Saturday, January 9, 2010

Best first?

The first release date of the calendar year has a special stigma attached to it. Films released on that date are the ones for which the studios have the lowest expectations. It's the earliest release date that doesn't qualify for the previous year's Oscars, and those movies are also expected to lose viewers to the ones that were specifically released with Oscar in mind. In that way, they're kind of like the ultimate anti-Oscar movies.

Well, I'm not saying Daybreakers is going to be nominated for any Oscars, much less win one. But I am saying it may be the first film released on the first Friday that I will actually see in the theater. (Last Friday doesn't count -- although it was the first Friday of 2010, it was also January 1st, and I'm not sure if there's ever been a film released on New Year's Day.)

Yep, I'm currently making plans to go with a friend, possibly one of the weeknights next week. And this is especially tough for a person like me, who tries to focus all his January viewing efforts on movies from the previous year, in time to close off his year-end list on Oscar nomination morning (February 2nd). My viewing time is even more limited this January, as I'm also trying to re-watch some favorites from the last decade in order to compile a definitive "best of the decade" list by the same deadline.

Daybreakers' prospective feat is more unusual in the fact that the entire month of January, let alone the first week, is usually a cinematic wasteland, at least in terms of my own interest in getting out to the theater for a newly released film. It's often not until February, in fact, that I see something released in the new calendar year. There was the famous exception of Cloverfield a couple years ago, which I believe I actually saw twice before the calendar switched to February. (That was kind of a fluke -- the same friend with whom I may see Daybreakers wanted to see a movie, and I told him I'd go to Cloverfield again even though it was only five days after I'd seen it the first time.) But Cloverfield wasn't released until January 18th, or the third Friday of the year.

So what is it about Daybreakers?

You've seen the trailers. You know that this seems like -- are you seated? -- an original idea for a vampire movie. You also know it stars Ethan Hawke, who has been heretofore quite selective in his film roles. Whether or not that translates to hope for you is another question. It does for me.

Like Zombieland last year, Daybreakers imagines a world where almost everybody on the planet is a monster -- there zombies, here vampires. (And for a discussion about the essential similarity between those two kinds of creatures, check here.) Unlike Zombieland, this is not a comedy, and the vampires are smart. Vampirism is simply the rule of the day -- almost everyone sucks blood, a logical end result of this kind of communicable disease, and because it's the norm, the blood supply is running dangerously low. The solution? To farm the remaining humans for their blood (see the above Matrix-inspired poster), while simultaneously trying to develop a sustainable form of synthetic blood. Go without blood for too long, and you turn into ... well, a worse kind of vampire.

There is a good possibility that this movie could suck. After all, January was also the month in which at least the last two Underworld movies came out. And though I did not see those two Underworld movies, in the first movie I saw enough blue and black hues, and enough gothic undead throwing enough doors open, for three movies. What's more, the fact that it is being released on January 8th demonstrates that Lionsgate doesn't have very much confidence in it. There's gotta be a fatal flaw, right?

Well, I may just get the chance to find out myself next week. And that alone is a significant accomplishment for Daybreakers.

No comments: