Underworld

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Cast:
Kate Beckinsale as Selene
Scott Speedman as Michael Corvin
Shane Brolly as Kraven
Michael Sheen as Lucian
Bill Nighy as Viktor
Erwin Leder as Singe
Sophia Myles as Erika
Richard Cetrone as Pierce
Robby Gee as Kahn
Kevin Grevioux as Raze
Danny McBride as Mason
Scott McElroy as Soren
Wentworth Miller as Dr. Adam Lockwood
Mike Mukatis as Taylor
Todd Schneider as Trix

Summary:
If you like Blade, you’ll like Underworld.

Story:
For 1000 years, werewolves and vampires have been at war. 600 years ago, the war took a turn when the vampire Kraven killed Lucian, the leader of the werewolves. Since then the werewolves have been in hiding, unable to form an effective force. Or so it seems.

Selene is one of the last of the vampire warriors, or Death Dealers. Though the tools and technology have changed over the years, Selene is still a ruthless and driven werewolf killer. Today she tracks the remainder of the werewolves in order to eliminate their species. Things change, though, when she discovers a hidden cell of werewolves. She also discovers that they are tracking a human, Michael Corvin, for some unknown purpose.

Selene warns the other vampires, but they are reluctant to believe that the werewolves have returned in any kind of force. Kraven, the current vampire leader, also refuses to believe Selene. On her own and going against the wishes of the vampire leadership, Selene must track down the werewolves and find out their reasons for wanting Corvin. However, along the way, she falls in love with the mysterious human. Will this prevent her from doing her duty as a Death Dealer?

Underworld is rated R for strong violence/gore and some language

What Worked:
Going into Underworld I was expecting a vampire and werewolf version of Romeo and Juliet. I was expecting a sophisticated romance / drama with a healthy dose of horror and action thrown in. That wasn’t what Underworld was at all. Simply put, it’s more like a Blade sequel than anything else. Make Blade a white girl and throw in some werewolves and you have this movie. There will be inevitable comparisons made to The Matrix, but it is more like Blade than anything else. Thus, your enjoyment of this film will heavily depend on what you thought of that vampire comic movie. I liked it, so I was into Underworld as well.

I thought the concept of this story was good. The idea of werewolves and vampires battling it out held great appeal to me. It offered up lots of potential for action, horror, and suspense. Underworld was able to tap into that potential with varying degrees of success. Underneath it all was a pretty good story that held some mystery, drama, and romance to keep audiences engrossed (and grossed out).

This movie would sink or swim based on the performance of Kate Beckinsale as Selene. If she sucked (no pun intended), the movie wouldn’t work. Fortunately, she does a great job. Not only is she a pretty face, but also she handles the action well. While I would have liked to see her act more vampire-like, I think her performance gets the job done.

The action is pretty good and the fight scenes are choreographed well. The opening scene featuring a gun battle on a subway is one of the high points of the film and a hard one to top. (Although I must wonder why these guys are such bad shots.) It sets the mood for the film early and gets you into this strange world on the right foot.

The film is also good-looking and well shot. The locations in Hungary look great. They make a great dark and depressing atmosphere (though it’s never clear what country they are in). The story is also well structured for sequels if this one does well at the box office. We’ll see if audiences get into it or give it the stake to the heart.

What Didn’t Work:
I enjoyed Underworld, but it wasn’t everything I hoped it would be. The vampires weren’t very vampirish. They mostly looked like humans walking around with big guns. We rarely see them use their powers or see their weaknesses exposed. The werewolves aren’t seen much in full werewolf form. (And since when are they immortal?) Maybe this was due to budget restrictions. Only once do we get to see all out war between the werewolves and vampires, and only then it’s a very brief glimpse. I wish there had been more of it. I also wanted to see more of the romance aspect explored, but that was barely touched on at all.

The movie starts out really strong and then slows down dramatically for quite a while. It doesn’t fully pick up speed again until near the end. In the meantime you may be checking your watch.

I also thought everyone except for Beckinsale and the werewolf played by the deep voiced Kevin Grevioux (who also co-wrote the movie) was miscast. The human played by Scott Speedman wasn’t terribly dashing or appealing. The balding and creepy Michael Sheen didn’t seem much like the horrible leader of the werewolves. Shane Brolly did nothing to impress me as Kraven, the scheming leader of the vampires. Bill Nighy is probably the most miscast as Viktor, the ancient granddaddy of the vampires. (He’s Viktor the Vampire! That rhymes!) As tough and as menacing as this character is supposed to be, Nighy is neither. His wavering accent even had people in the audience snickering as he did his best to look intimidating. Overall, better casting would have helped the movie.

The Bottom Line:
Underworld is a good effort and an entertaining action / horror flick. If you like Blade you’ll like Underworld.

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