a critiQal film review Underworld (2003)

Plot: A secret war has been raging between Vampires and Lycans (Werewolves) for 1,000 years. One Vampire, Selene (Beckinsale), discovers the Lycans are tracking a human - Michael Corwin (Speedman). As she struggles to find out why the Lycans want Michael so badly she must also deal with the suspicions she has about Vampire leader Kraven (Brolly).

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  • ...combines old vampire and werewolf lore with something new and unique plus an outstanding performance by Kate Beckinsale - definitely worth your time!

Who can resist a good vampire movie? I certainly can’t, so when previews for new vampire flick Underworld started popping up, I knew this was a must-see movie. Toss in werewolves, some great looking special effects and a kickin’ soundtrack, I figured this would probably be one I’d see in the theaters. Alas, something seemed to come up almost everyday when this was out, so I had to wait for it to hit DVD shelves. You can bet I was there to rent it as soon as possible.

So, would Underworld be able to compete with recent vampire films like Blade (1998) and Interview with the Vampire: The Vampire Chronicles (1994), or would this be just some more neatly packaged Hollywood crap?

Kate Beckinsale leads a decent cast in Underworld. While the rest of the cast is at least able to stumble through their scenes, Kate is the real driving force behind the film (acting-wise anyway). She is amazingly intense, and really seems to have grasped her characters motivations. Plus, she looks pretty good kicking Werewolf butt!

Her only real downfall comes with the romance that tries to kindle between her character Selene, and Scott Speedmans’ character, Michael. That romance never really seems to go anywhere, and all they end up doing is making googly eyes at each other. It’s kind of silly, and slightly diminishes the effect her performance would have made otherwise.

The plot, while taking some cues from movies like Blade II (2002), also throws in it’s own twist to create a new vision of the world of Vampires. The war between Vampires and Werewolves makes sense, since they’re fighting for control of their food – humans. It’s surprising that this “food war” has never really been explored before this. Then again, the plot does such a good job of convincing us that this war is possible, the surprise of the originality of the war may be just the movie talking.

Using this war as a backdrop the plot tells a story which tries to combine elements of Blade II (2002) and Romeo & Juliet. They take the “two houses divided” (Vampires and Werewolves) and combine that with the possibility of a new race. As mentioned above the Romeo & Juliet aspect doesn’t quite pan out, but their new way of telling the rest of the story does.

The special effects are on par with special effects wonders such as The Matrix (1999). While you can see a bit of The Matrix (1999) inspiration in the effects, the film also tries to put its own special twist into them. The results are exceptional, and make for many memorable moments throughout the film: Selene dropping 100 feet – and walking away from it; a realistic werewolf transformation; the death of a Vampire injected with manufactured daylight; a Werewolf (in human form) catching up to a speeding car – just to name a few.

Underworld doesn’t disappoint. It combines old vampire and werewolf lore with something new and unique, it’s got an amazing performance by Kate Beckinsale and truly astounding special effects to back it up.

The DVD features, while amounting to little more than hype for the film, do manage to squeeze in some interesting behind the scenes looks at how the special effects are created, and even hint at the possibility of an Underworld series of films.

Underworld is definitely worth your time.

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