Saturday, 1 August 2015

Cinema & TV: Underworld (2003) (November 10th, 2011 Review)

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movie, rent, or buy it on Amazon Video.

Right from the start, I apologise that I keep throwing old stuff here that many have probably seen before, but since The Lycanthropologist's Werewolf Movie Reviews is now incorporated into Werewolf Theory, I simply want to have everything gathered in one place. HOWEVER, I am beginning to work on a new article which I am hoping to finish soon :)

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This is a cleaned-up, but otherwise unchanged version of the 2011 review.

Hello and welcome to yet another dose of shapeshifting extravaganza!

So, another full-moon is in the sky (although I can't see it through the thick clouds, but I know it's there!) and I’ve got another werewolf  movie review. Originally, I planned on reviewing a completely different movie, however in the course of the month those plans happened to change. Why? Because during my latest visit to my hometown cinema I came across something unexpected, which however I must have subconsciously known would eventually come to pass. Namely, I saw a the trailer of the fourth now instalment of the Underworld franchise. Yes, you heard me, two years ago we had a prequel to the story and now we’ll be going back to what happens next after the sequel (confusing much?). That is why, since Underworld: Awakening will be hitting the cinemas on January 20th 2012, I decided to undertake the task of reviewing all the previous parts of the series so that when you go see the new movie, you will know what did – or did not – happen in the previous productions.
So without any further ado, here’s


To be honest, it’s quite cheeky to call your movie ‘underworld’ with the actual mess the characters bring about by their actions to the ‘overworld’, so to say, of the humans in the opening scenes… But have I said too much? I guess it’s always better to start from the beginning.

Directed by Len Wiseman (who later on directed the fourth part of the Die Hard franchise, Live Free or Die Hard), starring Kate Beckinsale (nota bene, current wife of the director) as the main character vampire Selene (known earlier for her roles in Pearl Harbor and Serendipity), whom the movie established as an action movie star and who we shall see a little later on in another werewolf-related movie, Van Helsing; Michael Sheen (who, for a change, has his veins full of wolf blood and is an ex-husband of Kate Beckinsale – gee, this movie is becoming like a family business venture, don’t you think?) as the werewolf leader Lucian, a predominantly theatrical actor who after Underworld ended up cast in movies like Tron: Legacy, Midnight in Paris, and… COUGH… The Twilight… COUGH… Saga;  and finally our old favourite Bill Nighy as the vampire leader Victor, known for his performance in Love Actually and later on cast in movies such as Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest, Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End, Valkyrie, and Harry Potter and the Deathly Hollows – Part 1, and who will inevitably make me want to burst into a particular Christmas song every time I see him on screen during the upcoming reviews; the movie was a box office success and continues to bring profit to its creators with every new production. This, however, doesn’t mean it was all that successful in other respects, for film critics didn’t respond to it in too much of a positive way, rewarding it with a mere 30% approval score at Rotten Tomatoes. Another curious matter about the production is the lawsuit filed by White Wolf, Inc. who accused the movie of being far too similar to the setting of their games – Vampire: The Masquerade and Werewolf: The Apocalypse – and some of their novels. Fortunately for Underworld, however, the lawsuit ‘ended in a confidential settlement’. Yes. Would be a bit of a waste if a movie with a $22,000,000 budget could never appear in theatres, wouldn’t it. And who knows, maybe otherwise I wouldn’t be sitting here typing this now.
Alright, seems to me that this will be one hell of a long review, so maybe I should start controlling myself from now on to actually make it in time.

Summary

Underworld tells us the story of a long-lasting war between vampires, here referred to as Death Dealers, and werewolves, here known by the name of Lycans (a shortened version of the word ‘lycanthropes’). The plot revolves mostly around the struggles of the main character, a female vampire by the name of Selene (subtle as a truck naming her like this, good thing she’s not a werewolf), who is driven to war not only because of her affiliation but also because of her desire to avenge the death of her family, who eventually falls in love with Michael, a seemingly ordinary human. Now, I know what you’re thinking… and it’s not like that, so STOP.

