In my ongoing quest to be the biggest dork in the room, I try to keep up on the recent trends in sci-fi and fantasy.
Right now, vampires are so huge they shouldn't have to worry about stepping out in sunshine because the shadow they cast is so massive it blocks all light across the inner planets. But for someone working on a script or book right now, if they're writing about vampires, they might as well connect a tube straight from their printer to the trash can. In the two to three years it'd take their story to hit the screen or the shelves, the vampire trend will be as old as Rip Van Jesus.
So the question is what's next? Mermaids and mermen are starting to make a bit of a "splash" (heh heh). Angels, especially the guardian variety prone to falling in love with their wards, they're also on the radar. I myself am campaigning for stories about dogs who disguise themselves as cats to break into the highly discriminatory feline mystery field. The future's wide-open! In the meantime, however, we're still dealing with the bloodsucker craze, such as the semi-innovate Daybreakers.
By 2019, a rampant plague has turned nearly everyone into vampires. The few remaining humans are hunted and farmed for the blood necessary to keep vampires from falling into a feral, violent state.
But blood supplies are about to run out. Scientist Ethan Hawke is working on a blood substitute for his pharmaceutical company when he runs into Willem Dafoe, a renegade human who was able to accidentally cure himself of vampirism. If Hawke can figure out a way to duplicate it, he may be able to stave off the collapse of society — and undo the plague.
Other than it being kind of sketchy that a species so long-lived would be so shortsighted about its food supply, that's a pretty decent concept right there. Part of the whole vampire thing is we all secretly want to be one — or not-so-secretly, in the case of certain teenagers and delusional Internet subcultures — but what happens when we're all running around wanting to suck each others' blood?
Writer/director team Michael and Peter Spierig flesh this out by painting their world with a distinctive look (vampires enjoy hats, sharp black suits, and smoking; remind me not to go back to New York any time soon) that's full of extrapolative goodness.
It hangs together for a while. The closer the world gets to anarchy, though, the harder it gets for the Spierigs to get that across, relying on intrusive, exposition-heavy news reports to clue us in to the latest happs. I don't know where these are coming from, unless it's also a future where we've all got TV receivers in our heads, and in that case I can't wait, but as a technique, it's out of place here.
And the deeper the plot runs, the further it ventures into Crazy Coincidence Theatre. That Hawke literally runs into the outlaw humans — like, with his car into their car — is one thing. But with Hawke's own brother tasked with hunting them down, and an even less likely subplot involving evil CEO Sam Neill's lost daughter suddenly becoming quite un-lost, it's harder to swallow than a goblet full of O-positive.
On the plus side, the vampires actually explode when they get staked, which must make it all kinds of exciting at those cocktail parties where caterers dash around with trays filled with tiny sandwiches with the toothpicks sticking up. Sunlight: that also blows vampires up. Oh yes, and Hawke's big experiment involves repeatedly setting himself on fire.
Daybreakers doesn't lack for fun, then, right up through its gory, silly finale. But it's pretty damned earnest considering it's about a world full of vampires, and its weak characterization means all those coincidence-laden sideplots can't find the emotional payoff they're searching for. It's better than most movies like it, but that doesn't mean it's any good.