Maybe I was just expecting too much. I mean, how smart could a movie like Daybreakers possibly be? The plot sounded like a good one. In the future, most of humanity have been transformed into vampires. To survive, they have to consume a steady amount of human blood, but as more humans are turned into vampires, human blood is becoming more and more scarce. Will things be dark and gritty, and show the slow decay of human society like Children of Men? Will it explore themes of lost humanity like Apocalypse Now? Spoilers abound. You’ve been warned.
The answer is no, the movie does none of these things. But rest assured, after it makes the token attempt to explain things, make you care about the characters, then realizes how little sense it all makes, it devolves into a mindless orgy of blood and violence. But I digress. I could waste a lot of ink pointing out each and every thing about this movie that made no sense, but in the interest of keeping this review under 2,000 words, I’ll only point out a couple. Or three. Definitely no more than five.
The movie tells us that the vampire outbreak began in 2009. The year is now 2019. Subtract the smaller number from the bigger number and you get ten. That’s TEN YEARS for vampire doctors to study vampires. Yet we see a vampire scientist giving a PowerPoint presentation to a group of vampire businessmen about the effects lack of blood consumption has on them (it turns them into those feral bat monsters). After ten years, shouldn’t this be common knowledge? The high-powered vampire businessmen act like they’re hearing this for the first time! One of the very first things we see in the film is one of these things running around in the sewers! Are you telling me that in ten years, not one vampire ever said, “You know what? I’m DONE!” and quit drinking blood? No one ever went into a sewer and found some poor homeless bastard who couldn’t get his hands on any blood? How did they not know this before now? It boggles my mind.
In the trailer we hear one vampire say that there’s only enough human blood to sustain the vampire population through the end of the month. You’d think that, with the human population slowly dwindling away, some vampire scientist might have said, “Uh…guys? I think we might have a problem here,” and started some rationing program. I guess not. At one point Ethan Hawke’s brother, Frankie, visits. He holds up a bottle of “100% pure” human blood triumphantly and says something like, “One of the perks of serving your country.” A few days later we see vampire soldiers with bruises and open sores because they’re all getting sick from lack of blood consumption. They had to have known this was going to happen. After ten years, how does all the crap hit the fan in the same week?
Speaking of the soldiers, who exactly do they answer to? We see Sam Neill (who plays the head of a big vampire Haliburton-type company) ordering them around. They all call him sir. I don’t get it. The vampire army uses a vampire Uncle Sam as a mascot. We see vampire congressmen talking on the vampire news, so I’d assume there’s some version of the vampire United States out there. I know, I’m nitpicking. But after all the big stuff I started noticing everything that didn’t make sense.
So, what was there to like about the rest of the movie? Hmm. Well, there was Ethan Hawke. He took a three on the page and turned it into an eight on the screen. While Willem Dafoe and Claudia Karvan are reduced to little more than action movie cliches, leading a human resistance that doesn’t do much besides peel potatoes and darn socks. Hawke was able to deliver all his lines without ever coming off as trite. I considered that an accomplishment because, once you peel back the interesting plot and cool set design, there wasn’t much about the movie that wasn’t trite, all the way to the end.
In several ways, the end of the movie was worse than the beginning. While the first hour gave us a lot of exposition that made no sense and no reason to care about any of the characters, the last half hour was one rushed effort to put them all through their emotional paces. Hawke’s brother, who in the beginning of the film was gung-ho about the government’s efforts to catch the remaining humans, has a sudden change of heart when a group of bat creatures (called Subsiders) are dragged out into the daylight, where they all catch on fire and explode into ash. It really changes him, and he stands there wide-eyed like he’s in the middle of Platoon or something.
Hawke, who’s a man, and Karvan, who’s a woman, should naturally fall in love. So while she helps him to set up an experiment, searching for a cure for vampiritis, he reaches out and begins stroking her shoulders. You know, because he, like, loves her. In both cases it’s one of those, “Woah woah woah, back the truck up. Beep, beep, beep,” things. The movie’s putting the cart before the horse, trying to give the characters some sort of emotional payoff without doing anything to build up to it. But it’s all good. If that sentimental crap doesn’t get you, there’s this really cool scene where the vampire soldiers descend on a group of newly-cured humans, ripping them apart and sucking their blood like they’re trying to get the last bit of flavor from a basket of Honey BBQ wings at Pluckers. The whole thing’s just a mess.
Was this review more of a rant than it was a review? The answer is yes. But I feel an urgent need to educate you, the movie-going public, about what a disappointing movie Daybreakers is, to educate the children that people getting ripped apart and monsters lapping up blood aren’t substitutes for good storytelling. Take heed, or we’ll all find ourselves back here in two years, with you reading my review of Nightbreakers: The Re-Turning, and such things ought not be.