Based on the hit original animated video (or OAV) of the same name, Blood: The Last Vampire is a sometimes entertaining, but ultimately convoluted, samurai/horror/vampire movie that tries to do too much.
A shadow war wages between humanity and a race of blood-drinking demons, and Saya may be the only hope humanity has for winning. A half-human, half-vampire hybrid, Saya works with a group known only as the “Council” to hunt down and destroy these demons. Their deal is pretty simple: the Council locates the demons and Saya destroys them. Her current assignment requires her to pose as a high school student on a U.S. air base in Tokyo, but this is just the beginning of her adventure as the leader of the demons, Onigen, sets her sights on Saya.
Blood: The Last Vampire takes place in 1966, and while the set-up and initial location remain the same, the movie drastically deviates from the OAV. Many of these changes seem to stem from a desire on the filmmaker’s part to make the story more epic in feel and appeal to an American audience. The OAV felt more like a day in the life of Saya (albeit a typical day for her consists of battling evil demons, but hey, what’s typical for one person is atypical for the next. It’s all relative). The action takes place solely on the air force base, and there’s no mention as far as I recall of Onigen. It’s possible that the film pulls in elements from the series based on the OAV, Blood +, but as I’ve never seen the series, I couldn’t say.
Although I prefer the OAV to the movie, I can understand why the filmmakers wanted to make some changes. This is, after all, an adaptation, not a replication, and changes are not only expected, but required to make it enjoyable. If the movie had been a shot-for-shot live-action remake of the anime I would have been bored. That said, the change that does irritate me is the inclusion of the character Alice.
American adaptations of foreign movies almost always feel the need to include an American character in order to give U.S. audiences a person they can connect with—because God knows we could never identify with somebody from Japan or France or China. I’ve seen this happen with remakes of British movies, and it galls me every time. The gratuitous American in this case—Alice—is the daughter of the base’s commanding officer. Essentially her only jobs in the movie are to get in trouble and provide someone for Saya to explain the plot to. Allison Miller plays Alice with all the depth and personality of a Barbie doll, but to be fair to her she really didn’t have much to work with; hopefully her performance had more to do with the script and direction than her talent.
Unfortunately, Saya doesn’t fare much better. Gianna Jun capably performs the action sequences, but fails whenever the movie requires her to emote. She’s almost completely dead in the eyes and her voice carries little inflection. Again, that may have more to do with the writing and directing.
And speaking of the script, Chris Chow must have graduated from the Mark Steven Johnson school of writing because he tries to chuck in way too much into this movie. I could see the story in Blood: The Last Vampire easily told over the course of two, possibly three movies. The amount of backstory that is either shoehorned into the plot or implied could easily be expanded upon, and parsing them out over more than one movie would have given the filmmakers more time to let the story breathe, giving the characters more time to establish who themselves and create a stronger sense of identification with the audience.
I know that this is an action movie, and that its primary purpose is to deliver cool scenes of katana mayhem, but when Wesley Snipes’ Blade has more character and charisma then you have a problem (Actually, I really enjoy the first two Blade movies, but you get the point). The fighting scenes in Blood are pretty fun, but they suffer from lackluster special effects and terrible CGI. I couldn’t help but compare the wirework to movies like Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon and House of Flying Daggers and finding it strictly amateur hour here. And the CGI is laughable. When the demons morph into their natural form they look incredibly fake and rather nondescript. Their shape is vaguely humanoid, but nothing about them is frightening or threatening; in fact, they sort of reminded me of the Sleestacks from Land of the Lost. Overall the CGI scenes were so poor that they took me out of the movie. To give you a comparison, the CGI scenes in Young Sherlock Holmes look incredible compared to these. Sadly, this is just one more area where the movie fails to deliver.
The movie is presented in 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen with the audio in English 5.1 Dolby Digital. French and English subtitles are provided for those hard of hearing. There were no discernable problems with either the audio or the video.
The Making of Blood: The Last Vampire (19:07) – I think if you were to cut out all the scenes of Saya running around and killing demons this featurette would only be nine minutes long. Overall this was pretty boring and was neither entertaining nor informative.
Battling the Demons: Behind the Stunts (16:48) – This one is pretty much like the making of documentary. Mostly it’s just scenes of Saya flying through the air on her wire harness, and, again, nothing truly interesting or entertaining was said.
Previews for Blood +, Dark Country, Hardwired, Moon, Blu-Ray Disc is High Definition!, District 9, Assassination of a High School President, The Informers, The Sky Crawlers, Rec, Messengers 2: The Scarecrow, and Underworld: Rise of the Lycans
I hate being so hard on this movie considering I was generally excited about seeing it. I would cut it some slack considering it’s primarily an action movie, but there have been so many action movies that are able to combine a good story, pacing, and acting, that this just doesn’t cut it. If you haven’t seen it, go check out the OVA instead of this, and if you have seen the OVA, prepare to be disappointed. Not recommended.
Sony Pictures presents Blood: The Last Vampire. Directed by Chris Nahon. Starring Gianni Jun, Allison Miller, Liam Cunningham, JJ Field, and Koyuki. Written by Chris Chow. Running time: 89 minutes. Rated R. Released on DVD: October 20, 2009. Available at Amazon.
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