March 5, 2004

Underworld (Review)

The beginning of Underworld tells practically the whole story of whether you will like this movie or not. It’s dark. It’s brooding. There’s a voiceover about vampire history. Kate Beckinsale is wearing your typical not-quite-BDSM black latex but with a cape. Then, she jumps from her perch high atop a building. When she lands, there is a slight knee bend, and a bounce into her first confident step. It’s slick. It’s dark. It’s unbelievable, but confident.

Selene (Kate Beckinsale) is a “Death-dealer”—-a vampire driven to fight in the war against Lycans (werewolves) by her memory of what they did to her family. The war reaches back centuries, as does the leadership of the vampire clans. But in the present day, Selene’s coven is under the control of Kraven (Shane Brolly), a young(ish) hothead who sees her as his future bride. Meanwhile, Lucian (Michael Sheen), a powerful lycan long thought dead by the vampires, leads his people toward his mysterious vision of the future. Enter Michael (Scott Speedman), a human whose blood carries a special trait Lucian needs to fulfill his vision of destiny. He’s also a human that Selene takes a special interest in, in contrast to her complete ambivalence toward Kraven.

When I first heard of this film it was described to me as a verison of “Romeo and Juliet.” But it is hardly that. I seriously doubt the writers were looking at Shakespeare when they came up with this.

With the vamps, the lycans, the latex and the intrigue, you might think this is a hokey film. The plot is very much like that of an over-the-top comic book. It would be completely unwatchable if it weren’t for a few things. Firstly, very good production values. There are some very good special effects in this film. The fight scenes are decent, even though some of the wire work is a little unrealistic-looking. Secondly, some of the acting is surprisingly decent for the material. Kate Beckinsale is fun enough to watch and wears the brooding darkness well, but not particularly memorably. But there are a lot of moments where other members of the cast are allowed to act in non-stereotypical ways, and they pull them off well.

In the end, what you have is an entertaining action/scifi/fantasy film with an opening for a sequel. Go ahead and rent it if all you’re looking for is an action film where the screen is tinted blue most of the time and the intrigue is thick, but slightly predictable. I don’t think people who saw the trailer and got interested will be disappointed.

If they do make a sequel to this, I hope they stray even further from stereotypical plots. The filmmakers had some decent ideas, but what we need is a completely whacked-out vampire/werewolf film. Someone needs to watch some David Lynch or drink a bunch of absinthe and revisit the idea. I’m electing you, Kevin Grevioux and Len Wiseman.

Posted by James at March 5, 2004 7:14 PM
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It's supposed to be the first in a trilogy (and I agree with you, it was much better than I expected for a 'B' film).

And absinthe today ain't the absinthe of yesterday. Much less wormwood, much higher alcohol content. Pity.

Posted by: stefan at March 8, 2004 12:15 AM

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