Published on September 24th, 2003 | by Erich Becker0
Wanted: An extremely hot vampire capable of leaping great distances, landing on her feet, and staring you down with hypnotic blue eyes. Tight fitting leather apparel is a plus, but not needed when wearing a beautiful, black evening gown. Applicants must have a general hatred for werewolves and weakness for medial intern humans. Some disregard for vampire canon will be tolerated.
So sums everything you could want from a vampire movie featuring the lovely Kate Beckinsale as Selene a Death Dealer whose only goal is to rid the world of the werewolves. While on a hunt to destroy werewolves Selene encounters two of her enemies trailing after a human, only they don’t want to eat him, they need him for something else. Vampires and werewolves share a common bloodline, yet when the body is infected with both viruses you die. The werewolves, on the losing side of the war, are trying to develop a werewolf/vampire hybrid, which would be invincible, and the ultimate weapon in the war. Seemingly by chance, Selene falls for Michael (Scott Speedman), the human the wolves were chasing, and the story branches off from there including internal treachery and backstabbing all around.
The film does a great job of presenting itself to the audience. Director Len Wiseman has a knack for the cinematic feel with a color-barren exposition of an ancient war in modern times. The movie does borrow a great bit from action movies released in the last 10 years. The gunplay and aerobatics of The Matrix are present; the story is reminiscent of Shakespeare, and throughout the film you will notice subtle, and blatant references to other films. Still, this doesn’t detract from the film in any way, as it is still a great way to kick off the fall movie season.
Underworld seems to play around with the established vampire canon seen in movies such as Blade and TV shows such as Buffy: The Vampire Slayer. Some things make sense, while others don’t seem to. While specifics may be getting a bit too nick-picky the film does a good job of staying within the reasonable bounds of believability based on the fiction. The most interesting part is the description, and origin, of Lucian (Michael Sheen) the werewolf leader who has supposedly been dead for hundreds of years.
The film does a lot of things right, and only a few things wrong. The movie does have a few slow moments, and there isn’t as much gunplay as you would expect to see after viewing the trailers and TV spots, but the final battle more than makes up for it. The last sequence had the audience roaring with delight. It has been a while since I actually heard a group of movie goers respond to an action film like that. Not even The Matrix Reloaded produced that kind of effect.
Underworld is a moderately budgeted (hence the Screen Gems banner) action film that should be very profitable for Sony. The movie knows what it is, but isn’t the action mindless romp you would have pegged to be released in mid-September. The lack of overused special effects only ads to the argument that traditional film making is far from dead, and actors, such as the talented Kate Beckinsale, make the movies for the audience. Of course I don’t think the tight leather pants hurt anyone’s opinion of the film.