At a London tavern in 1609, while William Shakespeare waxes lyrical about love to an enraptured audience, time-travelling lovers Lucy Montrose (Josefine Preuß) and Paul de Villiers (Florian Bartholomäi) see evil time-traveller Count von St. Germain (Peter Simonschek) murder his own ancestor. Perplexed, the pair suspect the Count is concocting a scheme against Lucy's cousin, twenty-first century teenager Gwendolyn Shepherd (Maria Ehrich). For Gwendolyn is 'Ruby Red', descended from a long line of time-travelers but with her own unique powers and special destiny. In the company of her mentor-cum-boyfriend Gideon (Jannis Niewöhner), Gwendolyn carries out time-travelling missions on behalf of a secret organization called the Circle of Twelve connected to her family. She also has a rivalry going on with her intimidating cousin Charlotte (Laura Berlin) who resents being usurped as 'the special one' and losing Gideon's affection. All in all Gwendolyn has enough grief without an evil Seventeenth century Count with psychic powers trying to snare her blood. But then Paul and Lucy spring another surprise.
Germany's contribution to the young adult fantasy trend, Saphirblau continues the adventures of time-travelling teenager Gwendolyn Shepherd whom we first met in Rubinrot (2013). Adapted from author Kiersten Gier's trilogy of jewel-themed novels the story combines the magical societies and obsession with British public schools found in the Harry Potter series with the romantic entanglements and supernatural conspiracies of the Twilight saga, but finds its own kooky identity. Screenwriter Katharina Schöde, promoted to co-director this time alongside Felix Fuchssteiner, weaves a labyrinthine mystery that spans multiple time zones and involves numerous conspirators but proves confusing in parts. Which has less to do with its complexity than the filmmakers opting to tell their story in a most curiously muddled, lackadaisical fashion. Saphirblau crams in a great many elements yet lacks a sense of urgency.
There are offbeat characters and interesting ideas. A charming subplot transports Gwendolyn to the early twentieth century where she meets her own grandfather as a shy, bumbling thirty-something who becomes her steadfast ally. Ghostly seventeenth century fop James makes a welcome return as does Xemerius (voiced by Rufus Beck) the talking, invisible gargoyle that follows Gwendolyn everywhere proving the source of numerous gags. However, the intriguing time-travel conspiracy runs secondary to the heroine's romantic dilemmas. Early on the Count von St. Germain snidely informs Gideon that: "Romantic fantasies are female weaknesses we can use for our own goals." Which explains why the filmmakers pander so basely to the fantasies of their core audience of teenage girls with lots of romantic montages scored by bland pop ballads and swooning pretty-boy closeups of Gideon.
Indeed the plot is preoccupied with Gwendolyn's sex life. She embarrasses her grandfather by asking him for advice about sex then later her mom (Veronica Ferres) stumbles into the bedroom just as she and Gideon are about to do it. Eventually the pair do have sex only to time-jump stark naked in front of their flustered mentors. To the film's credit it exhibits a healthier, non-judgmental attitude to teenage sex than most mainstream family fare. Still Gideon blows hot and cold and comes across a tad manipulative. He casually abandons Gwendolyn after they make love and thereafter his mood shifts are increasingly schizophrenic. Naturally this only makes him more irresistible to Gwendolyn. Ultimately Saphirblau is less a story about a young girl honing her time travelling powers in a bid to fight evil than a story about a girl who sleeps with guy then worries he was only using her. Which is all well and good only the filmmakers fail to intermingle the two strands with the skill managed by the much-maligned Twilight films or certainly Joss Whedon's vastly superior television series Buffy the Vampire Slayer.
If the execution proves sloppy the film gets by on the strength of its ingredients. In particular Maria Ehrich remains a peppy, engaging focal point. Gwendolyn Shepherd is bright and resourceful but bumbling and uncertain enough so her vulnerability evokes a great deal of viewer empathy, one imagines especially from other awkward adolescents. The plot's random hit-and-miss antics reach a crescendo of endearing absurdity when a drunken Gwendolyn serenades a room full of powder-wigged Seventeenth Century aristocrats with a rousing rendition of 'Let's Do the Time Warp' from The Rocky Horror Picture Show (1975)! The fun scene unfolds like an outtake from Falco's infamous 'Rock Me, Amadeus' video only climaxing with a fight scene where Gwendolyn utilizes a can of hairspray to improvise a flamethrower! After the plot kicks back in a surprise twist injects some much needed menace and intrigue. As before the film ends with a great deal still unresolved likely to be taken up by the forthcoming Emerald Green (2016).