Newest Review: ... of the tracks. Michael Sheen plays Lucian, the leader of the lycans, who can change his shape at will. As he can only change into a wolf,... more
Vampires that don't sparkle.
Member Name: shabbating
Advantages: Beckinsale, Sheen, some of the action scenes.
Disadvantages: Complicated plot, some poor CGI and acting.
*Film only review*
A war between vampires and lycans has been raging for years; the vampires have the upper hand but the lycans are plotting to become the dominant force. Selene (Kate Beckinsale) is a vampire who hunts lycans; she discovers that they are very interested in a human, Michael Corvin (Scott Speedman). Selene must work out why he is so important to keep the lycans from becoming more powerful.
Directed by Len Wiseman (Die Hard 4.0); written by Kevin Grevioux, Len Wiseman and Danny McBride.
Underworld is a gothic action movie that definitely gives you a lot of bang for your buck. It turns out vampires are very trigger happy when it comes to guns. I've seen a few Len Wiseman films now and his direction leaves quite a bit to be desired. There is nothing original about the way he shoots a movie. Underworld is seen by many as a rip off of The Matrix and I can see why, having said that, any movie now that uses slow-motion cameras when filming a scene involving a gun will probably be called a rip off of The Matrix.
I like the concept of the movie, vampires vs. werewolves, but the plot gets extremely complicated as there is a lot of back story to get through. The 3rd movie in the series, the prequel to Underworld, actually helps straighten out some of history (though there are a few inconsistencies...). I see why the history is important but at the same time I think it could have been told in a more linear fashion to make it a little easier to digest. Having a simpler back story might have cut down on the run time as well, which at 2 hours long drags in places.
The action scenes are impressive at times but also quite sloppy at others. There are a lot of scenes showing vampires firing rounds and rounds of bullets and lycans running along walls, it gets a little too repetitive. Also, for all the bullets fired by vampires, they really aren't that successful at killing anything. The special effects again are hit and miss, Underworld had a relatively small budget ($22m) and they clearly pushed it to the max.
The cast is quite impressive and is one of the main reasons for returning to the series. Kate Beckinsale (The Aviator) heads the film as Selene, the Death Dealer vampire. Much of the success of the Underworld series is seen to be down to Beckinsale and her pvc outfit. Pretty obvious why. I've always been a fan of Beckinsale and think she puts in another solid performance here. She portrays Selene as a killer but also gives her a softness that makes you care what happens to her as the movie progresses.
Scott Speedman (Felicity) is Michael Corvin, a pivotal player in the war and love interest to Selene. He was in my opinion a poor choice, most of the time he comes across like a wet blanket. Given the screen dominating performances from Beckinsale, Sheen and Nighy, Speedman gets a little lost in the background. This wouldn't be a problem if he was merely there to play the boyfriend but he plays an important role. Early on we see Michael bitten by Lucian (Michael Sheen) so a lot of the movie builds up to his transformation into a werewolf. Really quite disappointing. I was expecting something special but he ends up looking kind of like a Smurf, without the big hat obviously.
Lucian, leader of the lycans, is played by the excellent Michael Sheen (Frost/Nixon). Sheen is always good; he makes you believe that this character really could exist. Would have been nice for some of the other lycans to be given more lines and developed a bit more, having said that the acting was often rather poor from the lycan community, so maybe not.
Bill Nighy (Love Actually) is totally over the top as vampire elder Viktor. He clearly enjoyed hamming this role up to the max. Where Sheen made it kind of serious for a fantastical movie, Nighy brings it right back to B movie status. He definitely commands your attention as a viewer but I'm not really fond of what he brought to the table in Underworld.
Shane Brolley (Spread) and Sophia Myles (Thunderbirds) provide good support in the vampire coven. As I said earlier, I do wish there were better supporting characters for the lycans. Although the vampires are the main focus, the lycans were given enough screen time to have better actors and better writing. The movie is essentially all about Selene though so I guess the writers weren't too fussed.
I did enjoy Underworld and I have seen it quite a few times now, but I can't help but think it could have been so much better. Beckinsale and Sheen were great but the screenplay was flawed and the quality of the action scenes was inconsistent. An enjoyable action movie if you just go along for the ride.
DVD extras (2 disc edition):
Director and writer commentary
Sights and sounds of Underworld
The making of Underworld
Finch 'Worms Of The Earth'
Kate Beckinsale - Selene
Scott Speedman - Michael Corvin
Michael Sheen - Lucian
Shane Brolly - Kraven
Bill Nighy - Viktor
Erwin Leder - Singe
Sophia Myles - Erika
Runtime: 121 mins
Also posted on ciao under the username shabbating.
Summary: Hit and miss.