Underworld review by Matt Fuerst


I can imagine the pitch for Underworld. "Badass vampire/werewolf epic battle movie. Dark, brooding flick in the tone of Alex Proyas' Dark City. Lots of money, technology, think: The Matrix Wachkowski with vampires. Oh yeah, let's cast the hottest chick we can find on two legs." That sounds like a winner of a movie, and the trailer for Underworld conveys just that movie, at least to me it does. What Underworld suffers from a terminal case of

Selene (Kate Beckinsale) is said superhot vampire, whose role in the vampire world is that of a Death Dealer. Charged with the sole purpose of killing werewolves, present under their fancy name of lychen. We learn that the vampires and werewolves have been at war with each other for centuries, so long in fact, that no one is really sure how it all started, and digging into the past is discouraged. Continue the fight, eliminate the werewolves, and the dominance of the vampire clans will be ensured.

Of course the werewolves aren't exactly standing idly by waiting to be rubbed out by Selene and her like. Doing a little research of their own, they become interested in Michael Corvin (Scott Speedman), a human whom they feel could be the key to overthrowing the vampires. Corvin is caught in a battle between the vampires and werewolves, only to be rescued by Selene. Instantly a bond is formed amongst Selene and Michael. The lychen aren a highly motivated bunch, and continue to attempt to get their hands on Michael, snatching him from Selene while she tries to understand what they truly want from Michael. In the main subplot, we learn that the current leader of the vampires, Kraven (Shane Brolly) may be dealing from the bottom of the deck, getting into bed with the lychen to ensure that Kraven is the one and only leader of the vampires.

The story might sound interesting, but there is plenty material here that will make you as uncomfortable as underwear two sizes to small. From the description above, I hope it's pretty clear that Michael holds a special key between the vampire and werewolf worlds (yawn, what a tired concept). The filmmakers use Selene's torture of the lychen's head scientist as a vehicle to reveal Michael's secret, and the reveal takes probably 10 minutes of screen time. His explanation goes on and on and on and on.... It's the energizer bunny of reveals. Probably even more irritating is that the reveal really isn't anything exciting or unexpected. It's just one long drawn out, boring yarn in the mix of things. Later in the film, it is revealed to Selene that maybe the vampires aren't all that great as she's led to believe, and maybe the lychen aren't as bad as they have been cracked up to be. Alright, I can swallow that she has never given pause for that thought. But, when her Jiminy Cricket starts in on "the war started because the vampires wouldn't let our races mix", I start rolling my eyes, and try to recover from the fairly Liberal racism spin that just suckerpunched me. All of a sudden the vampires are the KKK and the lychen are a bunch of interrace peace loving people? What the hell just happened with my action vampire movie? It got hijacked.

Good lord are the characterizations, particularly of Selene, annoying. I've already given you Selene's title. She is a Death Dealer. One who delivers death. Pretty imposing right? I was feeling it. Opening sequence, Selene and two fellow Death Dealers taking on 2 werewolves. Werewolves (still in human form, see below on that topic) rub out her two fellow Death Dealers with guns, and Selene ends up running scared from the werewolves. She practically starts crying from the fact that the werewolf is chasing her. Selene and her fellow Death Dealers seem terrorfied of running into a werewolf in a dark alley. Outpowered, outgunned and overmatched, I don't understand why they made someone with the title DEATH DEALER a wimp. I can understand wanting to give Selene a more human edge, and maybe soften the edges on her a bit so she is a likeable character and her struggle with her identity, but come on. The whole group is a bunch of wimpy pansies.

Lord knows I've watched enough movies with bad stories, and truly enjoyed them, so I was looking around within the content for something else to cling to. Ahh the special effect. Underworld must have had a big budget, so that should be it's saving grace. Right? Well, sorry to disappoint again. A few nice stylistic touches splash the movie, but it's nothing more than a splash of grenadine, when you wanted a real Cherry Coke. The lychen are able to switch between their wolf and human forms seemingly at will, which should allow for some good vampire/werewolf match ups, but we don't get too much of them. Far too often, we are given a closeup shot of Selene shooting at the (unseen) werewolves, then switch to a completely CG shot of three werewolves getting hit with bullets (no Selene). Cut back to Selene. More shooting, no werewolves in sight. Cut to werewolf. You get the drift. These types of edits and framing is done so that CG characters don't appear in the same frame as "real" actors since doing that type of CG work is much more expensive, and much more labor intensive. When vampires and werewolves do clash in person, the werewolves happen to stay in human form (Why? Other than to save money, would they do that?) or are actors in werewolf less than convincing costumes.

Disappointing. The trailer is pretty bad ass, and I imagine I will be watching that a few more times. But I'd recommend saving your money in the theatre, and on the eventual DVD. At best this is a renter, and for one reason alone: Beckinsale. Woo doggy is she a cute little number.

3 out of 10 Jackasses
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