Ten years in the future, mothers across the nation will scold their children with, “Why aren’t you drinking your blood? Don’t you know there are starving vampires in China!”
Actually, there are starving vampires all over the world in the Speirig Brothers’ Daybreakers. Ethan Hawke plays chief hematologist Edward Dalton, a vampire struggling with his condition in a world populated by vampires. He's trying to develop a substitute for human blood, as it is becoming the world’s scarcest natural resource. But, in secret, he’s also hoping to find a cure for vampirism itself.
Sam Neill plays Charles Bromley, the evil head of the major pharmaceutical company that employs Ethan Hawke, who hopes to continue exploiting both humans and vampires for financial gain, and find his daughter, played by Isabel Lucas. She rejected the vampire way and remained human, and he hopes to recruit her to the winning team.
Willem Dafoe plays Lionel “Elvis” Cormac, ex-mechanic and ex-vampire (but all–awesome), who fights to re-establish human supremacy over the Earth, or at the very least, make humans no longer an endangered species. He does this under the leadership of Audrey Bennett, played by the lovely Claudia Karvan.
Finally, Michael Dorman plays Frankie Dalton, Edward’s brother, who hunts down the humans for farming and has trouble not forcing himself on people that don’t want to be bitten.
I’ve gone into so much detail about the leads because the film seems to have about 4 to 5 different movies that all have the theme of a world populated with vampires but have little else to do with each other. Unfortunately, none of these stories are brought to any real conclusion.
Another detractor is the film's failure of the "Who cares?" test: Does the film get you, the audience involved in the triumphs and tragedies of its story? Not really. We've all these earnest characters as described above trying to make a difference in their world, but they all seem to be sleepwalking through the movie! The notable exception is Willem Dafoe, who has been proven to make everything better (see Boondock Saints II: All Saints Day ).
On the plus side, there are a few fairly interesting ideas on display if one enjoys vampire movies. The Speirigs do a great job of troubleshooting what a society of vampires would look like. The cars and armor designed to allow vampires to travel in broad daylight were neat, but more fascinating was the idea of the "Subwalk" which connects nearly every home in the area to an series of underground tunnels. Also fun were the warnings of the impending dawn.
As in every vampire movie, there is however, that one idea that pushes the boundaries of believability. Remember the UV grenades from Blade II or the sunlight bullets from Underworld? They've got nothing on the cure for vampirism in Daybreakers which is...
The real highlights are some truly inspired moments of gory violence that begin with Ethan Hawke injecting his prototype blood substitute into a willing (albeit a likely uninformed) volunteer. Suffice it to say, the projectile vomiting and boils are the least of the lad's worries.
Another favorite can only be described as a moment of unparalleled YUPPIE RAGE! As blood supplies grow ever more scarce, the amount of blood put in one’s evening coffee gets smaller and smaller. This does not sit well with one hungry, hungry customer who proceeds to screech like bat and destroy everything in sight.
I nearly cried laughing. If only there were more of these bright, shining moments of lunacy sandwiched between Ethan Hawke moodying up the scene. Well, that and more Sam Neill. We always need more Sam Neill.