Underworld (2003)
By: J.R. McNamara on January 12, 2006  |  Comments  |  Bookmark and Share
Columbia Tristar (Australia). Region 2 & 4 PAL. 2.35:1 (16:9 enhanced). English DD 5.1. English Subtitles. 116 minutes
The Movie
Director: Len Wiseman
Starring: Kate Beckinsale, Scott Speedman, Michael Sheen, Shane Brolly, Bill Nighy, Erwin Leder, Sophia Myles
Screenplay: Kevin Grevioux, Len Wiseman, Danny McBride
Country: USA
Sometimes you sit down in front of your Home Theatre system and look at your DVD collection and think to yourself: if only there was a movie that had the characters of this movie in the situations of that movie, or this type of movie done in that type of style. One of the things that the Matrix movies have done for the cinema go-er is that it seems every genre has a Matrix-style movie being released: Underworld is the Matrix-styled movie for the vampire/ werewolf fan.

Feeling a lot like the role playing games Vampire: the Masquerade and Werewolf: The Forsaken, to the point that both role playing game company White Wolf Games and author of Love of Monsters Nancy A. Collins sued Sony Pictures, Screen Gems and Lakeshore Entertainment over 60 points of similarity between their properties. Over and above any legal hoo-ha, Underworld was written by Danny McBride from a story developed by him, along with actor Kevin Grevioux (who also stars in the film) and Len Wiseman, who all also had writing credits on Underworld: Evolution, the sequel. Len Wiseman also directed this, his first, movie.

Originaly put forward as an adaptation of Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet but with vampires and werewolves, Underworld tells the story of Selene (Kate Beckinsale), an assassin for the vampires whose targets are the last of the Lycans (the werewolves). While hunting Lycans one night, Selene discovers they are looking for a particular human, Michael (Scott Speedman) who may be the salvation for the Lycan race, she must find the truth all the while avoiding the vampiric political machinations of the leader of her clan, Kraven (Shane Brolly) and his Lycan contemporary Lucien (Michael Sheen).

Over and above the jaded reputation this film has due to the aforementioned court cases, it was nominated for several 2004 Saturn and Golden Reel awards and actually won The Academy of Science Fiction, Fantasy and Horror Films USA's Cinescape award for Best Genre Face of the Future Award, which went to Scott Speedman.

Now even though that plot may sound far too lovey dovey and full of political shenanigans, Underworld actually has one hell of a lot of gunplay and wetworks, with both sides having developed bullets that the others are susceptible to. A great big pile of mindless fun that at the end of the day is cinema fairy floss: it is probably bad for you, but you will enjoy consuming it anyway.
This feature is presented in 2.35:1 Widescreen and looks fantastic.
The 5.1 sound on this film is truly spectacular, pump up the amp to its fullest.
Extra Features
There are two commentaries on this disc. The first is the Writers and Director's commentary, spoken by director Len Wiseman, and writers Danny McBride and Kevin Grevioux. This is a pretty good and constant commentary and the three are quite animated about their creation, and Grevioux's voice still surprises me every time he speaks. The second commentary is the Technical Commentary by the producer James McQuade with Patrick Tatopoulos, the creature designer/ fabricator and Claude Letessier, the supervising sound designer. This commentary is quite informative, especially for those who don't know much about the sound editing on a film.

There are five featurettes on this disc: The Making of Underworld (13 minutes) one of those usual self promoting pieces that shows more of how cool the film is rather than much actual making.

The Look of Underworld (18 minutes 52 seconds) is all about the entire visual theme of the movie, far more interesting than the making of; this covers the design of everything from the creatures to the sets to the colour correction.

Creature Effects (12 minutes 30 seconds) is all about the prosthetics, visual effects and creature designs. Fairly detailed and quite fascinating, albeit for how many make ups and creatures there are, a bit too brief. This featurette mainly looks at the werewolves and Bill Nighy's prosthetic make up.

Stunts (11 minutes 40 seconds) is a look at the stunt work done for the action sequences in this film. Quite involved and interesting, although I must say I was quite surprised when someone actually mentioned the Matrix, which is an obvious visual and stunt influence.

Sights and Sounds (9 minutes 3 seconds) is basically a montage of behind the scenes footage with an occasional comment from a cast or crew member. It is really just a short look at the business of making movies.

The music video is called Worms of the Earth by the metal band Finch.

The storyboard comparison runs for just over 6 minutes and shows static storyboards split screened with the actual movie footage.

There are 2 TV spots for Underworld, one titled 'War', the other 'Trailer Cutdown'. Both run for just over 30 seconds.

They are also trailers for: Underworld, Hellboy, Spiderman 2, The Medallion and S.W.A.T.
The Verdict
This film is super Hollywood gloss at its extreme, but at the end of the day, guys are only watching this film for Kate Beckinsale and girls are only watching it for Scott Speedman, any enjoyment you get over and above that is a bonus. Microwave some popcorn, plant yourself on the lounge, turn up the volume, and deactivate your brain and you will have a great time.
Movie Score
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