Thursday, June 16, 2011

Movie Review - Underworld (2003)

Disappointment  strikes once again in this movie about vampires and werewolves, an idea that shouldn't have ended in the review you are about to read. Billed as a "modern-day occult Romeo and Juliet" for stupid people who can't make their decisions on anythin' else other than a big shot reviewer's decision (that's why I'm bush league, folks!), this movie let me down. I'll explain why.

We all saw the awesome-as-hell trailer, right? Some Trinity-like chick walking off a tower and landing safely in mid-stride, vampires vamping about, lots of silver and leather and GUNS, the "Gun Dance" (she shoots a hole in the floor with her guns to get to the next floor down) and the darkest rainiest city this side of Seattle. All of this is captured in the limited palette of blue filter. Holy moley, this oughta be awesome!

Nope. It's silly, but not awesome.

It was a bit of a stretch to believe this movie when I believe Blade and its sequel pretty much covered this whole thing. But the story has to be heard in order to start to make sense, and I say that because I didn't have access to the script like some folks do. So here's the story, as covered in the prequel, Underworld: Rise of the Lycans:
Vampires and their eternal enemies, the "Lycans" (read: werewolves) have been fighting a war for over 1000 years. They have graduated from swords, fangs and claws to more modern weapons, like UV bullets for the werewolves and silver/silver nitrate bullets for the vampires. It takes place on the streets of generic Eastern European cities and everything is fair game. Rarely does the bullet hit the target in this movie, kinda like in G.I. JOE. I think that's why the Immortals' War has raged for so long; soldiers on either side can't hit the broad side of a barn. The only exception to this rule is the main character Selene (Kate Beckinsale). She's a "Death-Dealer" and dresses in flattering rubber suits that show off her butt, but then she covers it up with a big duster jacket/vampire cape. And GUNS. She does all the cool stuff mentioned in the aforementioned trailer and not much else except strike a bad-ass silhouette in the sewers and subways of [Eastern European city]. When she's done with that, she goes home to the Vampire Coven.

The Vampire Coven houses all the vampires in the local clan, who vamp about and scheme and drink and ponder the direction of the next Marilyn Manson album. Selene is the only vampire that gives a damn about this war, as opposed to the new clan leader, Kraven (Shane Brolly). Kraven likes Selene but not her attitude. Thus the two are always at odds: Kraven ordering Selene to do stupid things and Selene disobeying him, deferring to another's judgement or behavior. The two cut a decent picture of modern relationships in the Western world. Which brings us to the third man in our love quartet, Michael Corvin (Scott Speedman).
An intern at St. Istvan's Hospital and an unknowing descendant of 13th Century man Corvinus (the only person to be infected by an unknown plague who didn't die), he is a valuable commodity in the Immortals' War. He holds the key to completing a vampire-werewolf hybrid that is stronger than the two in all respects. This holds no interest to the vampire (who consider such an abomination to their own evil...?), but is of great interest to the Lycans.
These are powerful Lycans, no longer tethered to the full moon to change. They're led by clan leader Lucien (Michael Sheen) and second-in-command Raze (Kevin Grevioux, co-writer of the story!), whom I have nicknamed "the Were-Negro." The whole clan of lycans is nothing but diry, Chechen rebel-looking fellows, leaving you to wonder if female Lycans exist (side note: they used to). Moving on: Lycans have been trying for years to find the descendant of Corvinus and have found it in Michael. So naturally they hunt him down to take him, but Selene gets him first--but not BEFORE Lucien bites him and infects him.

There's all this crap about how Selene loves Michael (after being with him for less than an hour) and vice versa. Naturally, Kraven doesn't like it, learns that Michael is gonna be a Lycan and orders him killed. Selene will also be punished by the Council for consorting with him. Selene then goes to the only person who will listen to her: Master Vampire Viktor (the prolific Bill Nighy). Viktor is believable as a Elder Vampire Lord, but he looks like a cross between a Todd McFarlane sculpture and a rejected sketch from Warcraft 3: Frozen Throne. I expected him to mess up and exclaim, "Glory to the Blood Elves!" one time, but no dice. Selene loves #4, I mean Viktor 'cuz she was "saved" by him from the Lycans that killed her family. Unfortunately, Viktor knows a lot of stuff that has already transpired by some weird blood/memory transfusion thing, particularly the plot between Lucien and Kraven to lift Kraven to the heights of Supreme Vampire Overlord at the expense of his fellow vampires and a tribute to the Lycans! Viktor also knows that Selene loves Michael and orders her to kill Michael. Ah, conflict.

In the end, there's a big fight scene involving Selene and GUNS--LOTS OF GUNS and a sword, Michael finally makes it to vampire/lycan hybrid status, Selene kills Viktor (!), Kraven kills Lucien and the Were-Negro lives through the whole thing. I think. This movie had only a few scenes that made me sit up briefly, and everything else made me say, "what a waste". At least I had my MST3K skills to get me through.
There are some points in this movie that pay no mind to lesser conventions of the involved mythical creatures--salvageable only by the memory of what vamps and Lycans should be. A werewolf can take on any vampire, sure why not. Said werewolf takes on multiple vampires in the dark? NO! Vampires having 3 infrared scopes on a gun when they should be able to see IN THE DARK? NO! Vampires that can't fly? NO! Werewolf women? NO!--I mean, yes, but...NO! A sequel? Two of them, which ramp up the cheese factor with every release.

Holy moley, this movie let me down. It needs elements of what made The Crow and The Craft become embraced by Goth culture in general. Most of all, the creators need to give credit to White Wolf Gaming Studio for ripping off Vampire: the Requiem and Werewolf: the Apocalypse in DVD releases.

  • The first time we see a Lycan change. It takes place in the initial gun battle in the subway that starts the movie. The werewolf in question, Were-Negro, is fighting some random vampire dude and they end up in the tunnel, parted by a few feet. Then Were-Negro starts to change. The vampire quickly sprouts fangs and pops in his blue contacts and he's ready! HISS!  Were-Negro is still changing. Quoth the posturing vampire: HISS!
    Still changing. At this point, the vampire should have taken advantage of the opportunity to attack the Lycan while in mid-metamorphosis. Instead, he goes "HISS!" Were-Negro finally changes and before you can count 2-Mississippi, the vampire is dead. Easily the funniest scene.
  • Were-Negro. Unlike most Black people in horror movies, he didn't die.
  • The chick that looked like Nelly Furtado with black contacts on the train in the white corset & silver neck ornament. Vampire hotness.
  • Selene's ass in rubber when not hidden by a duster or trench coat.
Selene has brought Michael to the Vampire Coven house to heal. Vampire servant Erika (Sophia Myles) asks her why she brought him to the house. Selene's answer:
"Because he saved my life."
(Psst! You're already dead. Can't save a life you don't have!)

I had such high hopes for this movie franchise. At least Rhona Mitra shows up in the last one.

RATING: 4/10

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