Even though it's a fairly popular action-fantasy series with a kickass female lead, somehow I never got around to checking out the Underworld films. Luckily a friend of mine has the first two on dvd so I treated myself to a double feature last week on our big screen. I was expecting something like Blade but with more white people, and that's pretty much what I got. Everything looks kind of like an Evanescence music video. Plus it's got traces of Romeo and Juliet, I guess? I hate that play so I don't want to compare them, but it's always described as "Romeo and Juliet with vampires and werewolves". Anyway, let's get into this.
Underworld introduces a universe wherein vampires and lycans (werewolves) have been warring for centuries, centering on a dark, ambiguously European city (Budapest) with a lot of British people. Selene (Kate Beckinsale) is a specialized killer, part of a force that seeks to eradicate the entire lycan population one by one. She abducts a human, Michael (Scott Speedman), because the lycan force led by Lucian (Michael Sheen) wants him for some reason. She tries to solve the riddle of his tactical importance while also navigating possible treacheries afoot in her own coven, where she's learned not to trust their temporary leader, Kraven (Shane Brolly).
Sure, it's trying too hard to be dark and slick and cool, but on the whole I quite liked Underworld. I thought I was sick of vampires and werewolves but the film manages to bring some new ideas to the table (well new to me anyway, I recognize it's almost 10 years old). I like that it really wasn't much of a romance despite the Romeo and Juliet comparisons, it was really more focused on the mythology surrounding these two groups of people and their age-old conflict. And action scenes starring Kate Beckinsale's tightly corseted body, obviously! The camera loves her, what can anybody do. I actually generally think her character was pretty cool, and depicted well. She's cold and ruthless, but sympathetic for her determination and desire to find the truth. She's good at killing, and she likes it because it's the only thing she knows how to do, but she doesn't want to kill needlessly.
The best part, besides Bill Nighy, is that Scott Speedman's super lycan/vampire form looks like Nightcrawler! All I want is X-Men in my movies, guys, you've found me out. The second best thing is that every other scene features a dude ripping his own shirt off because he has to transform into a wolfman or whatever. I want a video compilation of this happening. Get to it youtube, I have already done a search for this and yielded nothing.
Afterthought: Are there no female lycans? Is this a gentleman's club?
sequel picks up immediately after the end of the first film, with Selene and Michael on the run after killing vampire leader Victor and generally upsetting the balance of things. Marcus (Tony Curran), the first vampire, is awakened and turned into a hybrid like Michael, only with wings and a vendetta against seemingly everyone. He wants to free his long-imprisoned brother, the first lycan, and it turns out Selene is the only one who can lead him to his cell. Problems, problems, problems. Also, we see sunlight for the first time, briefly. Just to remind you it exists in this world.
So this movie is pretty ok too only there's too much flashbacky stuff. The story is more concerned with all this heavy stuff that happened centuries ago than it is with its central characters as introduced in the first film. I think the history is interesting- and it's great for more Bill Nighy screen time- but it's a strange shift in focus and leaves less time for Selene and Michael to finally start banging (don't worry, though, they totally do). There's lots of bloody action, middling CGI, and a road trip. Selene gets to be a total badass while Michael is knocked out for a while, and the ending manages to be kind of sweet.
I don't have much interest in the follow-ups, though, I feel like two films is the right amount for this story. Unless the sequels are really good, somehow?