Science fiction and fantasy                                            



Underworld

directed by Len Wiseman

Underworld poster  
In Underworld, a war between vampires and werewolves (Lycans) has raged for centuries. Selene (Kate Beckinsale) is a vampire, and a werewolf hunter. She guns them down in the modern-day subways, wearing the obligatory tight leather catsuit. However, the war was believed to be over when Lucien, the Lycan leader, was killed. Things have been quiet lately.

That all changes when Selene discovers a den of werewolves in the tunnels under the city. To add to the mystery they are stalking a human, and apparently not just for food.

Kraven loves Selene, although she repeatedly rejects his advances. He ignores Erika, who is more interested in him. They are approaching an important awakening ceremony, which all the vampires are gathering for, and it's vital that it goes without a hitch. Selene misses the guidance of Viktor, and ancient and powerful vampire and her old mentor, as she suspects that Kraven is somehow involved in this new resurgence of the Lycan threat.

Considering we are dealing with immortals, there's a very high body count as silver bullets and sunlight take their toll. The gunfights and action sequences are overlong, as though the plot and dialogue in between are merely inconvenient asides, to be kept to a minimum.

The Lycans have been capturing humans and running tests on them. They initially come over as extremely inhuman, the bad guys. But it becomes apparent that both species are predatory, unscrupulous and bloodthirsty. The werewolves just look a lot uglier.

Michael Corvin (Scott Speedman) is no ordinary human - there's something special about his blood. As the arms race between Lycan and vampire escalates he could be the next weapon. Selene rescues him from the Lycans and attempts to keep him safe whilst she figures out his secret, and what he has to do with the centuries-long war that is raging.

This is a very violent film, heaped with action. There is a theme of forbidden love thrown into the mix, but romance mostly takes a back seat. We don't really get to know the characters well enough to care, not even Selene. Although the fact that she's a ruthless killer who relishes her job may be a off-putting for some people. The action is very stylised, and it borrows heavily from many recent films, such as The Matrix and Blade. There is no rule that vampires have to dress in black, look pale and decadent, and live in gothic mansions.

Bill Nighy looks almost comical in the action scenes, as the powerful vampire Viktor. He just doesn't move fluidly enough to cut it as a tough guy.

The vampirism and lycanthropy of Underworld are presented as viruses rather than something supernatural. If you think about it for even a minute, this is absurd - how could a virus let someone into a wolf and back at will? But you're not supposed to think about it, the whole premise is really just an excuse for some fancy moves in tight leather clothes, with a smattering of the usual clichés thrown in for good measure.

This is definitely a film that has the best impact on a big screen. But with borrowed style and very little substance, it's not a film that will stay with you for long.

Film Details

Year: 2003

Categories: Films

  Fantasy

Classification: 15

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2 star rating

Review © Ros Jackson
More about Len Wiseman