Published Sep 01, 2003Breaking it down, Underworld should be a good movie. You have a potential Romeo and Juliet-style love story set against the backdrop of a centuries old war between Vampires and Werewolves (known here as Lycans, short for Lycanthropes, don't worry, Vampires are still Vampires). You have a gothed-up, nearly unrecognisable Kate Beckinsale clad in form-fitting pleather. And you have Scott Speedman in his least annoying role yet, although granted, he is annoying in everything he does.
But for all its goodness, well, actually okayness, Underworld isn't really much more than a sub-standard, derivative Hollywood action/horror movie brimming with missed opportunities and unfulfilled potential.
Beckinsale, decked out in Trinity wear (but let's be honest, she's no Trinity), plays Selene, a vampire "Death dealer," basically the warrior Vampire caste tasked with wiping out the Lycans in a brutal war of attrition the Vampires seem to be winning, who stumbles across a Lycan plot of genetic tampering, betrayal and intrigue, which focuses on Speedman's medical intern, Michael Corvin (he is, the one!).
However, while Speedman and Beckinsale force chemistry while attempting to decipher the plots around them why is Corvin so important to the Lycans? Why are all the other vampires so dismissive of Selene's suspicions? Has the long thought-dead Lycan leader returned to seek revenge? Will the Wachowski brothers sue? Underworld sadly fails on many levels.
First, assuming that everyone and their Buffy-watching brother know and understand everything there is to know about vampires and werewolves is a huge mistake and Underworld makes no attempt to explore the mythos of either species, nor does it even state the rules (why do the vampires reflect in this movie?). In fact, if the Vampires weren't always saying they're vampires, you wouldn't even notice it. Second, the werewolves look bad (as does a lot of the CGI), really bad, they're furless and ugly (not scary ugly, just ugly ugly), and, apparently, all Irish and Scottish.
Visually and action-wise, Underworld flat out steals everything cool from The Matrix and Blade franchises, not to mention their progenitor, The Crow. This isn't actually that bad a thing, but its gunplay and action doesn't innovate like The Matrix or even tread water like Blade, being mostly ho-hum, although the shooting through the floor bit isn't bad. And, some of the effects do look better on the big screen than the trailers indicate (especially the head getting chopped in half finale).
Underworld doesn't so much create a new world as cut and paste one together, but without any depth, being all style over substance, but the style falters in the face of better fare and isn't enough to save this movie. It's sad, because with the subject matter, it could have been awesome. And, oddly, with a movie full of toothy monsters, Underworld sadly lacks bite. (Columbia/Sony)