As with her Dark Angel TV series and her role in the two Fantastic Four films, Jessica Alba again is the superhero that swoops in to save the day. Only here, she's not in the tight, spandex, superhero suit, which may be a negative for some. No. Here, she's just a violinist with a quirky if not anxious ability. All of this, though, may come as a surprise being that this movie is supposed to be a remake of a Chinese horror film.
This movie may have all the trappings of a horror film, but I don't care. I'm classifying it as a superhero movie, a creepy, superhero movie, but a superhero movie nonetheless. I do so because, as a scary film, it's not very scary, but, as a superhero flick, the film slightly works, and I tend to look on the bright side.
If it looks like a duck and quacks like a duck, it doesn't mean we should all call it a duck. I choose instead to call it a salamander. In fact, a couple of years ago, Jack Nicholson won a Golden Globe for best actor in a drama for About Schmidt (2002). The Hollywood Foreign Press, the organization that puts on the Golden Globes award show even classified About Schmidt as a drama film. Nicholson got on stage that year to accept that award and said, "I thought we were making a comedy."
So, if the Hollywood Foreign Press can call Jack Nicholson's movie a drama, even though, if you watched it, you'd say it was clearly a comedy, then I can call Alba's cornea-centered horror, a hero movie. This superhero movie isn't darker than say the new Batman movie, called Dark Knight (2008), but it comes close, though it's nowhere near as action-packed.
Like with any superhero movie, the hero here comes upon her super-powers pretty much by accident, or practically by surprise. This time, however, it's not by some science experiment gone awry. It's actually by a surgery gone the way it's supposed to go.
Alba is Sydney Wells, a concert pianist who was blinded as a child by a firecracker mishap. Sydney becomes eligible for a cornea transplant. I'm not so convinced with Alba's acting. She's barely believable as a scared cat, running from this and that, bumps in the night, or very freaky dreams. However, she does an adequate job of perfecting the ticks of a blind person.
But, after Sydney gets the transplant and gets her vision back, she starts to become haunted by phantom visions. She starts to see things that aren't there, or at least things that other people can't see, and she also starts hearing things that others don't, which is odd and doesn't make much sense because she only got a cornea transplant. It's not as if she got an inner ear transplant too.
Alba's character basically becomes like Whoopi Golderg's character in Ghost (1990). However, Sydney can do a lot more than Oda Mae Brown who could only hear the voices of ghosts. Oda Mae couldn't actually see them. Sydney rather follows the little boy in The Sixth Sense (1999). Sydney can see dead people.
Sadly and frustratingly, it requires the audience to slog through 41 minutes of tedious and lame horror movie standards before we come to this realization, which most can intuit 20 minutes into it. Instead the two directors, David Moreau and Xavier Palud, drag us through the wholly boring scary stuff, at which most would yawn or scratch their heads.
Alessandro Nivola (Jurassic Park III and Junebug) plays the doctor who is Sydney's therapist who tries to help her re-adjust to spending years blind and now having vision. Parker Posey (Best in Show and Superman Returns) plays Sydney's sister who tries to be supportive but who also harbors some guilt. Both are two great actors, but both are wasted here, as they're given not much range or depth. Screenwriter Sebastian Gutierrez could have done more by at least putting these two characters' lives in danger. Instead, he just makes them hangers on.
Eventually, Sydney does some research and discovers cellular memory. She keeps seeing fire and numbers, and she comes to the conclusion that these must be visions of the person who died and donated the cornea transplants to her. She goes on a search to discover who the donor was and what these visions mean. Not so spoil too much of the story, but this starts the dominoes for Sydney to become what I would call a superhero. It may seem unlikely, but she starts to use these visions for good, to save people's lives.
Now, it's my contention that if the screenwriter and the directors had focused more on that aspect, and turning this simple yet brilliant woman into more of a Spider-Man type, the whole film would have gone a thousand times better. As it stands, the film was well shot, and could have easily taken on a Batman tone, but stays more grounded on the horror route. Yet, for its potential as a dark, superhero vehicle, I have to say it didn't bother me that much. I would recommend it.
Three Stars out of Five
Rated PG-13 for violence and disturbing content
Running Time: 1 hr. and 38 mins.