What happens when the population has adapted to the vampire lifestyle but starts to run out of humans? If you are the CEO of Bromley Marks, you offer a supply of human blood while researching a synthetic alternative. Of course, Charles Bromley's (Sam Neill) blood bank clearly has its own agenda and isn't about to let its star researcher Edward Dalton (Ethan Hawke) alter it. In the meantime, the army has been re-deployed to hunt humans and blood-starved vampires are mutating into something much more frightening.
Unlike similar films -- think of The Matrix, Blade, Underworld, and Zombieland -- that take some time to pull the audience aside and explain "how we got into this mess," Daybreakers skips all of that. It skips a few other key points too, leaving it wide open for sequels, prequels, spinoffs and whatever else might make a future buck.
Daybreakers connects some interesting dots. For example, there are a lot of smokers among the vampires -- I guess if you're already dead, lung cancer is not an issue -- and coffee, the universal lubricant of the white collar worker, is being served with 20% blood. Chrysler got some product placement, too, with cars modified for "daylight driving systems" -- a series of shields, cameras and heads-up displays -- one of several tech and infrastructure modifications for our future vampire selves.
Overall, I appreciated the world the filmmakers built but it lacked some basic aspects of, well, humanity. I know who we were supposed to cheer for but somewhere in the midst of a car chase that belonged in a different screenplay I lost interest. The characters had little to offer me in the way of emotion -- even (maybe especially) the human characters. There's also a subplot with Bromley that works only as a plot device to shove the story forward, however awkwardly.
In fact, awkward may be the best word to describe this film -- a little bit like a gawky teen who has grown faster than he's matured, Daybreakers features some great ideas and inventive special effects and makeup work, but it sends mixed-messages with its inconsistency. I suspect the Spierig brothers have a great film in them but Daybreakers isn't it.
I will give it top marks in one department: Daybreakers delivers on its promise of sparkle-free vampires.