Beginning what would become a highly successful franchise, “Underworld”
delivers a high-tech variation on the classic vampires vs werewolves theme. The opening takes place in a large, unnamed city that enhances the very dark and brooding atmosphere of the film. The gothic architecture adds to the mood as you, at first are left wondering what these automatic machine-gun welding assassins really are.
There is much more gunfire than neck-biting and even the werewolves are more likely to tear a vampiric foe apart with bullets than teeth and claws. These classic enemies are in the process of battling each other to extinction when a human, Michael Corvin, becomes entangled in their warfare. It is the secret he carries in his DNA which has the potential to either destroy or renew these two old-world species.
While “Underworld” did not receive critical acclaim, getting mixed reviews at best, the actors all give excellent performances and show they care about the story they are telling. This intensity carries over into the fan response which found the modern twist on an old rivalry a refreshing change and the high-tech weaponry each species has developed to kill each other an exciting change of pace. And then there is the romance angle. “Underworld” does use a variation of the traditional “Romeo and Juliet” ploy to create tension between the main characters as old assumptions are turned on their heads.
The special effects are very well done and the werewolves, when they change, are fully believable. The action is practically non-stop and ultimately the story and the history of the centuries-old war between these creatures compels enough interest that “Underworld” would be allowed to continue detailing this richly imagined world in four more sequels and prequels to date.
The movie features Kate Beckinsale as Selene, a vampire assassin known as a Death Dealer, who’s primary occupation is hunting Lycans. Bill Nighy plays Victor, the second most powerful and one of the oldest vampire elders of the vampire clans. Scott Speedman ais Michael Corvin, the human with the blood-line that links both warring clans. Michael Sheen is very spot-on as Lucian, the oldest of the Lycans and their hereditary leader, fighting to preserve the existence of his kind.
Written by Danny McBride and directed by Len Wiseman, “Underworld” still managed an acceptable box office return of $95 million on the production costs of just $22 million. Despite its less than stellar critical reception, “Underworld” resonated with the fans and have placed this franchise in the surprise position of being a modern classic and influencer of the genre.