After Michael’s significance to both factions is revealed, the war enters and even more intense stage, leading the main character to find out the truth about her past that she’d never have imagined.

In-depth Analysis

So we open up with Selene’s monologue which introduces us to the background of the movie. We’re informed that for more than six centuries, the vampire and werewolf clans have been at war with each other and the struggle has persisted till the present day in spite of the werewolf leader having been presumably killed in a battle a few centuries back. As one of the Death Dealers (vampires), Selene is under orders to exterminate every Lycan (werewolf) she and her fellow vampires come across. After confirming their target with another vampire, Selene jumps down the skyscraper atop of which she was sitting onto the wet streets of a yet undisclosed modern city. Which leads me to my first pesky remark – I understand that it’s supposed to be awesome when she touches the ground without any harm in her platform boots and the heavy music begins to play, but… How does one jump off a skyscraper onto a street crowded with pedestrians rushing back and forth without being seen? Granted, the moment she comes down, the street is shown as empty, but she lands just next to a junction and the previous scenes showed the streets being filled with people. Oh, well.

Next up, we follow two Lycans who in turn are following some other guy who’s apparently not aware of that fact. Into the subway we go, already noticing hints that there is a trap set for our characters. After a short few moments, the Lycans spot the Death Dealers following them and take out their… machine guns! I guess that’s part of their being undercover while among humans. Quite a long shoot-out follows, with the vampires chasing the werewolves through the train and then the corridors of the underground. We get to that the vampires are using silver bullets against the Lycans, which seem to burn the latter’s flesh and need to be extracted as soon as possible. Otherwise, it seems no harm comes to the werewolves of this movie from gunshot wounds.  The movie shows that it won’t hide what it’s got when as early as the 7th minute we get to see the first werewolf transformation.


So basically from these few scenes we get to see what we’re dealing with here. Forget about fluffy werewolves, the ones here are mostly bald bipedal human-wolf hybrids that can change their appearance very fast, and at will. Did I forget to mention that? Yes, during her entrance monologue Selene also informs us that somehow – it’s not stated how yet – the Lycans have over the centuries developed the ability to shapeshift at will, without the need of a full-moon, as well as retain their consciousness during the time they’re in their werewolf form. Pretty convenient, eh?

After a short battle scene, we shift back to Selene who finds a discarded silver bullet which the other werewolf took out of his wound (ouch) and… What? Are you serious? When she turns around, we hear the howling of a wolf… which is exactly the same howl that was used in my previously reviewed An American Werewolf in London. Is this an homage to the movie? Or is it just a stock sound that the director chose at random? Either way, the connection is made – there’s a part of the American Werewolf in Underworld. Also, suddenly there’s not a living soul in the underground, no police, no anything, even the people who were wounded in the gunfight have disappeared. Whatever…

As Selene jumps into the sewers below the subway, she gets ambushed by the Lycans. She manages to kill one after packing ten or more silver bullets into his chest and wound the other with what looks like round silver shurikens, and finds strangely glowing, fluorescent bullets inside the gun that belonged to the dead werewolf.


Running away from the Lycan through the sewers, Selene hears the sound of a large number of voices somewhere above her. As it turns out, they belong to a pretty big gathering of Lycans who are cheering on two other of their fellows while staging what looks like an underground boxing match. The difference being the two contestants aren’t really boxing, but are fighting each other in their wolf forms.


I have to say this – from the glimpse that we get from beyond the backs of the spectators, our werewolves look more like gargoyles than wolves. Gargoyle-werewolves are now officially a category >.> Also, what the hell is wrong with the waist of the guy in the above picture?... So anyway, the fight continues until Michael Sheen appears at the scene, proclaiming his entrance with a gunshot that silences everyone else around and makes the two fighters revert back to their human form. He criticises the surrounding Lycans saying they’re ‘acting like a bunch of rabid dogs’ and assuring them that such behaviour won’t help them win the war against the vampires. Basically, this establishes the character of the leader of the werewolves for the viewers.

