Retro Review: Underworld (2003)

Underworld this and Underworld that. Vampires, werewolves, leather pants: I think it’s safe to say we’ve all heard of this cult hit. But was it worth the supposed cult-hype?

Directed by Len Wiseman, Underworld opens up describing an ancient war between the vampires and their sworn enemies, the Lycans, (violent werewolves). Selene (Kate Beckinsale) is an orphaned vampire that works for the vampire clan as a trained killer. When the Lycans take a mysterious interest in a mortal doctor named Michael Corvin, (Scott Speedman) it’s up to Selene to find out their motives before the damage is done.

One of the best features of the film is its vampire-set-in-modern-times concept. Sure, there’s been vampire flicks before, but specifically one with werewolves and a badass female lead? Nah, bruh, (DON’T EVEN MENTION TWILIGHT!) Furthermore, it’s a concept that isn’t quite often explored, which makes taking up the task of crafting a story based on vampires set in the gothic world all the more interesting.

Cinematography was beautiful in terms of the film’s dark, gloomy and gothic atmosphere. The screen travels through hues of gray and dark blues. But once you get to the vamps’ headquarters–BAM! Royal-red colors of Victorian and Gothic everywhere.Suffice to say, Wiseman nailed creating the best atmosphere for Underworld’s storyline. The set designs are a plus, as well!

“I sure hope you never get pissed off at me.”

Mind telling me where I could buy the decor? 😀

But having extracted the positive aspects aspects of the film, it’s time to critique what could’ve been improved. Firstly–the plot. The plot left me with mixed feelings. What I enjoyed about the film was that it featured badass vampires, who doesn’t like that? However, the story-line tends to drag as a mystery until the last forty minutes of the film; that’s when the film finally picks up where it should’ve done so earlier. Because of that, you’ll often be losing interest and wondering when something finally will occur and progess to the film’s story-line. Furthermore, the plot wasn’t very unique. Sure, the plot’s simple trace-of-thought was itneresting. But Wiseman’s cut-and-past cliches dragged the essence of the film down; it borrowed too many elements from other supernatural films and was overrun with clichés without providing its own unique, distinctive twist on it, (which could’ve made it work!) This made the storyline somewhat predictable and lacking in true value. Clichés include wanting to avenge the death of one’s family, a forbidden love *cough* Romeo and Juliet, I still hate you *cough*, etc.  Even worse, some nice twists get ruined by clichés! Bright side? Each character included in the film helped progress the story in some way; they weren’t put in just for the heck of it.

“How can you trust him over me?” “Because he’s not the one who has been tainted by an animal.”

Badabing, badaboom!

Let’s talk about the cast and characters. The cast was mediocre; no one really stood out in their performances, (sorry Kate Beckinsale, still love ya ;D ). As for the characters, I had mixed feelings about them as well. The vampires incorporated into Underworld initially give off a mysterious, superior, intelligent aura. So it seemed kind of stupid in choosing to have some of the vampire characters completely oblivious to their surroundings in times of danger. With their black cloaks, combat skills, and supposed legendary statuses, (including badass Selene), you would’ve expected them to at least pay attention to one of the most important rules of combat.

Furthermore, there was also a great lack of chemistry between Selene and another certain character. *Sorry, can’t say from the spoilers.* Because of this, when it’s suddenly mentioned that Selene has feelings towards another character, it seems quite out of the blue. So when this does happen, the audience is all like, “lol, what? Did I miss a scene?”  There weren’t even any hints to depict a forming relationship or growing feelings towards one another.

Last point of negative: the combat.  One last aspect that made me roll my eyes were the snail-like reactions when characters were fighting. For example, if one character knocked their opponent to the floor, instead of giving them a final blow, they’d stare at the body with a bemused look. …Um, I don’t need to get worked up over this, do I? But….really? I don’t even know where to start with that, so hope you don’t mind me skipping over–you get the point.

“We have a serious problem.”

All in all, I had higher expectations for Underworld, especially with the numerous sequels out for it. But story-wise? Nah.

Why to watch this flick? Selene is a total badass in her leather getup. Plus, the gothic atmosphere is beautiful. Action? Sure, why not.

Running Time: 2 h. 15 min.

Rating: R

Verdict: Worth a watch if you want to kill some time with an action flick. But if you’re expecting it to blow your mind, speak to your heart, etc., it may not be for you.

-Action: A-

-Atmosphere/ Essence of Vampires: A

-Story: C

-Characters: B-

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