The only lesson to take away from Ethan Hawke's horror-action tale "Daybreakers" is that vampires cannot run the world's affairs any better than we tasty humans can.
Set in 2019, "Daybreakers" is much like our world of today: Panhandlers begging for scraps, busy bees lining up for a morning rush-hour coffee jolt, precious resources dwindling and global calamity looming, corporate fleecers hoarding the best for themselves.
The differences are that the panhandlers are begging for blood, morning rush-hour comes at dusk, hemoglobin is the key coffee fix instead of caffeine, and the catastrophe in the making isn't climate change. It's the extinction of humanity, which means starvation for a society of vampires that's now at the top of the food chain.
The second movie from sibling writer-directors Peter and Michael Spierig, who cut their feature teeth on the zombie romp "Undead," "Daybreakers" is another in a seemingly endless series of aren't-we-clever resurrections of the vampire genre.
There are more revisionist bloodsucker stories out there than you can shake a stake at nowadays, and they're getting tiresome.
At least vampire tales such as TV's "True Blood" or the movie thriller "Thirst" are playful and sexy, and stuff such as "Twilight" is fun to make fun of. But "Daybreakers" plays like a dirge, striking one long, monotonous note of gloom, a dramatic flatline that barely budges even during the movie's uninspired action-and-gore sequences.
The Spierigs lay out a hazy backstory about how most of the world's population was transformed into vampires a decade earlier. It's referred to as kind of an epidemic, yet people somehow also had a say in whether they would "turn."
OK, whatever. Vampires are hip, so apparently you don't have to explain yourselves much to get your movie made.
Hawke stars as Edward Dalton, a bloodsucker who doesn't want to feed on humans, the noble, reluctant vampire sort that's becoming a stereotype (wasn't Buffy dating a broody vamp just like this 12 years ago or so?).
Dalton's a researcher for a vampire corporation racing to develop a substitute for human blood, which is running out because of all the hungry night creatures running around.
He falls in with a pack of humans that has found a way to change vampires back to friendly mortals. The gang's led by Claudia Karvan and Willem Dafoe, who has a real taste for vampire gigs, having starred in "Shadow of the Vampire" and appeared in last fall's "Cirque du Freak: The Vampire's Assistant."
The story pits Dalton against his evil boss (Sam Neill), who likes the rapacious vampire lifestyle and wants to maintain the status quo of this ultimate consumer culture.
Whatever commentary the Spierigs intended on our own times is so empty they shouldn't have bothered.
You have to wonder why the actors bothered, too. The humdrum story is beneath them, and the ill-defined characters are stuck muttering rubbish such as, "We've been searching for vampires we can trust," or "Life's a bitch, and then you don't die."
The look of the film might be cool if its icy gray color palette hadn't been done much better in "The Matrix" or its retro 1930s fashions didn't look like "Blade Runner" hand-me-downs.
Even the farm system of keeping people alive as blood banks resembles the human batteries of "The Matrix."
Besides being overly derivative, "Daybreakers" already is a bit dated, citing the vampire outbreak that began in 2009. A lot went wrong last year, but at least we made it through 2009 without growing fangs.
One and a half stars
Rating: R for strong bloody violence, language and brief nudity
Starring: Ethan Hawke, Sam Neill, Claudia Karvan, Willem Dafoe
Directed by: Michael and Peter Spierig
Showing at: Chisholm Trail 8 (Newton), Northrock 14, Warren Theatres (east and west)