Underworld (Blu-ray)

For centuries a war between vampire and werewolves has raged in the shadows.  The Death Dealers, led by the ravishing vampire Selene will stop at nothing to eradicate the lycan threat forever.  Selene’s war changes when the lycans re-immerge from hiding in greater numbers than anticipated in their pursuit of a human with special blood that may enable them to overthrow their vampire enemies.

Kate Beckinsale in Underworld

UNDERWORLD was an easy film to overlook when it first came to town for anyone but fans of the genre.  Vampire flicks were a hit or miss bag back then (they still are if you consider the slew of TWILIGHT nonsense in circulation), but BLADE gave us some much needed hope.  UNDERWORLD felt more grounded though, going back to idea of covens and hierarchies found in cult favourites like VAMPIRE THE MASCARADE and the grossly underrated TV series KINDRED THE EMBRACED.  This was a good move and once again tipped the scales for the better.

Kate Beckinsale and Scott Speedman in Underworld

Screen Gems and Lakeshore Entertainment rolled the dice yet again when they casted Kate Beckinsale as the lead.  Beckinsale is gorgeous don’t get me wrong, like John Cusack I fell madly in love with her in SERENDIPITY, but this isn’t romantic walks in the park and coffee.  Who knew she had it in her, but she certainly did, making that skin tight leather outfit sizzle and sending lycans running for their lives from her and her Death Dealers.  I didn’t mind the betrayal and love story aspects of this endeavour but when it comes to storyline, this film suffers from the same flaw many uncertain films with deep stories suffer from.  There’s no specific term for it, though I like to call it gambling with the unknown.  Allow me to explain.

Kate Beckinsale in Underworld

Oftentimes in horror films, comic book films and video game based films, the collective creative teams behind these movies will lob out an idea which catches the attention of some studio and gets green lit.  Now the story is most often good and the ideas seemingly limitless, but here’s the problem.  Because money is what makes the world go round, they have no idea if this story (which may easily span out over two, three or more potential films) will be welcomed by the masses and/or if it’ll make decent coin in the theatre.  This often leads to throwing everything but the kitchen sink into the first film in case there is no chance for a second run.  This also leads to many cuts and debates over ratings.  Now seeing as how they went for an R rating, mixed with the fact it’s about vampires and werewolves, I’m no doubt sure they felt this was a gamble.  This theory becomes all too evident when you watch the sequels and see where the story goes.  The biggest fault in this one is the loss of Michael Sheen’s character Lucian.  By RISE OF THE LYCANS you see all the crap this dude and his lycan pals went through to survive, so in hindsight it felt pretty cheap seeing him killed so early in the series.

Kate Beckinsale in Underworld

UNDERWORLD set a new standard for vampire films much like THE MATRIX did for action films.  The weaponry introduced here by Selene and her crew were fantastically well played and have been mimicked more times than I can count since.  Werewolves owe this film mad props too for putting their hairy butts back in the spotlight as they were most certainly a dying breed.  Scott Speedman handles himself well, and going back to the premature loss of characters, you don’t get much better of a villain then Bill Nighy’s Viktor.  Clearly my theory is sound as the third film goes back to the roots with Sheen  and Nighy’s characters in full swing, but we’ll get to that soon enough.  This is a solid Blu-ray purchase if you dig the content, but as far as the “unrated extended cut” end of things goes, it’s nothing noticeable or noteworthy when compared to the regular version.

BLU-RAY REVIEW

Video:  2.35:1 Widescreen in 1080p HD with AVC codec.  The picture is crisp and well defined but overall dark in tone which I find cool but others may not.

Audio:  5.1 PCM (Uncompressed) in English, French and Italian with the same subtitle options.  The score and overall tone here are pretty sick.  I dug it.

Commentary (2:13:37):  As the longest of the series it certainly doesn’t feel that way.  Here Len Wiseman and crew are all eager to please with this first attempt as they try to reinvigorate a dying genre.  They all rolled the dice, Beckinsale especially and as far as I’m concerned they came out on top.

Outtakes (3:43):  The lycan dipping his toe in the water bit was pretty funny but that’s about it.

Featurettes (2:13:38):  There’s a lot of meat on this pizza and it’s cut up into three parts.  The first one focuses upon visuals and makeup, the second is a making of bit and the third and best of the three is a documentary/ Fact or Fiction special on vampires and things that go bump in the night.  The last part’s a must see for genre fans.

Music Video (2:45):  The video for “Worms of the Earth” by Finch.  Cool video, okay song if you like hard stuff.

Storyboard Comparisons (6:42):  A few short drawing board to life comparisons for scenes from the film.  Nothing new in that department.

OVERALL 4
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