Underworld
Starring:
Kate Beckinsale, Scott Speedman
Directed By :
Len Wiseman
Grade C+

For thousands of years, vampires and lycans (werewolves, the root being lycanthrope) have been at war with each other. They are both possessed of great strength, healing abilities, and relative immortality. The lycans have weakened in number and have been driven underground, quite literally, hiding from the vampires - who have eyes and connections everywhere and will not be satisfied until the lycans have been wiped out. Enter Seline (Beckinsale), a "death-dealer", a vampire warrior who hunts lycans. While tracking some lycans, she realizes that they are in turn tracking a human (Speedman, as "Michael"), and becomes obsessed with finding out why the lycans are so focused on finding one man. This puts her into direct conflict with Kraven, the current ruling vampire, who is more of an aristocrat than a warrior and has his own designs for Seline, as well as the rest of the vampires and lycans. What follows is a neo-gothic plot full of aristocratic ambitions and backstabbing as well as the requisite amounts of star-crossed love and oaths of vengeance in a modern re-telling of the origins of vampires and werewolves.

There is a general tone to this film. Let's face it, this is a fanboy film if ever there was one. And it attempts to stay faithful to the roots of that. The vamps are pompous, the lycans are savage, and the whole film is dark and dreary. On the other hand, that leads to a certain dryness in the film. The story is actually pretty good, but it too doesn't quite grab you as much as you feel it should. The whole affair just seems a bit stiff and passionless, perhaps because all the featured players are essentially dead. Kraven (Shane Brolly) livens things up a bit, as he's almost always mad and shouting at something. Unfortunately, it seems that anger is the only emotion he can play, as the other lines from him just seem cheesy. Thankfully, they're kept to a minimum. To the movie's credit, the two big bosses of each side don't make an appearance until a ways into the film, and they really do it justice. Lucian (Michael Sheen) is delightful as the masterful leader of the lycans, and Viktor (Bill Nighy) is really played to the hilt. You believe these guys are in charge, and they are done justice in the action sequences.

Let's talk about the action. Here is where I was pretty disappointed. This was sold as an action movie, and that's what I expected. Now just about every movie since The Matrix has been accused of imitating it (which is funny because The Matrix is itself an imitation of many media and movies), so I hate to say it - but this movie was really derivative of The Matrix. From the fashion to the action, there were a lot of things that just seemed like pale imitations. Where it was unique, it was usually disappointing. The special effects were actually really good, a combination of makeup, animatronics, and CG. Unfortunately, good CG is really expensive, and close up animatronics look a little cheesy when they have to move quickly. So there are lots of scenes where you don't see what you want, because they couldn't show you on this budget, i.e.- lycans biting cameras instead of people, a lot of violence being implied rather than clearly shown, etc. I would like to see what they could do with a bigger budget. Maybe in the sequel.

Final verdict is that fans of these types of movies should check it out. Action fans might be disappointed, and casual moviegoers need not apply. The story is by the way, wide open for a sequel, and I truly hope they make one. This setup still has a lot of promise.

It's all in the details: This movie was the brainchild of friends Len Wiseman, who directed and co-wrote it, and Kevin Grevioux, who CO-wrote it and plays the part of the giant lycan Raze. Wiseman is a first time director mostly known for music videos and commercials and Grevioux has done stunts and supporting roles in the industry for years following getting a degree in microbiology and studying genetic engineering in grad school.

- - Jeff Light

ILS is not affiliated with, endorsed by or related to any of the products, companies, artists or parties legally responsible for the items referred to on this website. No copyright infringement is intended.