Ebert: San Francisco Examiner: TV Guide:
Warning, minor plot points revealed!
I made Holly wait in line out in the hot sun for three hours to get sneak preview tickets for this movie because I've been so excited about seeing it and I couldn't wait until it came out this Friday. The previews promised a super-cool vampire movie with Matrix-type guns and fight effects. I did not hate Underworld like Holly did but I did not love it as much as I thought I would. I would only recommend this film to people who love movies like Blade and Resident Evil.
The biggest problem I had with the film was that the story was too personal for the main character. It wasn't the epic struggle that was promised in the previews. The film tells the story of Selene, a Vampire Warrior called a Death Dealer, who's job is to hunt down and kill lycans (werewolves.) We learn that for the last 1000 years or so a war between these two supernatural superpowers (Vampires and Werewolves) has been raging. Both sides are now focusing their efforts on capturing a certain human who's blood contains the ability to combine the powers of both vampires and werewolves together.
I thought there was going to be much higher stakes involved. I wanted to see huge Lord of the Rings - type battles between a vampire army and a lycan army. An epic struggle that had finally spilled out of secret and into the streets of the modern world. This was what I expected. Or at the very least, a cool strike team like the one in Blade 2.
Instead, the film is actually about a very small group of vampires and an even smaller group of werewolves who are ultimately fighting a very personal battle to avenge lost love and honor. This motivation is unknown to most of the characters in the film so they fight only because the blood feud exists. It is only through a brief series of flashbacks that we, the audience, are able to understand the reasons for the war.
Holly, for some reason that I do not understand, believes the special effects for the film were sub-standard and "probably cost them only a few thousand dollars." I thought the special effects were fine. I just wished there were more. The gun battles were awesome. Really cool and loud gunfire from the weapons and good scary howls and growls from the lycans like the Raptors in Jurassic Park: The Lost World. The weaponry was cool looking and I really love two fisted gun fighters (John Woo) and martial arts swordplay (Yu Wen Ping). The werewolf effects looked like a cross between the old American Werewolf in London effects and The Mangalores from The Fifth Element. The costuming was also excellent. Specifically Selene's Trinity-type leather and rubber jump-suit and overcoat.
The actors are probably the weakest part of the film. I have to agree with one thing Holly said and that is that this is one of the ugliest casts I have ever seen in a vampire movie. Vampires are supposed to be sleek and cool and insanely beautiful. With the exception of Kate Beckinsale as Selene, everyone in this movie is hideous. I think Kate did a fine job and she looks really good in her outfit and fights well during her action scenes. The other actors were OK but absolutely repulsive. I'm not sure what the casting director was thinking but he or she should never be allowed to assemble the company for another movie ever again.
Underworld is a good movie for what it is. It's not what I thought it would be or what I wanted it to be but I liked it and will probably buy the DVD and watch it again in the future. If you want to wait and catch this one on DVD you will probably be glad you saved a few bucks at the theater. The end is left wide open for a sequel and if all goes well, this movie will become the opening chapter of the epic bloodbath that I hoped for in the first place.