After that, we get to see the quarters of the vampires, who (obviously) live in a huge Victorian mansion on a private property sealed off from the rest of the world with an automatic gate. Selene barges in and shows the bullets she found to the vampire armourer, I guess, and the vampires eventually conclude that somehow the Lycans have developed ultraviolet bullets lethal to the Death Dealers. You heard me. The shiny stuff inside those bullets? It’s UV rays. Leaving all physical possibilities of containing UV inside bullet heads, it’s a clever way to fight vampires by night on the Lycans’ part. When another yet unnamed vampire who seems to wield some kind of authority among the coven appears, together with the armourer he gives proof to the vampires’ conceit and selfish pride, dismissing the possibility that the aforementioned weapon could have been developed by the Lycans themselves, concluding that it must have been stolen from the military. Um… From Selene’s opening monologue we know that the Lycans developed the ability to shapeshift at will and without losing their consciousness. When they’re not in their werewolf forms, they’re normal humans. And suddenly the vampires believe that all these humans are retards with an IQ of a wooden chair? Somehow, I think that being at war with the vampires for so many centuries and surviving, the Lycans were able to pick up something on the way. So why not specialist weapons? Did the Death Dealers think they’d shoot Lycans with silver bullets and they would jump at them with axes?

In the following scene we learn something about the vampires in turn. Unlike the traditional vampires, the Death Dealers appear to have normal reflections in mirrors. But that’s just a note, I’m not here to talk about vampires. We also learn that the previous vampire’s name is Kraven and that he’s the one left in charge of the Death Dealers in the absence of the real leader. Selene then uploads the photographs her now-dead partner took before the shoot-out and notices that the two Lycans were following a human. She tries to signal that to Kraven, but he remains sceptical.

As the coven prepares itself for the arrival of some kind of envoy guests, we cut to the Lycan side of the story. We see one of the Lycans pick up the body of his fallen fellow and bring it to the Lycan hideout, the silver shurikens still stuck in his chest, seemingly not causing him any harm. We then arrive at what looks like a laboratory that even Jigsaw wouldn’t be ashamed of, with a test subject already hanging from the sealing chained by his hands, as the doctor studies some of his gathered blood samples. The leader of the Lycans who we’ve seen earlier enters and asks the doctor for progress on whatever he’s doing. The doctor takes a sample of the chained human’s blood and mixes it with a vial containing some other concoction – after the mixture turns black, he informs the leader of a failure and crosses out another name from a big list handing on the wall nearby, all the names being a variation of the surname Corvinus. Conveniently, just after the name of the last testsubject is crossed out, we get to see the locker with the name of our human protagonist, which reads “M. Crovin”. Aha, says the viewer, it would now make sense why the Lycans were following him, wanting to bring him back to the doctor for whatever tests he’s conducting. It turns out he’s a medical doctor… and he seems a bit emo.

Meanwhile, at the Lycan lab, the doctor examines the body of the dead werewolf and reaches a conclusion that any regeneration is impossible as the silver bullets have penetrated the victim’s internal organs. As another test vial turns black and the doctor runs out of all names but one, the Lycans become desperate to take a hold of Michael Corvin as soon as possible.

