Michael Rymer’s The Queen of the Damned is a relatively lifeless, abridged version of the second and third tomes of Anne Rice’s The Vampire Chronicles. A cock-sure Lestat (an extra-white Stuart Townsend) decides to show off his vampire bloodline through glam rock, flashbacks from yesteryear highlighting his indoctrination into the world of the undead when fashion whore Marius (Vincent Perez) goes for the young vamp’s neck. A beach-side violin lesson emphasizes his detachment from the human race just as the fierce vampire Akasha (Aaliyah) takes a liking to his tunes. Brit girl Jesse (Marguerite Moreau), oblivious to her family’s convoluted vampire past, gets close to Lestat just in time to butt heads with Metal Queen Akasha. Anne Rice set new vampire standards with The Vampire Lestat. Her Lestat sought to defy his vampire past by exposing it through rock n’ roll. Rice is a master concept artist—sure, she’s terrible with prose but her rich, exhaustive attention for detail is next to none. Fun yet instantly forgettable, The Queen of the Damned is stripped of Rice’s intricate vampire history. Townsend’s deep-throated voiceover becomes a feeble-minded, pointless attempt at rendering Lestat human though certainly not as unfortunate as Rymer’s half-assed homoeroticism. Perez and Lena Olin (always spectacular in supernatural mode) seem to play their parts for laughs though Townsend and Moreau offset the camp factor courtesy of the film’s banal notion of a love story. The warbled, seemingly unscripted narrative rests entirely on sloppy location jumps and Lestat’s dumb-witted PR work. Cinematographer Ian Baker does wonders with deep shadows and soft lighting, fashioning The Queen of the Damned as a kind of glossy print ad for vampires on the go. Then there’s the late Aaliyah, whose Akasha is the film’s tragic creature comfort. Aaliyah, she of the soft voice and piercing eyes, is forced to render Evil Almighty with a ham-fisted über-Greek accent and terrible you-are-my-king-and-I-am-your-queen Riceisms. Aaliyah, so fabulous when writhing with snakes in her too-sexy video for “We Need A Resolution,” still manages to suggest a new kind of soul sister whose talk-to-the-hand becomes a ferocious talk-to-the-flame. Oh, if only her presence in the film was more than a puttering, mangled cameo. Still, Akasha’s blood-to-ashes demise seems to freeze Aaliyah in time, a sad and troubling reminder that Baby Girl was meant for better things.
- Michael Rymer
- Scott Abbott, Michael Petroni
- Aaliyah, Stuart Townsend, Marguerite Moreau, Vincent Perez, Paul McGann,Matthew Newton, Tiriel Mora, Lena Olin
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