Saturday, September 18, 2010

Underworld (2003)

Before the world was wrapped up in the "Twilight" phenomenon, there was "Underworld", a film that has led to a franchise. Actually, it's not really comparable to "Twilight"-sure, it has forbidden passion, vampires and werewolves, but that's were the comparison ends. Really, this is many post "Matrix" action cliches mixed with Anne Rice like overtones and whatnot. So needless to say, I'm not a fan, but I'll take it over that other vampires and werewolves franchise.

"Underworld" deals with an ages long blood war between "Death Dealers" (vampires) and "Lycans" (werewolves.) Meet Selene (Kate Beckinsale), a Death Dealer who wants revenge because she believes the Lycans killed her family. Anyways, she notices that Lycans and Death Dealers have taken interest in a dude named Michael Corvin (Scott Speedman), and the next thing you know, sparks fly, secrets are revealed and action ensues.

To be fair, there are things worth praising in "Underworld." The acting is strong (save for Speedman, whose pretty bland), with Beckinsale doing good as an Icy, English action heroine while looking incredibly hot in ridiculously tight leather. Meanwhile, Michael Sheen does a fine job as the Lycan-oh to hell with it, let's just call them werewolves and vampires-Lucian, as does Shane Brolly as the villainous vampire Kraven and Bill Nighy as the elder vampire Viktor. They all have a distinct Englishness and class to their roles, making you kinda give a damn at times. It also helps that the movie has a distinctively Gothic look, with great attention given to the backdrop. Finally, it really helps that as goofy as the back-story and mythology can be, at least it actually gives a damn. Unlike "Twilight", there's a lot of respect and attention given to the universe created here, and for that, it deserves kudos.

That out of the way, it's still not a particularly good movie. Sure, the acting is good, but many of the characters here look goofy as hell. Lucian and Kraven look like an unhealthy melding of Anne Rice Gothic-Romantic characters and "Matrix" style villains, while Kraven is about as imposing as a middle aged Goth. Then there's the action scenes-bloody sure, but still filled with the same kind of over done slow motion, briefly paused and stylish to the point of hollowness crap that plagues so many modern action flicks. The biggest problem though, is that it takes itself so very, very seriously. Not once is there any humor, personality or wit added to any of the proceedings, which makes it very difficult to get into. You can throw in all the bloodshed, complicated back-story and hyperactive visuals you want. If you can't give me anything to feel or take interest in, then I just can't see a reason to enjoy it.

I can certainly understand the appeal of this franchise, but it's just not my cup of tea. If it's your kind of thing, then dig in. Me? I'd rather stick with an interesting vampire or werewolf movie. Still, at least it's still miles ahead of "Twilight."

Rating: 5/10

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