During the party at the Death Dealers’ mansion, celebrating the nearing arrival of an envoy named Amelia to awaken one of the vampire leaders from their slumber, Kraven learns that Selene has managed to identify the human in the photograph as Michael Corvin and subsequently left the mansion in search of him in spite of being forbidden to do so. Selene arrives at his apartment, but finds it empty, while suddenly the police are looking for him as well at the hospital. Michael arrives and finds the door of his apartment unlocked and as he listens to his friend’s phone messege about the police being after him, he gets cornered by Selene. She tries to find out why the Lycans are after him, but is interrupted by the arrival of the Lycans. Taking advantage of the confusion, Michael escapes her grasp and makes his way for the elevator while the Lycans pursue Selene… RUNNING ON WALLS. I am dead serious. Check this out:


I am sorry, but in all seriousness, THIS IS BULLSHIT. I mean, HOW the F*** does a creature of a mass greater than that of a regular human manage to sustain a perpendicular position on a wall by grabbing it with its claws? And doing that, how does a creature like that manage to RUN on that wall?! I mean… Okay, you know what, even f*** the walls, look at the werewolf running on the f****** CEILLING. And I know it’s not visible from a screenshot, but believe me, these fu***** are RUNNING on walls and the ceilling. What the hell is this movie supposed to be, a cross-over between The Matrix and Prince of Persia with werewolves??? Seriously, this is one of the biggest bullshit scenes I have ever seen…

While this happens, Michael is relieved by his escape… until he meets the Lycan leader waiting for him just outside the elevator door when it opens. Selene arrives at the scene and fires a few bullets into the Lycan, but he still manages to bite Michael, thus taking a sample of his blood and additionally infecting him with werewolfism. Not taking any chances, Selene carries the wounded Michael out of the building, while the Lycan tears down his clothes and (apparently with the power of his mind) pushes out the silver bullets out of his body. The werewolves of Twilight would like to look and take their shirts off as badass as this guy, gotta admit. … What’s with all the Twilight comments, I wonder? Now that I think about it, even Kraven, one of the vampires, appears at first in an all-sparkly brocade shirt that made me think something along the lines of sparkly vampires when I saw him. It’s so sad how tainted I’ve become that I think of such things when I now watch Underworld once again. Hope you’re proud, Mrs Meyer, because I’m not.

Anyway. Selene tries to escape with Michael in a car, but the Lycan leader gives chase, showing off his inhuman speed and strength even in human form on the way. He wounds Selene, but they manage to escape him after all. Not too far however, as the vampire soon loses consciousness due to the blood loss. The pacing in that scene made me laugh as one moment she says she’ll be fine and two seconds later loses all consciousness. Michael tries to stop the car, but to no avail and they end up falling into the city river. Michael then gets them both out of the water and dresses Selene’s wound. Surprisingly, he doesn’t notice that she’s got no pulse nor heartbeat being a vampire. Whatever.

In the meantime, the Lycans get to test the sample of Michael’s blood and, obviously, face a positive outcome. Obviously, I mean, he was the last name on the list, wasn’t he? =P Back at the Death Dealers’ mansion, where Selene has taken Michael, the man is haunted by strange, unknown visions of a dying woman and Lycans. He wakes up, but is apparently too tired to stay awake so reverts into slumber while Selene and Kraven have an argument over her bringing him into the mansion. Kraven is furious and once again dismisses Selene’s theory that Michael is somehow relevant to the Lycans. While this happens, one of the female vampires, who seems to have taken to Michael, finds the bite mark on his left shoulder. Michael jumps out of the window and escapes, still seeing flashes of the earlier visions as he hits the ground.


Kraven and Selene burst into the room, but find Michael long gone. They don’t even question the reasons why he escaped in such a hurry nor do they ask why the other female vampire seems so distressed by it. Instead, we get to see Kraven slap Selene in the face for no apparent reason. Dude has serious issues somewhere inside, I swear.
Next, we cut to Selene practising shooting dummies at the vampire headquarters. Kahn, the vampire armourer, brings her a new type of round for her pistols – one with liquid silver inside, which is supposed to ensure the Lycans’ death by the silver going straight into the bloodstream, without a possibility of extraction like before. Sounds painful. While they’re at it, Selene voices her doubts about the death of the Lycan leader, Lucian, who was supposed to have died in a legendary battle slain by the hands of Kraven. Hearing this, we can already be pretty sure that the current leader of the Lycans is in fact Lucian, who’s not only not dead, but alive and well.

