Queen of the Damned

As a final film for singer Aaliyah, Queen of the Damned is not a fitting tribute. As an actress, Aaliyah (Romeo Must Die) did have a presence on screen, yet her acting skills were not that great. Over time, she probably could have developed decent skills, but in Queen of the Damned, she does little more than slink around slowly. This is the second adaptation of Anne Rice's The Vampire Chronicles, after Interview with the Vampire. Irish actor Stuart Townsend (About Adam, Wonderland) replaces Tom Cruise as Lestat, Rice's brooding vampire. Queen of the Damned is actually the third novel in the Vampire Chronicles; the second, The Vampire Lestat was not adapted, although some of the plot is at the beginning of this one. Queen of the Damned chronicles something, it's not clear because the script is so muddled and goes all over the place. The basic premise is that Lestat becomes a rock star and awakens Akasha (Aaliyah) who falls in love with him.

Unlike most of his kind, Lestat does not want to hide in the shadows. He flaunts the fact that he is a vampire, even taunting other vampires to try to kill him. He is going to hold a huge concert in Death Valley with his band, and is daring other vampires to attack him. His music awakens Akasha, an ancient vampire who once ruled over Egypt. She falls in love with Lestat's music, and wants to find him, presumably to reconquer the world. Vampires are a pragmatic lot, so they realize that Akasha ruling the world is a bad thing. Many seek a co-existence with humans, both to ensure an ample food supply as well as their survival (i.e. no hordes of people hunting them). Maharet (Lena Olin, Chocolat, The Ninth Gate), Marius (Vincent Perez, Bride of the Wind, I Dreamed of Africa), and a number of other powerful vampires band together, vowing to kill Akasha. Marius is the vampire who kept her body all these years, and also has a history with Lestat. On the human end, Jesse Reeves (Marguerite Moreau, Wet Hot American Summer, Off The Lip) works for a society that watches the vampires. Lestat fascinates her, and see desires to find him and figure out what it feels like to be a vampire.

All of these storylines come together in one jumbled mess. Aaliyah is not even in a significant portion of the first half of the movie. The rest of the movie feels like filler. There is a potential aborted romance between Lestat and Jesse, and another rushed one between Lestat and Akasha. Akasha has no personality, she just kills, and walks slowly and seductively. In fact, everybody is suffering from a serious lack of personality (and not only because most of them play dead people). Lestat is the only character who displays some sort of emotion, but Adapters Scott Abbott (Introducing Dorothy Dandrige, Winchell) and Michael Petroni (Till Human Voices Wake Us) lump everything together without taking the time to explore any single story. Things move at a glacial pace at the beginning, and only pick up because the body count rises.

Much of attracted fans to Rice's writings was her eroticization of vampires. They were now more than monsters, they were brooding, sexy, full of angst and other emotions. Neil Jordan was able, to a degree, to successfully translate this into Interview with a Vampire, but director Michael Rymer (Perfume, In Too Deep) fails to do so, preferring anonymous gothic rock taking the place of true emotion. He also adds some annoying special effects that make the film look tacky. The look of the film, with its dark streets and smoke filled clubs is right, and the people, tattooed, pierced, and generally freakish is good, but beyond that, there is little.

Haro Rates It: Pretty Bad.
1 hour, 41 minutes, Rated R for vampire violence.

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