Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Underworld (2003) review


    Well, this review, like Interview with a Vampire is really-really out of date. However, it's my blog and I'll review what I want to. I may do a review of The Hunger soon and that is a movie every vampire fan should familiarize themselves with. Underworld is not in the same league as either of these two films but it has a lot going for it. There's Kate Beckinsale playing the vampire Black Widow and, um, uh, yeah. Oh, right, Bill Nighy and Michael Sheen are great in these films! The way they chew the scenery has to be seen to be believed.

    Anything else?

    Mmmmm, lemme think.

    Vampires! Werewolves! Fighting each other! There's that too!

    Yeah, the Underworld films are as substantial as a vanilla wafer. I'm going to get around to reviewing them all, probably, but it takes only a single movie to understand them all. Much like their counterparts in the Resident Evil films, they exist for the sole purposes of showing their attractive female lead kicking ass in an outrageous series of situations.

      And you know what? I'm cool with that.

There's a lot of scenes of Selene shooting in this movie.
    The premise of Underworld is there's been a multi-century war ongoing between the vampires and the Lycans (werewolves). Selene (Kate Beckinsale) is a "Death Dealer" and professional hunter of the fuzzy who has, in the pursuit of vengeance for her family, almost exterminated the Lycan race.

    Or so it appears.

    I won't spoil the rest of the movie for you because it's a surprisingly coherent, albeit comic book-y, plot. I don't think anyone really expected anything from this movie other than vampires shooting at werewolves while werewolves try to eat vampires. Keep in mind there's a lot of that but there's also lies, betrayal, mythology, and world-building which go well beyond that. Someone cared about this world enough to create a backstory for it and that's something you don't see too often in vampire movies.

This is basically the movie's atmosphere in a nutshell. Dark and darker.
     Really, the entire thing feels very strongly reminiscent of the Vampire: The Masquerade games I used to run. This isn't surprising given the movie creators were sued by White Wolf due to the similarity of their concepts. They're different enough that I don't think this was plagiarism but I can certainly tell the movie was influenced by the whole "Gothic Punk" mentality which Vampire: The Masquerade codified.

     As mentioned, credit also goes to Bill Nighy's Victor and Michael Sheen's Lucien as the two of them create nuanced multifaceted characters with the ability to ham it up with the best of them. In a very real way, Selene is an intruder on their centuries-long grudge and watching her be forced to deal with it is almost disappointing. Shane Brolly's Kraven is delightfully detestable and I even liked the bit-character of Erika (as played by Moonlight's Sophia Myles).

     The use of Hungary for the movie is an excellent and you get the real sense of the occult living just underneath the Modern World. Well, just underneath and, "everyone ignores the hundreds of gunfights going on around them." It's dark, moody, and brutish with the kind of lighting which reminds me strongly of a Frank Miller comic book (but with female characters who aren't strippers or prostitutes).

     The action is good in Underworld, so is the music, and the atmosphere is delightful. Everyone has the time of their lives in this movie and I think people will enjoy it if they go into it expecting a fun action flick. They will be pleasantly surprised by the slightly-more-in-depth plot than was absolutely necessary.

    Enjoy it for what it is.

    7.5/10

Buy at Amazon.com

1 comment:

  1. I agree. A lot of actors definitely "ham it up" in this film. Like you, I also like the rich backstory. Sophia Myles gave a great performance as a woman scheming to get what she wants. I wrote a short essay on Underworld called "The Ancient Practice of Blood Revenge." If you would like to read it, here is the link: https://christopherjohnlindsay.wordpress.com/2015/06/08/underworld/

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