The plot thickens as we witness a meeting between Kraven and the Lycan leader, where we learn that Kraven is a traitor to the Death Dealers and that Lucian is indeed alive. Kraven asks Lucian to lay low, but it’s clear that the Lycan has the vampire in his grasp because of the ‘arrangement’ the two of them made with each other. Lucian then assures Kraven that the human is of no concern to the vampires and reminds him that without Lucian he’d not be in the position he is now.

During that time, Selene goes into the vampires’ library and reads up on the legendary battle and the fall of Lucian. Even though she finds a patch of his branded skin in the book, said to be proof of his demise, she learns that Kraven was the only vampire who survived entering Lucian’s fortress, the same vampire credited with the deed of having slain Lucian. The brand on the patch of skin matches the illustration of Lucian (whose upper part depicting the face is very conveniently torn out), however Selene noticed something else – the medallion she saw when fighting the Lycan to catch Michael is the same one as in Lucian’s picture in the book. Heading for the tombs of the elders, Selene runs into her female vampire friend who informs her that Michael was bitten by one of the werewolves.

After escaping from the vampire mansion Michael seeks help at the hospital where he’s been working and tries to explain everything that happened to his workmate. When Michael notices his workmate wants to hand him over to the two police officers that asked about him earlier (and who are in fact just disguised Lycans), he escapes through the window AGAIN.

Subsequently we cut to Selene who has decided that she must break the rules of the vampire coven and awaken her mentor, Viktor, in spite of the nearing ceremony of awakening of a different elder. Unauthorised, she successfully revives Victor and conveys to him, via her blood, all the thoughts that have been bothering her, telling him that she fears Lucian is alive and Kraven is a traitor. After she is done, Michael arrives at the vampire mansion, seeking answers to his current condition. Kraven is once again outraged at seeing him and is taken aback when Selene tells him she revived Viktor. Selene then offers Michael a ride away from the Death Dealers’ headquarters. Kraven discovers Michael is no longer a human, but a Lycan, but his outbreak of anger is interrupted by the newly-awakened Viktor. The elder is disturbed by the images shown to him by Selene and finds an unpleasant surprise in the fact he’s been awakened ‘a whole century ahead of schedule’. Back in the car, Selene explains to Michael that he’s becoming a Lycan and that he’s now part of a war between vampires and werewolves. Asked why she won’t kill him right away since he’s one of the Lycans now, Selene answers she wants to know why he is so important to the werewolves.

A bit later on, when they arrive at a place where Selene wants to hide Michael from the Lycans, she tells him that the visions he’s been seeing are not hallucinations, but memories that Lucian passed to him when he bit him. Now, I don’t think I’ve come across werewolves passing their memories through bites ever before, which leads me to the conclusion that this little plot point was developed wholly in order to explain a part of the movie plot to the viewers beforehand. Which is basically what it does, since later on we find out what they’re all really about.

During a conversation with Michael, Selene reveals her true reasons for fighting the war against Lycans – she believes that when she was younger and still a human, her family was slaughtered by werewolves in their own household, Selene being the only survivor, saved by the arrival of Viktor, the oldest and strongest of the Death Dealers, who was also the one that shortly after made her into a vampire. We also hear Michael’s backstory, but hey, who are we kidding, we’re more interested in the vampires and werewolves than him. So anyway, Selene leaves Michael behind telling him he will transform into a werewolf the next day (a full-moon of course) and giving him a gun with silver bullets. She tells him he should fire a bullet into his own flesh in order to slow down the change should she not come back in time from seeking advice from Viktor.

