Queen of the Damned (February 21/02)
The history behind Queen of the Damned is almost more compelling than the film itself. After it was completed last summer, Warner executives had it indefinitely shelved - presumably because they found that it was too awful for a theatrical release. The rumor was that it was going to premiere on video, a fate reserved almost exclusively for Eric Roberts and Air Bud movies. But then Aaliyah, the titular Queen of the Damned, passed away in a tragic airplane crash. A theatrical release date was soon announced, with Aaliyah's brother completing her voice over work. The only remaining question is - does it suck? Not entirely, especially when compared to other recent releases such as Slackers and Rollerball.
But Aaliyah fans should be aware that her role essentially boils down to a glorified cameo. The real star of the film is Stuart Townsend, reprising Tom Cruise's Lestat role from Interview with the Vampire. As the movie opens, Lestat has been hibernating for years and years, listening to society change around him. He decides to finally awaken in our time, a place where even a vampire can make a decent life living in the open. His chosen profession: The lead singer of a shock rock band. He makes no attempt to hide his true identity, choosing instead to use the vampire thing to create an irresistible mystique. But other vampires are unhappy with Lestat's flagrant flaunting of the vampire lifestyle - a lifestyle that has existed for thousands of years in secret - and are plotting his demise.
Queen of the Damned has a few good sequences, but the film's disjointed narrative makes it near impossible to ever become completely engrossed. The first half of the movie is relatively stable - with Lestat's rise to fame as a rock 'n roll god - but the remaining portion careens wildly between Lestat's story, an intrepid paranormal investigator, and the vampires looking to stop Lestat. This lack of consistency prevents the movie from becoming anything more than a slick, instantly forgettable (not to mention loud) vampire movie.
Taking over where Tom Cruise left off, Townsend's obviously got some big shoes to fill. And although he's not terrible, he lacks a large portion of the charisma Cruise imbued the role with. When he's supposed to come off as sinister and foreboding, he's about as menacing as Count Floyd from SCTV. But what everyone really wants to know is - how does Aaliyah fare in her final screen performance? With less than 30 minutes of screen time, she's never allowed the chance to establish a real character; instead, her performance winds up a bad combination of slinky moves and a bad Eurotrash accent.
Queen of the Damned represents yet another mediocre February flick, joining the ranks of Super Troopers and Crossroads. Luckily, March is about a week away…