I remember long ago going to a fantastic store called PrePlayed almost every Saturday to pick up a cheap movie. One of these movies that I got was Underworld. I remember being a kid and wanting to show this movie to everyone because I though it was just the absolute coolest movie. I haven’t watched it, until yesterday, for about four years, maybe even longer. I was worried that it wouldn’t be as good now that it was then.
There is a war raging between the Vampires and the Lycans (werewolves) for centuries. Selene (Kate Beckinsale) is a Vampire death dealer whose main task is to find and kill surviving Lycans, who are now almost extinct to the Vampires’ knowledge. The Lycans are actually thriving and Lucian (Michael Sheen), their leader has a plan to create a Lycan/Vampire hybrid using the human Michael Corvin (Scott Speedman). Against orders from Kraven (Shane Brolly), the acting head of the Vampires, Selene rescues Michael and brings him back to their mansion and awakens Viktor (Bill Nighy), a Vampire elder. This only ignites further the violence between the two species, and consequent betrayal for both Vampires and Lycans.
Richard Roeper called this film a “Shakespearean werewolf/vampire movie.” That is a very accurate description of Underworld because of it’s language, attention to aesthetic details, and the conflict and violence that erupt between the two clans and even amongst members of the same clan. The movie has unfortunately lost a bit of its luster since the days of my youth, but it’s still a cool action/horror film that is guaranteed to entertain.
The look of Underworld is absolutely phenomenal with its gothic architecture, costume and creature design, and use of underexposed color. Everything in the film seems to be a in the color range of black, white, or a shade of light blue. Along with the color comes an a city that would make the citizens of Gotham comfortable. As a viewer, the city was almost the strange part, whereas, I felt more comfortable in the Vampire mansion or underground with the Lycans. The costumes look equally gothic with the Vampires dressed elegantly and the Lycans in old ragged clothes. Finally, the creatures. Vampires look appropriately deathly, but the real standouts are the Lycans. The only CGI used was for their transformation, everything else was a costume and animatronic mask. This limited use of CGI gives the film a bit more magic because they had to physically create these werewolves instead of just designing them on a computer.
Unfortunately, the acting is where the movie shines the least. Kate Beckinsale, Michael Sheen, and Bill Nighy all perform well, but a certain Shane Brolly gives a cringeworthy performance. Everything he did either felt flat or way too overacted. He had an interesting and developed character, but he was awfully played. Scott Speedman falls into a kind of weird category in the middle. Most of his acting was ok, but there were a few times where he lost his footing and fell into the cheese.
I was more into the lore of the film than I was the action that took place. The backstories and histories of all of the characters and how the war began is incredibly interesting and above average for this genre. The action is still pretty cool. In the opening scene, there is a subway firefight that I could rank in my favorite intros of all time.This action is greatly aided by the sound design which does an incredible job at making the gun fire explode and even go so far as to accentuate running foot steps to heighten the mood.
Underworld is a strange breed a movie. It has great lore, mood, and action to make it cool. But the acting and development of some characters is sort of weak. A lot may disagree, but I still recommend this movie because, hell, I have a great time watching it. So if all the intellectuals can forget for two hours that a movie can purely just entertain you, then I guarantee that Underworld will deliver.