While Selene returns to the Death Dealer mansion, the Lycans are on the move. Having assembled firearms against vampires, they set out forth to assassinate the covenant that is due to arrive for the (redundant now) ceremony of awakening. In the meantime, Selene goes to talk with Viktor who tells her she will have to be judged for breaking the rules of the coven and expresses his doubts about her theory of Lucian being still alive. He leaves the task of bringing the proof of Lucian’s being dead to – guess what – Kraven, the vampire we already know to be a traitor, for the sole reason of Selene having broken the chain of succession. That seems a bit illogical to me since if Viktor loves and trusts Selene like his own daughter, which he says, and has been hinted at that Kraven might be in league with the Lycans, why give him a chance to cover up proof that someone else has noticed?

The next night (I assume it’s the next night since one can’t really keep track of time judging by sunsets and sunrises but only by what the characters say) Kraven changes the escort team that’s supposed to pick up Amelia and the coven from the train station to a team of his own accomplices, much to the surprise of Kahn who was to be the other team’s leader. At the station, Kraven and his team watch idly as the gargoyle-werewolves murder the members of the coven one by one, all according to Kraven’s arrangement with Lucian.


At the mansion, Selene gets grounded by Kraven, guards at the door of her room, but she soon escapes after her female vampire friend (who’s infatuated with Kraven for some odd reason) triggers the mansion’s alarms. Selene heads then for where she left Michael, but a team of Lycans lead by the doctor is hot on her trail in order to find Michael for themselves. When they meet in the building where Michael is being held, a shootout follows and Michael seemingly escapes through the window (AGAIN) only to be intercepted by the two Lycans disguised as policemen. They drive him round the city to an unknown location and inject him with some kind of sedative when he begins to change. I’ve no idea what that injection was, but even if it were a normal sedative, shouldn’t that have no effect on the progress of the transformation since it’s not a conscious process yet? Because from what the movie tells us, the first transformation is independent of will, however what the movie doesn’t tell us is how then does a Lycan gain control of his ability to change like the rest of the werewolves.

Having dealt with the Lycans that ambushed her, Selene brings back the sole survivor – the doctor – to the vampire headquarters to corroborate her suspicions and we finally get to see Bill Nighy in a state better than a living corpse which he was before, regenerating from slumber.


So Doctor Exposition subsequently spills the beans about the whole plot of the movie. He says that the Lycans were searching for a direct descendant of a fifth-century warlord (of an unmentioned nationality) Alexander Corvinus who, when his village was struck by a plague, could mould the disease according to his own will, therefore becoming the first true immortal. His story is continued by Viktor himself who calls it a ‘ridiculous legend’. According to the legend, Alexander Corvinus had sons who would inherit the same trait – one of whom was bitten by wolf, one by bat, and the last who remained a mortal human. Therefore, it is established that the vampires and werewolves of this universe all originated from one common ancestor. So for many years, it is revealed, the Lycans have been attempting to merge the two species into one, but all their previous attempts failed until they discovered that an untainted version of the trait was being passed down by the descendants of the human son of Corvinus, which eventually lead them to Michael Corvin. The doctors then describes what power lies dormant in the union of the two bloodlines, but Viktor calls it heresy and is appalled at the sole idea. When Kraven conveniently vanishes from the room, the doctor also informs Viktor that Lucian is still alive. He also reveals that the reason for the envoy elder’s, Amelia’s, assassination was for Lucian to obtain a sample of blood from a pureborn in order to mix it with the blood of Michael and his own, thus creating the ultimate vampire-werewolf hybrid. Sheesh, talk about mad scientists. Shortly after, Kahn arrives at Viktor’s chamber to inform him of Amelia’s assassination. Enraged, Viktor kills off the werewolf doctor and tells Selene that she must kill Michael. Upon hearing this, Selene is visibly distraught, since she’s apparently in love with Michael even though they’d barely met and didn’t even spend much time with each other. Whatever…

Meanwhile, at the Lycan lab, Lucian tells Michael he was injected with an enzyme which temporarily halted the transformation. Powerful pseudo-scientific explanations for the win! Michael then has another vision of Lucian’s past and this time is able to see it whole and put together the pieces of the story. In his talk with Lucian, it is revealed that the Lycans used to be slaves to vampires, guarding them during the day. Lucian himself was born as a slave and fell in love with a vampire, coincidentally, Viktor’s daughter. Viktor, afraid of the blending of the two species, punished the two by burning his own daughter alive. After that, according to Lucian, he’s been on a crusade to exterminate the whole Lycan race, which constitutes the on-going war.

