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Feb 22, 2010

Fletch's Film Review: Daybreakers

1. There exist beings called "vampires."

This is probably the largest leap of faith that Daybreakers asks you to make, and since we're all pretty damn familiar with the various tropes and shackles of the genre, it's a leap that I'm sure everyone in the audience is more than willing to take (otherwise, why would they be there?).

2. Due to the existence of said vampires and the nature of their "transmittal" illustrated in this piece of fiction (i.e. a vampire bites another person, thereby making them a vampire as well; no reciprocation is necessary, though it all begins as a pandemic of sorts), the world soon counts vampires as the vast majority of the population, with but a few remaining human counterparts.

This point is not only believable, but one that makes you wonder why it is that this idea had yet to be seen in modern vampire stories, much less the dominating set-up. It makes too much sense not to have surfaced previously. This is where someone tells me that is showed up in a comic book in 1984 or something; that's not what I mean necessarily - why haven't we ALL seen this premise and multiple variants of it? All (or at least many) vampire stories should have this built-in and work from there.

3. Due to the dwindling number of humans (read: food sources) available, steps have been taken to ensure the future of life (vampire life, that is) on the planet. This is done via a) the farming of humans, similar in style to the battery model used in The Matrix, and b) attempts at producing synthetic blood, suitable for stable consumption by the world's population.

All of the major conflicts radiate from this point, as well they should, since it's the one that provides the allegory for the impending drying up of the real Earth's oil supply. It's handled strongly if a bit heavy-handed.

Most vampires are content to continue drinking human blood at their everyday rate of consumption, assured that the power structure will come up with something to sustain their survival. A minority exists, however, that drive Priuses does not/has not/will not ever enjoy the indirect cannibalism that they're asked to participate in, instead imbibing in "lesser" bloods, coming from animals like rats or rabbits (see, Vampire, Interview with the). Naturally, our protagonist fits into the latter category (played by Ethan Hawke yet voiced by the Dark Knight - er, also Hawke, who must believe that whispering makes his voice seem less whiny). By the way, so far, so good as far as the movie's concerned.

4. Should a vampire abstain from drinking blood for an extended period of time or drink the blood of another vampire or drink their own blood, they will devolve into a non-humanoid, bat-like creature devoid of intellect and somewhat immeasurably stronger.

This is where Daybreakers began to go off the rails. As I said, though I'm able to make the much larger leap of faith in buying into the existence of vampires in the first place, something about these creatures getting stronger and more fierce as they should be withering away discombobulates my Spock-like logical mind. That and it seems as though this element was added purely for shock/scare value, of which little was added. The film would have been vastly better without this element added; while it's understandable that something needs to happen when they go without blood (food), I could have reconciled it much easier had they merely melted away or imploded or some other such nonsense.

5. (Thus begins the spoilerific stuff, if you care) Vampires can be transformed back into humans through a process that includes them entering the sun's harsh UV rays, thus setting them afire, combined with dousing said fire immediately. Think of it like the paddles you see in a hospital setting, essentially jolting their insides back to "life."

Yeah. Sure. Whatever.

6. If a "normal" vampire drinks the blood of a "former" vampire (not human via the sun trick), said vampire will him/herself mutate back into human form.

This was a nifty plot device, but one that ultimately led to Daybreakers' demise. Rather than dealing with it a single ounce (get it? Ugh.) of restraint, the appearance of any humanoid form to the now-starved population led them to act like the scarabs from The Mummy movies, tearing apart anyone within their immediate vicinity in seconds flat. So much for conservation of resources. In effect, this turned the film from an interesting vampire/sci-fi study into an out-and-out splattery gorefest, which was mind-numbingly boring more than shocking.

To top it all off, we're given a Matrix-y overly serious voiceover ending. Heck of a job taking a perfectly good concept and flushing it down the toilet.

Fletch's Film Rating:
Shaky Cam Rating (details):LAMBScore:
Large Association of Movie BlogsLarge Association of Movie Blogs

8 people have chosen wisely: on "Fletch's Film Review: Daybreakers"

gibell said...

The movie was great!!! Although it was a little exagerated. Humans were hunted to farm their bloods to vampires. At least happy ending.

Fitz said...

It looked like a decent social piece but then the trailers turned to Resident Evil and I skipped it.

Unrelated, but I was thinking of a new feature for the LAMB. Six degrees of Kevin Bacon except we would pick two new actors a week: Six Degrees of LAMB?

What do you think?

Nick said...

2. Seriously... why HASN'T this been done before? I said the same thing. It's so obvious it makes me sad that nobody else has done this before. But you know, if anybody does it now, people will just cry "RIP-OFF!" or something.

3. I did a double take at your 'oil' thing. I was like "uh.. wait, what?" I wouldn't exactly say "heavy-handed," because I didn't even catch that. But I see it now that you've pointed it out.

4. Actually, there is a part of vampire lore (that just isn't delved into too much in vampire movies) that if you're a vampire and eat vampire blood, you start to devolve and become more of an evil being. Not necessarily a bat, but the theory is there. Also, it makes sense that they'd get more powerful. Vampires are strong by eating human blood. So vampires are powerful to begin with, so eating vampire blood logically makes a vampire even stronger (kinda how whiskey can make you more drunk than a wine cooler).

