This Underworld (2003) isn't the
same as the Underworld (1927) of old, a prohibition-era silent
gangster film (or, rather, a silent film about the prohibition era).
Neither is this Underworld (2003) the Underworld (1985)
based on a Clive Barker story, starring Denholm Elliot. Another
Underworld that this Underworld (2003) is not, is the
Underworld (1996) starring Denis Leary, Joe Mantegna, Annabella
Sciorra, Abe Vigoda, and son of Joey Bishop, Larry Bishop (who also
wrote it). There are probably many other Underworlds that
this Underworld (2003) isn't, but we're here to talk about what
And what it is, is cool.
Firstly, the film stars Kate Beckinsale (Pearl Harbor, Serendipity).
Yowza. She's a great lead, very intense, very beautiful, very
compelling. Now, for those of you who don't know, this is a
vampire movie. And a werewolf movie. Two great
monsters that taste great together. If you're expecting a lot of
Shakespearean quality dialogue, you're in the wrong show. But,
given the setting of action-vampire-werewolf movie, Kate Beckinsale is
the best you'll see. Not to mention the best looking.
There are some other actors in the film too, including Scott Speedman
("Felicity"), Shane Brolly, and Kate Beckinsale's real-life husband
Michael Sheen. They're all fine. Shane Brolly (who plays
Kraven) vamps it up (so to speak) a bit too much, but hey -- it's a
movie about vampires and werewolves. They're better than you'd
expect in a movie about vampires or werewolves, so there you go.
Some of the trailers try to make Underworld look like an
action and a horror film. It's clear that the filmmakers tried to
put in a few frightening bits and cat scares,
but the horror was not at all scary. The parts that are set-up to
make you jump don't work, but there were only a handful.
Fortunately, the action in the film works very well, so you don't miss
the horror. There will be unavoidable comparisons between
Underworld and The Matrix films. They both feature
similar special effects -- slow motion, wire work -- and lots of long
leather jackets and furious gunplay. However, Underwolrd
succeeds in creating a fairly interesting story that's simple enough to
follow. It also brings new life to the fight scenes, and while
there's not much that you haven't seen before in other films, it's
stylish enough and put together well enough that it creates excitement
and holds interest all the way through.
Underworld will suck your blood and leave you howling at the
moon. In the good way. It's monsterrific!
Now, there are a few picky points, which the Masked Reviewer is sworn
to mention to you, the loyal viewing public.
First of all, the vampires and werewolves run around with guns.
Presumably, the plain old vampires and werewolves aren't badass enough,
so they shoot each other. And, for super beings, they sure have
rotten aim. You'd think that being immortal would afford them
enough time to learn to hit the broadside of a barn with a machine gun.
Secondly, many of the vampires talk with a slight lisp. Maybe
it's because you never really get used to those fangs. Perhaps
that's what the war is about...the werewolves were laughing at the
vampires' speech impediments. Words can hurt, people. And,
words can hurt vampires, apparently.
The only thing that's likely to make people squirm in this film
(other than some blood and guts from the fight scenes) is that they show
a guy getting injected by a needle. The Masked Reviewer has never
understood why that's so terrifying for so many people, but whenever
there's a close-up of a needle going into an arm, you can hear a lot of
"eeew"s. So, for those of you who hate hypodermics, be warned that
there are, oh, about six close-ups of injections.
Careful viewers may notice that the vampires' eyes change color when
they get mad. This is a nice feature about being a vampire...it's
like having two built-in mood rings. Although, vampires aren't
traditionally known for keeping their feelings bottled-up. If you
piss off a vampire, you'll know it.
Another nice feature of the film is that they don't appear to have
relied entirely on computer graphics for the werewolf transformation
scenes. It seems to be some combination of computer graphics and
latex (like American Werewolf in London). It's a nice look.
The wirework in Underworld is okay. It's the best
wirework in the last couple of years. They do a few interesting
shots, and don't rely on it too heavily.
As for the plot of the film...unfortunately, one of the trailers for
the film completely ruined the "big surprise" about the plot. If
you haven't seen any trailers, you might enjoy the first half of the
film more by avoiding them. The trailer matter-of-factly lays out
the only real surprise of the film. Stupid trailers. Yet
another reason why the Masked Reviewer should be your only source for
movie information, ever. In fact, don't even bother seeing the
movies, the Masked Reviewer will take care of that for you. Or
Underworld ends with a clear set-up for a sequel, and
hopefully it will come along soon.
Fans of The Matrix and films like Blade will enjoy
Underworld. If you're not big on action, Underworld
won't hold much appeal. It's sort of like Once Bitten meets
Teen Wolf, only with lots of violence and visual flair.
It's kind of like Romeo and Juliet, only the Montagues are
vampires and the Capulets are werewolves...or vice versa. In any
event, it's fun.
Expectation from the Title: After a freak laboratory accident,
Dr. Xavier Titzlinger is transported to a strange land ruled by dainty
panties, evil jock straps, friendly boxers, and super intelligent bras.
Mother's Rule (Always Say Something Good About Everything):
Kate Beckinsale is so pretty, she should be in movies.
The Pros: Fun, good action, interesting story, well acted.
The Cons: Not very many original ideas, no nudity. Hard
to decide who to root for.