Their conversation is interrupted by the arrival of Kraven, furious with the way his treachery has come to light, trying to put the blame on the Lycans. At the same time, Selene and Viktor along with their squad of vampires arrive at the Lycan headquarters with the aim of destroying Lucian, Michael and eventually, Kraven. Faced with the facts, Kraven shows his true colours and shoots Lucian in the back using one of the new liquid silver bullets. I don’t really know what purpose this is to serve since Lucian is his ally in this conflict. The only thing that comes to my mind is it’s his final desperate attempt at protecting his own skin by, this time definitely, disposing of the Lycan leader (because he’s a CRAVEN – get it? Ohoho…). Some more shooting follows as Lucian’s first-in-command, Raze, finds him unconscious and subsequently goes on a rampage trying to avenge him.


But as we soon find out, Lucian is not so easy to get rid of. After a few more scenes of werewolves running on walls and Selene performing dodges straight from The Matrix we finally see Viktor enter the premises with his escort. Without effort, he dispatches Lycans standing in his way as he searches for Michael. I’m sorry but seeing Bill Nighy here I just can’t help singing…

I feel it in my fingers, I feel it in my toes - Lycans all around me and so the hatred grows...

Yes. But coming back to the subject, Viktor at least hasn’t succumbed to the general trend of vampires shooting machine guns at their enemies and finishes off the werewolf before him with his (mediaeval?) sword. Meanwhile, while apparently searching for an exit out of this whole mess, Selene and Michael come across Kraven who shoots Michael at the sight of the two being together. While Michael’s lying there on the floor in agony, Kraven serves at least one purpose in the whole movie by revealing to Selene that it was in fact Viktor who killed her family because of his lust for human blood. He also tells her that the only reason he spared her life was because she reminded him too much of his daughter, Sonja. When Selene refuses to come with Kraven he snaps and tries to shoot her too, but out of the blue Lucian appears and stops him. He orders Selene to bite Michael to save him since he, being a host to Corvinus’s special trait, is the only one who can survive being bitten by both of the species. She does so and shortly after Viktor arrives and tosses Michael away from her. Kraven escapes after finishing off Lucian and Selene has a talk with Viktor, confronting him on what he did to her family. During that time, Michael undergoes a transformation into a vampire-werewolf hybrid and faces Viktor shortly after.


Pretty lazy design for a hybrid that’s supposed to be stronger than both species in my opinion, but oh well. For the great elder he’s supposed to be, Viktor doesn’t show anything special in his fight with Michael (to whom his transformation seems to have given the ability of teleportation). Despite that, Viktor still comes out victorious and is only saved by Selene who picks up Viktor’s sword and kills him in a way that reminds me of the Kill Bill movies. Without any further dialogue, Selene picks up Lucian’s discarded pendant and our main characters walk away from the scene in slow-motion. The movie ends with another monologue by Selene who will now be persecuted for slaying an elder vampire as we see that the blood of the Lycan doctor whose corpse nobody yet was bothered to take care of drips slowly into another elder’s, Marcus’s, tomb, reviving him.

