In brief, Daybreakers is about a near future where vampirism is rampant across the entire globe. They never explain where the vampirism comes from, or what it represents (A disease? A curse? Interbreeding?), and frankly I cherish that. One of the biggest frustrations for me in watching vampire films is how much time they tend to devote to explaining all of those things. They’ll have the scene with the cross, or the character conveniently chopping up some garlic for a nice Italian dinner, and then the vampire busts in so the director can confirm or disconfirm some typical vampire myth.
Instead, the film focuses on the prospect of starvation vampires are facing. While we’re presented with a well-ordered, fancy vampire society, news broadcasts and a special meeting make it clear that the human blood supply is running low. The meeting goes further, illustrating how vampires deprived of vampire blood gradually devolve into monstrous, feral bat-men. Ethan Hawke portrays one of the vampires’ top blood researchers, desperately attempting to master an artificial blood system before the humans in the bank all expire and rioting reaches catastrophic levels (In the US; it’s pretty clear that it’s already there in third-world countries). Of course, some plucky humans kidnap Hawke and try to put him to use in their own project.
There are some nice touches. At one point, when a group of humans are taken by the vampire army (Which still recruits using Uncle Sam on its posters), a baby audibly cries in its mother's arms. The audience never sees the child, but it's a subtle reminder of the sheer scope of horror in the vampires' hunger.
I won't pretend the plot isn't interesting; it's a clever reversal of the typical vampire myth, mixed with a little disaster movie and a little zombie movie. Those merits, honestly, could have applied to Ultraviolet as well (The movie, not the British TV show). Daybreakers also has a unique visual style, washed out and pale during the daylight; with a slight retro, WWII aesthetic. Minus the last part, that's reminiscent of Blade; possibly the greatest vampire-killing movie of all time.
I originally had the impression that the human resistance somehow made use of exploding arrows in all of their crossbows, given the pyrotechnics that result from every shot…except for the bolt Hawke takes through his arm at the beginning of the movie. It wasn’t until the film’s last-minute attempt at action, with Hawke running around ramming chair legs into vamp chests, that it became clear vampires simply explode when you poke them…like balloons, if we filled them with fire.
Ethan Hawke ends up dressed like Robin of Loxley, and I can't produce any logical argument as to why. Knight Club, I expect I'll be far more enthused.