Director: Len Wiseman
Cast: Kate Beckinsale, Scott Speedman, Michael Sheen, Shane Brolly, Sophia Myles and Bill Nighy
Plot: Unknown to humans, vampires and werewolves wage a secret war between each other. The vampires get worried when the Lycans drag an unsuspecting human, Corvin (Speedman), into the war.
Underworld, on the surface, is a terrible movie. It takes the success of Blade, reworks the mythology a bit and gives us Underworld. The film plods along for its 121 minute running time with painfully slow exposition and dull characters. The refreshing idea of pitting vampires and werewolves against each other is soon lost under a story that most viewers will struggle to keep up with. However, for some unknown reason, something about Underworld makes it hard to write off as a bad movie.
I appreciate what the film is trying to do. It gives us a new universe to come to grips with. Looking back, it is an interesting concept, simply told poorly during the actual film. Once you understand the premise fully and the characters you are meant to be rooting for, there is something appealing about spending some time exploring this movie world. The climax is gripping and there is a certain Star Wars-esque feel to some of the lesser characters. So little time is spent developing them, but we still want to find out what will happen to them, especially Kevin Grevioux’s menacing Raze. Despite film critics turning up their nose continuously at this movie, this will find some fan base on vampire-lovers sick of the puppy-dog nature of the Twilight saga.
The characters are awfully done. Seeing as both sides are meant to be bad guys, we spend most of the movie struggling to summon up empathy with the ‘good characters’. Kate Beckinsale comes across as too sullen to really get across any real motive, other than an unexplained gut feeling not to kill this one human. Michael Sheen understandably wins the audience over as the terrorist leader of the Lycans, but the actor needs more script to work with. You would hope that Scott Speedman would inject some charisma into the movie as the only leading human, yet he is the worst actor of the lot, never getting over the confused look.
Thank god for Bill Nighy. He is the powerhouse of the film, making it worth watching for his terrific depiction of a Vampire overlord. Decaying, revolting and immensely powerful, he instantly captures the audience’s attention whenever he appears on the screen. It is a shame it takes half the film for his character to be revealed, but he makes the most of the screen time given. The final fight between him and Speedman is brilliant, making the entire experience feel more worthwhile.
Final verdict: Underworld is a slow, clunky film, yet there is some charm hidden here. More of a cult viewing than a winning blockbuster. Try it and if you don’t like it, steer away from the franchise.