6. I loved this bit, and I thought it made perfect sense. Throughout the movie, they show vampires getting hungrier and crazier, attacking the coffee shops and stuff. So to have it pure and fresh and right in front of you... imagine you've been used to eating big, juicy hamburgers for decades. And then they take away the hamburgers and start giving you tofu. And then they cut the tofu rations by a third. Add in that you're now dying. So yeah, if a big, juicy hamburger walked by me, I'd eat it.

Fletch said...

Fitz - True, the trailer started off good and then devolved a bit, but I was holding out some small bit of hope that the overall finished product would be above that level. It more or less is, but there's a lot to dislike about it as well.

Six Degrees of LAMB...I think it's got potential. Though, say the first commenter gets it in one degree - what then? I guess a bit of a "don't read the comments until you've thought of it awhile" disclaimer could solve that.

Nick - 2. Sure, people would cry "ripoff" (I would), but so long as the next person adds something to it, they'll be able to get away with it. We see that kind of thing all the time.

3. Seriously? I'm not always the best at picking up on the social commentary of a movie, but this one seemed to be the whole point of the movie. Rampant overuse of available resources, rationing, attempts to find substitutes, greedy corporations. You could also spin that it's simply about Big Pharma and their desire to placate us and get us addicted to drugs rather than cure what ails us. Either one works equally well.

4. If it were only the vampires that drank vampire blood that turned batty, I'd be right there with you. But that wasn't the case - the same result happened whether you drank vampire blood or abstained from drinking blood altogether. That's my problem with it.

6. Sure, it makes sense that they're hungry, but it's as if their animal instincts took over 100%; I mean, if they're really so hungry and blood so sparse, why were they so careless with it? How much wasted blood was splattered all over the floor? It's a matter of subtlety more than anything else, and this flick had none.

The Film Cynics said...

Haven't seen it yet, but despite your strong and considered case against it, I think I might have to add it to my list.

I get the whole "monsters becoming real monsters thing". If everyone's already a so-called movie monster, there has to be a way to take it to the next level. I always thought they handled it well in Blade II, and you had to know it was going to surface again somewhere. Escalation is just what movies do, it's in their blood...

Now, keeping in mind that I haven't seen it, I just want to add my two cents on the vampire pandemic thing: As someone who spent a lot of time reading up on vampire lore in my teens and twenties, the more considered vampire theories is that the "bug" doesn't spread just by biting. There's a set of steps you gotta take to make someone else a vampire - it's a gift and you wouldn't want to just share it around with everyone. The got the process pretty close in True Blood... I think those writers who were a little more forward thinking made sure they added that bit because they might have seen a Daybreakers scenario down the line. Hey, if everyone's special - nobody will be. Zing!

Great review, Fletch - even if it might have attracted me to what you're chasing me away from.

Anonymous said...

I actually enjoyed the movie. I didn’t have a problem with the plot. Within all the universe the movie has set up for itself all the things are believable. Vampirism is like a virus, it spreads very quickly, there is a cure, the blood of those who are cured works as an antidote. I also don’t have a problem with the way they turn into the mutated versions when they don’t get blood. It makes sense that there is a consequence of not getting blood, it works well for the plot.

There are however two problems I do have with the plot. Firstly: the vampires don’t have a reflection. That’s fine for mystical fantasy vampires but these are more scifi vampires who are infected and cured, the whole no reflection thing doesn’t work. Second: The farming of humans is a bit of a lame attempt. If they have been bleeding them dry for ten years it is obvious they will run out sooner or later. The term farming implies breading, not just catching and bleeding.

There is a third smaller point, the transformation from human to vampire and back again is all a bit too quick. This you have to swallow just like the existence of vampires as the plot is dependent on it.

Forgetting all that from a purely entertainment point of view, I thought it was a good fun vampire flick with no glitter covered vamps in sight!

Fletch said...

Steve - thank you, in a backhanded kind of way, I guess! ;) I had no problem with the escalation to the bat-like monsters, per se, just mostly with the "if you don't drink blood, you become one" aspect. If blood = food (or something like it), then starving should not = greater strength. I know, human logic applied to vampire sci-fi, not a winning proposition...

Andy - RE the mirror thing. I'll agree that that trope of the vampire mystique feels out of place and is absolutely unnecessary to this story, but I can't say that it bothered me to any degree of significance. That one has never held any sort of meaningful purpose, so its inclusion here is no worse than its inclusion in any other vampire story is the way I look at it.

As for the transformation thing, agreed again. It was done too quickly and with too much ease. It was one of a few things that could have been expanded to help the story (and away could have gone some of the splatter gore).

The Film Cynics said...

Hey, it might have seemed like a backhanded compliment - but your review did what great reviews are supposed to: get people excited about a movie, whether happy excited or angry excited, or a little of both.

The most important question: Is it better or worse than Dracula 2000? I'm thinking: better.

Still from a strictly ignorant point of view: I like the idea that these vampires can't be seen in a mirror. It doesn't make sense, and that's what's good about it. Sucking all the magic out of vampirism (man, I'm funny even when I'm not being funny) means you might as well have left vampires out of the equation entirely.