VAMPIRES AND WEREWOLVES? COOL!! ..OR MAYBE NOT
Jan 8, 2004
I remember being stoked about this film when I first saw the trailer attached to Wrong Turn. I mean, come on! Vampires fighting Werewolves! How much better could it get? As long as they didn’t churn out something as godawful as Howling VI (the other vampires against werewolves film) it couldn’t be half bad. But as I rewatched the subsequent trailers I began to doubt the coolness of the film. In fact, I skipped the first few weeks of the theatrical run and finally caught the film in a bargain theater.
The first time I saw it I found it fairly entertaining. The whole expansive mythology revolving around the ancient blood feud between vampires and werewolves was really interesting. I dug the aspect of the werewolves being an oppressed slave race to the vampires, systematically hunted down in a sort of Vampire engineered genocide owing to an illicit love affair between an upper caste vampire and a slave class werewolf. I dug Selene’s questioning of her own belief system and learning to feel after so many years of emotional retardation due to her occupation as a death dealer. It was all very interesting. But the second time, well…I had trouble staying awake.
Underworld is essentially a made for the WB movie with a bigger budget. The film bites off elements of everything from Blade to the Matrix, Near Dark to the Lost Boys, Anne Rice Vampire Mythology to WB’s Busty the Vampire Slayer nonsense. You name it, and there’s an element of it tossed in here. The story centers on Selene (Beckinsale), a death dealer assigned to hunt down and eradicate every last living Werewolf. You see, Vampires and Werewolves have been locked in a blood feud for the past few centuries. Both sides have their reasons for fighting, and neither wants to see the issue from the other’s point of view. Enter Michael, a human with the key to a possible peace between the two races, but who could also throw the fight in a direction more advantageous to either force. Selene is intrigued by this new human, and begins to feel a sort of attraction towards him. Complicating the matter is the fact said human has been bitten and infected (INFECTED! INFECTED WITH WHAT?!) by the leader of the werewolf pack. Selene’s affectations toward the infected human gain her a shunning by the Vampire community. She becomes a sort of outcast in her own society. And, well, you can probably guess where the story goes from there.
Now, the film is just what you’d expect from watching the trailer. It looks slick, with an amazing de-saturated super-cold feel to the images, horribly bad soap opera acting, and a clumsy story with a whole lot of promise. In that sense, you get exactly what was advertised. While enjoyable for a lazy afternoon watching, it’s nothing that you could truly watch in its entirety a second or third time through. I applaud the director’s decision to use primarily (amazing) prosthetic effects for anything the actors had to interact with, I love the set design, and I love the overall look of the film, but the action (and Beckinsale’s Acting) is uninspired, the story fairly plodding, and the cg effects alarmingly cheap. While these things are easy to overlook on a first viewing, they become glaringly apparent on the second. While the film is miles better than The Howling VI: The Freaks, I’m not sure that quite elevates it to anything aside from a pleasantly mediocre status. I can’t say I regret seeing this film, as I enjoyed it the first time I saw it, but I don’t believe I could watch it through again. While I may take a look at some of the cooler visuals in the film, I believe that most of my interest lies in the expansion of the mythology I hope to see in the second and third films. Therefore, as far as the film goes, I would recommend it merely as a rental.
As for the disc itself:
You have about 4 “featurettes” on: Sights and Sounds, Stunts, Creature Effects, and a Making Of/Home Video Footage Montage. While each featurette is on a different subject, all contain a smidgen of redundant footage throughout. Of the featurettes I would have to say the Creature Effects are the most interesting to watch. You can play them all together, or individually.
Aside from that you have a fairly generic storyboard comparison feature, one of the most retarded music videos I have ever seen, tv spots and a few trailers, including Natasha Gregson Wagner’s Vampires Los Muertos and the uber cool Resident Evil Apocalypse trailer.
The commentaries themselves (Director and writers/Technical) are informative yet very low key. They’re interesting, but if you’re too chill when you’re listening to it, you might fall asleep.
Aside from that there’s not much else. The picture on the disc is excellent, and the sound was extremely dynamic. I don’t think there was a time when all five speakers weren’t emitting some sort of ambient/musical/effects sounds.
All in all Underworld is an interesting film. Good enough for a single viewing. Just don’t expect it to go into heavy rotation in your DVD player.