Movie Review: Daybreakers

My friend Felicia has pneumonia, and wasn’t enthused by the idea of watching the Oscars. Instead, we decided to watch Daybreakers on Netflix instead…

Daybreakers is a movie with Ethan Hawke, Sam Neill and Willem Defoe
It’s the near future. A rapidly dwindling resource is causing increasing disruptions to society, with the have-nots suffering from increasing disruptions of a supply that once seemed infinite, but now is proving all too fragile. The creation of substitutes is big business but there are those who want the original, and the substitutes are not working as well as one might hope. Society is unraveling on the edges and something has got to change, something has to be done, or else societal collapse is a very real threat.
So what is the resource? Oil? Water?
Not exactly.
In Daybreakers the commodity is blood and the population of the Earth is now primarily…vampires. The vampires have taken over the planet, with humans an valuable commodity and a dwindling resource all the same. Companies like Bromley Marks (run by an oily Sam Neill) where our protagonist Edward Dalton(Hawke) is employed works on substitutes and also farms regular humans in machines designed to get every last drop of that precious blood. Animal blood is mentioned as a common substitute, but even that is a dwindling resource, too.
A chance encounter between Hawke and some humans on the run (led by Willem Defoe) leads Dalton to a discovery that could change this precarious situation. But some, including Hawke’s brother, like things exactly the way they are…
Daybreakers isn’t a groundbreaking vampire fantasy movie, and its at times only serviceable and shopworn. There are some interesting conceits and thoughts put into the film as to how a society full of vampires would adapt. Cars with tinted windows and cameras to allow for daytime driving, underground passageways to allow movement in cities (sort of a dark twin to Minneapolis skyways) and more. I appreciated these touches.
On the other hand, for all of this enthusiasm in worldbuilding, the movie falls down in some of that worldbuilding. Hints in the corners of the picture suggest that a bat caused the plague to turn the world into vampires. That suggests a biological vampirism a la I am Legend. However, the vampires react to sunlight in a dramatic way as if they were supernatural vampires. Later in the movie, we see that stakes through the heart do the same thing. So which is it–supernatural or biological vampires? Also, the ending is a bit too pat, although perhaps I need to remember the MST3K mantra and realize that an uplifting ending is the rule, not the exception, in Hollywood.
The acting is good, the leads do a decent job, and the script gives us just enough to understand where the characters are coming from. Even Sam Neill’s Bromley, as the antagonist, gets enough character development to allow the audience to understand why he acts the way he does. There seems to be a truncated or missing scene that causes a major event in the movie to become a tell instead of a show, which disappointed me.
Overall, though, I was entertained. Daybreakers is not a groundbreaking movie, but its a decently crafted movie. Its not worth a purchase, but is okay as a rental.