Release: September 19, 2003
by Kevin Lang
Directed by Len Wiseman, "Underworld," starring Kate Beckinsale ("Pearl Harbor," 2001), was a film that spent the majority of its time focused on its impressive looking action, and too little time focused on the story and its characters.
The movie was centered around a blood feud between the vampires and the Lycans, which the movie eventually explained were werewolves. Selene (Kate Beckinsale) was one of the few remaining Lycan hunters, known as the Death Dealers. Her job was to exterminate the Lycans. On a night out hunting, she watched the Lycans follow a human, Michael Corvin (Scott Speedman), who barely managed to escape them. Selene grew curious and decided to track the human down. She eventually discovered that Michael himself came from a unique bloodline, and that he was the key ingredient in an attempted merging of the bloodlines to create a half vampire, half Lycan race.
Around this premise came plenty of action but not much else. Reviewing the action alone, Underworld was a fairly strong film. The gunfights looked and sounded great, and during the hand-to-hand fight scenes, it actually looked and sounded like most of the punches were connecting, unlike in other recent films, such as The Matrix Reloaded where the action often looked too choreographed and soft.
Another interesting point you might want to think about while watching "Underworld" was the story's obvious racial theme that lied just beneath the surface. The vampires, who lived in a large estate, seemed to carry a strong prejudice against the Lycans, who years ago were slaves who protected the wealthy vampires. Merging of the races has been forbidden, but when the races did merge, an even stronger, black combination of the two was formed. The elder vampires were most against the union, and did everything they could to stop it. I might be reading into the story a little too much here, but it's interesting to consider nonetheless.
In the end, "Underworld" played like an attractive person admiring himself in the mirror. The outside looked good, but we never got a glimpse of what lied underneath. The movie spent more time showing off its special effects than it did developing its characters. I watched the Lycans go through their Michael Jackson Thriller-like transformations four or five times. I saw the characters jump from high buildings, land, and then coolly spring into a walk over and over. Yet, the movie rarely slowed down to investigate the emotions of the characters. I can only recall one scene where Selene talked more than a few words to Michael, but little was revealed even then. As a result, the characters remained too far at a distance from the audience, and it was hard to root for the vampires or the Lycans, because I didn't care very much about either.
If you watched a thirty-second clip of "Underworld," you would probably think that the film looked very enticing. A longer inspection of the film, however, would reveal that there was not much more to it, other than a significant amount of visually appealing action.
"Underworld" Review written September 19, 2003, CTF.
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