exactly what the film needed. It fleshed out the vague concepts of the original and added a lot more depth to what had been a very short and bare-bones tale. Then the horribly edited action scenes started up with loads of awful CG, and things started going downhill.
It’s a shame that the action was so bad, as the story parts were going so well. But I’m afraid the editing ruins most of the fun. Despite the heavier story emphasis, this is still a movie about a badass femme fatale tearing apart monsters. Those action elements are essential to the deal, and they’re pretty damn unintelligible.
The editing problems don’t just limit themselves to the fight scenes either. There are a few really odd points where I felt like something had been forgotten, as if there was a scene that would explain the situation, but someone made the poor decision of leaving it on the cutting room floor. The weirdest of these was when the general’s daughter, Alice, somehow knows that Saya needs to drink blood to survive, even though the film never mentions the fact at all, even to the audience. It’s undoubtedly relying on the title and the original film to fill in audience expectation. This kind of vagueness can be done well, and to some extent it is here, too. I like the way this film, as well as the old anime film, left obvious things unexplained. But here it was taken a tad bit too far. Alice had no reason to think that Saya was a vampire, so her sudden knowledge of things is every bit as disjointed and confusing as the fight sequences.
It’s not all bad news. There are some fun moments scattered through the film. It’s got a one-versus-many ninja battle that despite all the attempts of poor editing still managed to be somewhat entertaining. Mostly this was due to the awesome underground ninja whose sword stuck out of the ground like a shark fin and had me howling with laughter. A few good moments like these kept the film from falling into total ruination, but they were few and far between.
For the first half hour, this film had a lot of promise, and even by the end the new developments and twists on the anime version kept me interested, even if they weren’t the most original ideas out there. In more skilled hands, this could have made for a great movie. Unfortunately, no amount of potential can make up for poor execution, and no matter how much I wanted this to be a good movie, it just doesn’t deliver where it really counts.