SELENE, A BEAUTIFUL VAMPIRE WARRIOR, IS ENTRENCHED IN A WAR BETWEEN THE VAMPIRE & WEREWOLF RACES. ALTHOUGH SHE IS ALIGNED WITH THE VAMPIRES, SHE FALLS IN LOVE WITH MICHAEL, A WEREWOLF WHO LONGS FOR THE WAR TO END.
Dark Mechanicus JSG | Fortified Bunker, USSA | 12/07/2004
(4 out of 5 stars)
"Boiled down to the fine little dish of steak tar-tar that it is, "Underworld" is the answer to the two horror flick questions you had as a kid:
1) If Dracula and the Wolfman went mano a mano and fang-to-claw, which one would do the thrashing? 2) If Dracula and the Wolfman checked into a cheap motel, got roaring drunk on a case of Night Train, and had a baby, what would it look like?
You get the answer to #1 early and often, which is pretty much what this Transylvania Station is all about. And by the end of "Underworld" you get #2 as well---and trust me, when it's hopping about like an ugly green Mini-Hulk (right down to its one-size-fits-all-monster trunks) you'll wish you hadn't.
You want to know what you're getting when you lace up your thigh-high attitude boots and strap on that trenchcoat for a little midnight fun in Len Wiseman's uber-stylish little monster mash "Underworld"?
Think West Side Story: only here, instead of the Jets and the Sharks angling for a rumble on the other side of the tracks, we have Vampires and Werewolves. Oh, and in "Underworld" nobody breaks into song. Both sides just want to rumble, and the girls just wanna have fun. In the meantime, while not the sharpest stake in the vamp-hunter kitbag, "Underworld" finds its groove, and serves up a bloody two hours of unabashed techno-cool that drinks you dry, trashes the apartment and howls at the moon.
We get dropped into the middle of a war that Celine (the impossibly tasty Kate Beckinsdale)---our supple full-body-suit clad vampiric Death Dealer and narrator---tells us has been "raging for centuries."
On one side of the tracks: the sneering, brutally hip Euro-trashy leather-trenchcoat & hip-sunglasses wearing uber-high-maintenance Vampires. They have posh high-rent neo-Victorian digs, drive around the streets in Jaguars and Maseratis, and have managed to switch up the silver bullets in their glocks and MP-5 submachine guns for something more lethal: liquid silver nitrate, which makes it tougher for their hairy buddies to pull the bullets out. Advantage: Vampires.
On the other side of the tracks: the Salvation Army surplus-wearing tear-your-scalp-off-and-wear-it Werewolves---erm, I mean Lycans, short for Lycanthropes. The Lycans are strictly low-rent, hang out together in what looks like an abandoned public lavatory, and take a bath once every full moon whether they need it or not. Whereas their blood-sucking cousins from the East Side look like they'd be hanging at crazy underground raves when they're not boring each other to tears talking like the Merovingian, the Lycans are strictly the mosh-pit set. Oh, and from what I could tell, there's not a single werewolf girl. C'mon guys---haven't ya heard of "Ginger Snaps"? Bummer. Advantage: Vampires.
That said, the boys have been pumping the rent money they've saved up into super-science research, giving them bullets that encase super-photoelectric magnesium charges (perfect for giving that oncoming vamp a little taste of Club Med sunlight). They also have the upper hand in figuring out how they can mix the bloodlines, bringing the war between Vamp and Lycan to an end. Advantage: Lycans.
And finally, mixing it up with our fanged-kissin' cousins, we have perplexed med student Michael Corvin (played by the annoying Scott Speedman who cashes a check) stalked by Lycan heavies and tagged by Selene, who wants to know why the werewolf army is so eager to get their hands on him.
And that, pretty much, is "Underworld": two hours of movie built around jaw-droppingly gorgeous set-pieces and bouts of total war between locked-and-loaded squads of Things that go Bump in the Night.
Just a note: you'll want to get the Unrated Extended DVD: it fleshes things out, beefs up some supporting characters, and ends with an extended battle sequence---and it's loaded down with plenty of extras you can sink your fangs into.
Plus, the sleeker transfer shows off Wiseman's technical mastery in spades. Wiseman uses sound-stages and CGI to anchor the film's look, and tethers all of it to the fog-shrouded cobbled streets and ancient alleys of Prague: the City itself takes on a bleak and brooding character. The movie looks gorgeous: whether it's the gloomy red-velvet and dark mahogany halls of the mansion, the sleek, sterile Underground, or the industrial ruins of the Lycans, Wiseman and cinematographer Tony Pierce-Roberts make every scene tell. The sequence where a locomotive full of vampire diplomats chugs into a deserted rail-station---with the baying of werewolves in the distance---is jaw dropping.
"Underworld" also gets the most out of its talented stable of actors. There are three centers of gravity in the film: Beckinsdale, who doesn't need her bodysuit to command her lines (though I'm glad she wore it). The Lycan overlord Lucien (the gifted Welsh actor Michael Sheen) steals every scene he's in, and brings complexity and command to a role that could have been a throwaway in lesser hands. Finally, there's the Vampire King Viktor, played by the great Bill Nighy (who also played Shaun's Jag-loving stepdad in "Shaun of the Dead"). Nighy is a kind of demonic embodiment of immortal Puritan rage, and acts like a champ through all that make-up.
Even the supporting actors turn in strong roles: Shane Brolly (Kraven) whines and pouts and lisps and turns in a convincing performance as a spineless worm; Sophia Myles (Erika) comes off as a naughty little vampire cat-girl; Kevin Grevioux owns this film and puts the smack down as Uber-Werewolf Raze; and Hungarian actress Zita Gorog rocked my world---without uttering a single line.
