Queen of the Damned follows the story of Lestat, famously played by Tom Cruise in the earlier film but here played by Stuart Townsend, who is woken up after many decades by the delicate strains of a nu metal rock band. Seeing how rock stars were worshipped like gods, Lestat decides to get in on the action, becoming the lead singer of a band and publicly using his existence as a vampire to cause a bit of a ruckus. The other vampires don't like this and warn him off, but it's too late because his music has awoken Akasha (the late Aaliyah), the first vampire. Then there's something else going on with a paranormal studies group, the Talamasca and an over-eager young thing named Jesse (Marguerite Moreau) who's more than a little obsessed with Lestat.
And herein lies the first problem with the film; these three plot strands would each make a great film. Each one has its own merits but never really come together to form a cohesive plotline. Clearly the screenwriters thought the same because we're subjected to two different narrators in Lestat and Jesse who both have to tell us their motivations and what they are doing just to keep the plot going. The film goes along at a fairly steady pace but as you spend most of it working out how this scene connects to the previous one, you don't really notice. I'm sure that the novels handle these threads much more adroitly as it has time to go into each one with a little more thought and detail but the film seems to have adopted the 'throw everything at the screen and how it works' approach. Which it rarely, if ever, does.
The performances in this film range considerably with Townsend clearly relishing his role as a vampiric rock star; he makes Lestat both compelling and sympathetic. He's one of those actors that always seems to be on the edge of making it big but is confined to films like this and The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, again where he gave one of the better performances. Aaliyah and Marguerite Moreau, as the two female leads, are both given very little to do bar writhe around and look longingly at Lestat and Akasha's death scene really is quite disturbing.
But let us take a moment to spare a thought for poor old Paul McGann. A favourite actor of mine, it always surprises me that the man who was one half of the iconic Withnail and I crops up so often in awful films. This has to be one of the worst though as he is given quite possibly one of the blandest roles I've ever seen committed to celluloid. David, Jesse's tutor, is clearly meant as a sort of Basil Exposition character, but instead of explaining anything, he shouts her name a couple of times and looks vaguely concerned. Granted he's given the supposedly shock ending (which in itself is no doubt a nod to Interview with the Vampire's similar conclusion), but it's just such a non-role that he could have been completely written out of the film and no one would have noticed.
It's not all terrible though as Queen of the Damned does have a couple of plus points in its favour, namely the film's visual elements and the soundtrack. From the costumes to the locations, it has a distinct look and the production team clearly had great fun with the whole rock star element, especially with Lestat who spends the majority of the film preening about in a lot of leather. The soundtrack sticks to the nu metal theme with bands like Korn, Deftones and Papa Roach all contributing, allowing me to relive the briefest of teenage rebellions in which I just played a lot of thrashy music to annoy the parents.
With vampires being all the rage now, I would not be at all surprised if another adaptation of Anne Rice's work was announced because I can't imagine that this film really does it justice. It loses a lot of what made Interview with the Vampire so intriguing with its themes of lost innocence, sexuality and dealing with eternity. Queen of the Damned is just a bit of a mess that never really makes a lot of sense. And when you're watching something with as rich a mythology as that of the Vampire Chronicles, coherence is something of a necessity and something this film does not have.