October 21, 2012

Blu-ray Review: Queen of the Damned

In 1994 the cinematic adaptation of Anne Rice's best-selling novel, Interview with the Vampire arrived. Directed by Neil Jordan, coming off the success of The Crying Game, the movie gave us an intriguing look at vampires. It is a movie played seriously and not without a touch of profound sadness. It introduced us to Lestat, a lonely and cruel vampire, albeit in more of a supporting role. Eight years later Lestat returned to the big screen in the leading role of a vastly inferior movie.

I remember ten years ago when I first saw Queen of the Damned, I liked it. It was rather bombastic and filled with rock songs and had a strongly visual aesthetic. Now, as the movie makes its debut on Blu-ray, I am discovering that it is not a very good movie. As a matter of fact, it feels very messy as the two main portions of the story are slammed together in a narrative that lacks focus. Beyond that, this movie is kind of boring.

As the movie begins we learn that Lestat (Stuart Townsend) as been asleep for sometime, self interred in a crypt. He remained there until he finds a reason to emerge from his slumber. As it turns out, that reason is nu-metal (a sound that freezes the tale in time). He hears a band practicing nearby, he awakens and introduces himself. Lestat has decided to re-enter the world as a rock star.

As the Lestat readies his immediately popular band for their first concert, we meet a young paranormal investigator named Jesse (Marguerite Moreau). See has a keen interest on vampiric lore and she recognizes phrases in Lestat's music as references to old stories. She gets her hands on Lestat's journal and reads it, leading us to an extensive flashback. We are taken two hundred years into the past, back to when Lestat is turned into a creature of the night by a vampire named Marius (Vincent Perez).

The flashback chronicles how Lestat learns to kill and about his immortality. We also see him meet Akasha (Aaliyah), one of the original vampires. She takes a liking to the young vampire. It is this interest that builds towards the films climax.

Seriously, it is hard to describe what is going on and still have you want to see the movie. You have the stuff in the past, the stuff in the present, the crossover of Akasha into both stories, and all manner of character relationships. On paper, it sounds like it should be interesting. It just isn't. None the characters connect on an emotional level. Not to mention everything is cut together in nonsensical fashion, there is no flow to narrative. They would have been better served focusing on one side of the story, either Lestat's early years or Lestat the rock star.

I do like the idea of a vampire rock star. I would have been perfectly happy if the movie had focused completely on the musician aspect. There are a lot of ways you could liken the vampire lifestyle to that of a rockstar.

Queen of the Damned, as presented, is not a movie worthy of time. If you have read the novels, I am sure you will agree that this butchers the source. Beyond that, it s not a good movie even when taken on its own. The characters are not well developed, the story not well told, and it is difficult to care about anything.

The story leading to the production of the movie lends a little insight to what happened to this production. After sitting on the rights to the Anne Rice novels for years and with those rights about to expire, Warner Brothers brought in writers to adapt the two novels following Interview with the Vampire (The Vampire Lestat and Queen of the Damned) into a single movie. It was fast tracked and originally intended as a straight to video release. That changed following the tragic death of Aaliyah, when it was decided to capitalize and release the movie theatrically.

One final note, Lestat's singing voice was provided by Jonathan Davis of Korn. Davis also wrote the songs for the film. I have to say it is the most distracting singing dub I have ever heard in a movie. Davis' voice is so identifiable that when hearing it linked Stuart Townsend just sounds off and very distracting.

Audio/Video. The film is presented in a ratio of 2.35:1 and it looks pretty good. Actually, I do not have any real complaints with the transfer. There is some great detail in clothing and faces. Many scenes are in darkness, yet I never gets muddy or lost, the image is clear and win strong black levels. Colors are nicely defined as well, especially the red of the blood.

Audio is a DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track. It is very robust and the rock music cuts through everything. It is also rather immersive as vampires swoop in from all sides, a good example is the concert battle sequence. Dialogue is always clear. It is a winning track, much like the video.

  • Commentary. The track features director Michael Rymer, producer Jorge Saralegui, and composer Richard Gibbs. It is a moderately interesting track, if you want to sit through the movie again. There is a lot of talk of things they skipped or did not include, lots of things that would have made this a better movie.
  • The Music of Lestat. This featurette looks at the development of the music, primarily the rock songs. There is also a bit about the concert portion of the film.
  • Remembering Aaliyah. A nicely crafted tribute to Aaliyah who died in a plane crash prior to the movie's release.
  • Creating the Vampires. A brief look at the creation of the film's creatures and effects.
  • Slept So Long. Full concert clip.
  • Not Meant for Me. Full concert clip.
  • Deleted Scenes. A selection of clipped bits with a title card stating why they were cut. Sadly, there is no play all function.
  • Gag Reel. Standard collection of flubs.
  • Music Videos. A trio of Lestat videos and one from Static X.
  • Theatrical Trailer.
Bottomline. This is not a good movie. The narrative is sloppy, it doesn't always make the most sense, and it leans to the dull side. I am sure it as its fans, but I am not among them. The disk looks good but I am not sure I will ever feel the need to watch it again.

Not Recommended.

Article first published as Blu-ray Review: Queen of the Damned on Blogcritics.

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