Impressions & Evaluation

My general impression of this movie when I first saw it as well as now is that someone really wanted to make money off of the popularity of The Matrix franchise. Underworld, from the visual and acoustic side, is basically The Matrix with werewolves and vampires. Our main character Selene runs around in a black silicon outfit on platform shoes, a vampire impersonation of Trinity. Same thing goes for other vampires who wear long coats, leather and black sunglasses that remind us of none other than Neo. Adding numerous gunfights, werewolves running on walls and ceilings, and slow-motion stunts that our characters perform, there’s no way that one can say with a straight face that the movie doesn’t make them think about The Matrix. Even the music, scarce but still, is the same industrial type as in the mentioned production. The characters, to me, are mediocre. Michael is a helpless guy who’s tossed between the two races like a ragdoll, thus lacking a spine. Kraven is so bad that I don’t even know where to start with his one default pissed off face that gives me the impression he’d cry in a corner off camera if he could whenever something goes bad for him. Selene is tolerable, but she seems too angsty. Perhaps the point of that was to make her look tough, but after a while it got a little boring. Thus the only characters who I was happy to see whenever they appeared on screen was Lucian and Viktor. As the leaders of the two species, they more or less perform their roles adequately, although I’d expect Viktor to show a little more power in the fight with Michael seeing as he could break the neck of a transformed Lycan with one hand. Lucian, on the other hand, is a leader who doesn’t have to display his full powers (a.k.a. change into a werewolf) to show what he’s made of. In his schemes, he turns out to be the one using other characters, like Kraven, for his own personal agenda. Hell, the sole fact he can push out silver bullets out of his body using nothing but his will makes him badass.

When it comes to the werewolves themselves, Underworld offers us a new type of lycanthropes which I’ve already dubbed as gargoyle-werewolves. Taking a look at the screenshots, I think you know what I mean. Apart from that, the werewolves here are a basic type of bipedal human-wolf hybrids, just a bit balder than to what we’re used to. They’re taller than an average human, muscular, can shapeshift at will, retain consciousness while shapeshifted, and are immortal in the sense that they don’t die of old age. They’re stereotypically allergic to silver which is the basic way the vampires use to dispose of them, but as we find out they can also be killed by extensive bodily damage (like being blown to pieces or having half of their faces torn off). And they can run on walls… Yeah. As for the effects, it’s a pleasant surprise that most of the time we see them, the Lycans rely on a physical model backed up by CGI effects, which makes them more believable. The only thing I found funny was that some stock roars of big cats were used as the sounds the werewolves made. My advice is, if you’re creating a werewolf, at least equip it with all-wolf sounds to avoid possible hilarity. In this place I have to consent that the story is more complex than in your average werewolf movie, which is a plus. We have a background, more or less clear, to back up the characters’ actions and at times we even become curious how it’ll all end up. The universe in which the Death Dealers and the Lycans live is a grim, rainy, Matrix-colour-themed gothic world of the night, which would be very attractive if I didn’t have this thought about the White Wolf, Inc. lawsuit concerning their games at the back of my head screaming that it’s a bland rip-off of Vampire: The Masquerade. The ending of the movie is an open one, clearly leading to a sequel which eventually indeed came to pass.

Overall, Underworld isn’t a bad movie, but I wouldn’t call it a masterpiece either. Maybe it’s because of the lawsuit or because it’s trying to relive the success of The Matrix, just adding vampires and werewolves to its universe. I’d love this movie if the gothic take at the vampire-werewolf conflict didn’t remind me of The Matrix every time I laid my eyes on the screen. There are also some moments in the movie that made me laugh and not because the creators intended for me to do so and characters like Kraven made me twitch at their very sight. So, all in all, if you like gunfights, women in tight leather/silicon outfits, rainy streets, and regretted there not being any vampires or werewolves in The Matrix, then this is a movie for you. Otherwise, watch it out of curiosity or don’t bother at all, just don’t blame me for the loss of a whole 2 hours of your life you could have spent on doing something more productive.


6.5/10



And that's all for today, folks. One down, a whole three more to go, so hope you enjoyed the read, because next month we'll be coming back to the same universe, this time to take a look at what happens in the sequel of the above movie – Underworld: Evolution.

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