In the end, this batwinged black-lipstick wearing looker of a flick charged into the goth club of my choice, served me an extra-bloody steak tartar , smacked me around, bought me drinks, and talked Shakespeare after. Would a Lycan by any other name be just as hairy?
Excellent vamp vs horror film
Deborah MacGillivray | US & UK | 09/05/2004
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Blade was interesting, but to me it failed emotionally. You just do not connect with the film on the personal level. The effects were super, but that was the main impact..."wow what amazing effects". You feel like breaking out in a chorus of Peggy Lee's Is That All There Is. Special effects alone cannot make a movie great.
Underworld makes that jump, great FX work, but also gives you characters you really care about, ones that you really love to hate. A strong plot line designed to hook you and keep you, just does that. With the emotional involvement, there is a greater impact, a movie that will demand repeat viewing. Instant Cult Status.
The movie grabs you from the opening and never lets up with the pace. Firm direction and with a driving score, the movie reaches for perfection. You have a 1000-year-old war between Lycons and Vampires, and it's all coming to a head. It's a well thought out and executed premise and Kate Beckinsale shines! She is an amazing talent. I first adored her work in Cold Comfort Farm as Robert Post's child Flora. When you compare that gentle, deft bit of humour with this kick a*** vampire hunter, it proves what an overlooked talent she is. With Van Helsing out now (and I am sure this movie led to her landing the role), she is finally getting a spotlight she so well deserves.
A gloomy, atmospheric ambiance to the whole movie is maintained all the way through, adding a strong foundation for the otherworld premise. I am sure some will nitpick things, as all vampire film faces, but kudos for the vibrant energy and sheer edgy feel to the film.
It leaves you hanging, clearly open for a sequel...one can but hope it maintains this high quality.
Kate rocks...you don't need to know anymore! It has about 13 minutes of footage not in the original. A great battle scene and some backstory on Michael. Rounds out the film nicely without dragging it down. A great pounding soundtrack, too! "
An interesting take on vampire and werewolf mythology
Erica Anderson | Minneapolis, MN | 08/15/2004
(4 out of 5 stars)
"I have been a big vampire mythology fan for as long as I can remember. I love a good vampire movie. I'm not expecting Masterpiece Theater, I just want to be entertained, and entertained I was with "Underworld". I missed out seeing the movie when it was in the theaters but I'm glad that I did now that I have seen the extended cut. I'm not really a fan of Kate Beckinsdale film work but she does a great job as death dealer (i.e vampire) Selene. Selene is trying to figure out why the Lycans (i.e werewolves), the vampires' enemies, what they want in Michael Corvin (played by Scott Speedman of "Felicity" fame). The Lycans and death dealers are at war and have been for centuries. I loved the dark, moody atmosphere of the entire film. I thought it was amazing how the werewolves were actually costumes as opposed to resorting to the cheesy CGI most movies relies on nowadays (which I think is way too much). Kate Beckinsdale looked great in that skintight leather outfight and short dark hair. She reminded me a lot of Toni Halliday, the singer from the modern rock band Curve. The film is very sleek and stylish. I can definitely see where the comparisons of the movie to other films like "The Matrix" and "Blade" comes in (like on the fight sequences) but "Underworld" still holds its own. There really wasn't much of a plot the one big flaw I found with the film but I didn't care. It was a non-stop thrill ride for me. The acting was a bit on the overstated side but like I said, this ain't Masterpiece Theater. If you want Masterpiece Theater, then go watch some (awful) Merchant Ivory film. "Underworld" is a fun, non-stop rollercoaster ride (or at least I thought). The bonus features on the dvd is awesome. I especially dug the "Fangs Vs. Fiction" segment and watching the cast of the film talk about making the film. I loved the outtake reel. It is always interesting for me to see the actors goof up on their lines in movies. You don't see that very often except as bonus footage on dvds. I liked the 48 page comic book and the sketchings on the entire film. I am eagerly anticipating the sequel to "Underworld" where Selene becomes the hunted."
A cult classic
David E. Miller | Las Vegas, USA | 01/09/2005
(5 out of 5 stars)
"I did not see Underworld in theatres. I was always both wary of it due to scathing reviews, and yet curious about it due to its subject matter. When I purchased the "Unrated Extended Cut" of this film, I was expecting to be disappointed. Instead, I was thoroughly delighted. Read other reviews for a synopsis. I simply want to state that this film is destined to become a cult classic. Some of its many strong points include virtually non-CGI Lycans (even a scene where Lycans are running toward the camera on the walls of a corridor was done with stunt men and digitally erased cables); desaturated color, using digital technology, that provides this film with an amazingly beautiful Gothic look; and some fantastic action sequences that, although occasionally derivative, fit the storyline very well and do not seem forced in the least.
It's a shame that this extended/recut version of Underworld was not shown in theatres, because the edited theatrical release that generated critical trashing almost assuredly hurt the studio financially. Although I cannot compare the two versions, I can tell you that if audiences had seen this "Unrated Extended Cut," Underworld would have been a critical and financial success, and deemed a major milestone in Gothic cinema.
I do not wish to hype this film, but I do believe you will find it to be a valuable addition to your film library."
Skip this rip-off version
Richard C. Drew | Oak Lawn, IL USA | 07/03/2004
(1 out of 5 stars)
"If you're like me, you are really - really - getting tired of producers, film compaines, whomever there is to blame re-re-re-releasing the same DVD with different packaging, and calling it the "Ultimate" or "Supreme" or "this time it really is a Limted edition" special releases. The motivation? Raking it in from fans who expect and want more. You'd be better off spending your bucks elsewhere.There is NOTHING to make this DVD stand out from the original release. I was looking for extended fight scenes. Nope. OK, how about more history or plot? Nope. The extra footage really should have stayed on the cutting room floor. You WILL not be happy if you already own the original release and waste your money on this lame release."