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*** Official UNDERWORLD Review Thread

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#1 of 24 Scott Weinberg

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Posted September 18 2003 - 04:25 PM

Underworld (Posted ImagePosted ImagePosted Image out of 5)

There's a distressing little "click" that one feels as a movie they've long been anticipating manages to disappoint throughout its running time. As each successive 'cool action scene from the trailer' clicks by, we start to wonder if the movie has anything else to offer besides that handful of trailer shots. Sadly, Underworld pretty much doesn't.

So simple a concept that it makes one wonder why it hasn't been a movie before today: a centuries-old battle between secret societies of vampires and werewolves that takes place in the dank alleys and clammy sewers of EveryGotham, U.S.A. Pair this conceit with a knowing nod to Romeo and Juliet and you're looking at an atmosphere-heavy genre concept that feels like a can't-miss proposition.

Pre-release hype and an ultra-cool trailer had me fairly excited for Underworld, which makes it all the more disheartening to announce that the flick's only marginally successful; the worthwhile spots are absolutely cool, the gothy production design makes a lasting impression, the slick and fluid cinematography adds a glossy sheen to the proceedings, and the Battle of Immortals concept is periodically plumbed for some truly enjoyable cinematic mayhem.


Great gosh amighty does Underworld pack an unending amount of lengthy and confusing exposition scenes, plot threads and supporting characters that repeatedly double-back on one another, an editing style that borders on the aggressively choppy, and wristwatch-worthy dry stretches into its 121 (!) minutes.

And if a movie about werewolves battling vampires seems boring at any point...well that's just unacceptable.

The plot is both a predictable "Warring Factions" chestnut and a somewhat sly social analogy on the haves vs. the have-nots. Basically the Lycans (see: werewolves) are the lower-class; they congregate in leaky underground lairs, they're sweaty and their clothes are inevitably all torn up. The sexy vampires are clothed in sleek leather, are housed in palatial mansions and look like nothing more than a room full of pale Italian fashion models.

For a host of reasons that will be presented in a continuous loop of sketchy flashback sequences, the vampires and the werewolves really hate one another. A whole lot. Both clans have a looming deadline that incite some sort of plot device: the vampires have some vague-sounding Undead Summit scheduled...on the same night of a full moon. Bad scheduling there. Scattered amidst the ongoing battle is vampiric "Death Dealer" Selene, a lithe and lovely bloodsucker who survives a Lycan attack before embarking on a quest to discover the truth about the wolfpeople's latest quarry: a buff doctor fella named Michael.

If all this sounds a bit plot-heavy for a B-movie about wolf-men and vampires, imagine your weariness when you learn that there's about 55 minutes more of this arid "plot stuff" to contend with just to get a look at two or three pretty solid action scenes. Underworld's astonishingly sober tone doesn't do the film any real favors either; a handful of dialogue exchanges skirt dangerously close to unintentional comedy.

Yet despite a host of shortcomings, Underworld earns a mild recommendation on merits almost exclusively visual in nature...including but not limited to the ethereally sexy presence of Kate Beckinsale as Selene. She's not required to do much here (Kate's all leather-clad legs and dagger-eyed glances) but the actress brings a steely sense of command to her curiously underwritten role. The supporting players are as lifeless as their undead status would suggest, though Bill Nighy cracks through with an effectively oily performance as he plays a newly-awakened great-grandpappy of the vampires.

On a purely visceral scale, Underworld scores a lot of points. Picture Blade meets The Crow or something that could be called An English Werewolf in Dark City and you're getting a good idea of how cool Underworld looks...but you're also getting a clear indication of how derivative Underworld truly is.

All in all, Underworld is a criminally sleek (though narratively stunted) tale of class struggle between immortal enemies - bookended by a pair of ultra-slick action sequences. Had the movie delivered a bit more bang for the buck, had it been trimmed down just a bit, had it been a bit less languid and a bit more cohesive...it would have lived up to the promise of the trailers.

#2 of 24 Robert Crawford

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Posted September 18 2003 - 05:09 PM

This thread is now the Official Review Thread for "Underworld". Please post all HTF member reviews in this thread.

Any other comments, links to other reviews, or discussion items will be deleted from this thread without warning!

If you need to discuss those type of issues then I have designated an Official Discussion Thread.




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#3 of 24 Steve_Tk



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Posted September 19 2003 - 08:12 AM

I went in treating this more like I do going into Blade. A fun, gun-slinging movie that has the story there to to allow them to do cool things. I wasn't expecting some epic saga.

It has more story than Blade. It's not just pointy teeth want to kill the hairy dogs, bang bang. And they do all those cool things that you would expect.

Overall I enjoyed it. Was a little darker than I was expecting. I mean the sun never shines in a Blade movie, but this almost never had more than 1 light in any scene.

I'd give it a grade of B, or enjoyable enough to warrant a purchase, and I don't buy everything that comes out.

Also it opened it up for a sequel, as if this is new information about any movie now..

#4 of 24 Patrick Sun

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Posted September 19 2003 - 10:22 AM

The one big deficiency in this film is the lack of good characterization of the main players in the film. The viewer is alway kept one step removed from getting to know any of the main characters, so anything of consequence that happens to them doesn't really resonate (with me).

Other than that, the production values where good, though the blue tint throughout the film got old really fast. There might have been 10 minutes that could have been trimmed or better used to flesh out the characters. There is some serious sound effects in this film, so it's going to be fun to check it out on DVD later.

Oh, Kate Beckinsale looked smashing in that leather outfit of hers.

I give it 2.75 stars, or a grade of B-.
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#5 of 24 Brian Kissinger

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Posted September 19 2003 - 02:40 PM

Before I get into the heart of my review, I think a little back-story may be in order. I love vampire movies. Well, I love good vampire movies. I've had an unhealthy attraction to vampires as long as I can remember. I also dig werewolves. I wouldn't rank them as high on the cool scale as vampires, but I never pass up a good werewolf tale or movie. All of this put together had me foaming at the mouth for Underworld.

Through a series of events (a couple of not-so-kind reviews, the blatant Matrix-look, and the inevitable dread of this being more hype than hip) I became a little less excited. And truth be told, I damn near bought a ticket for Cabin Fever over this. However, that vampiric need in me won over. And I'm glad it did.

Underworld grabbed me from the get-go and never released. A solid story that blended both cultures together without insulting you. I've read a few reviews that felt the movie was a bit plot-heavy. That was one thing I really enjoyed about the film.

If you're going in expecting non-stop action, you'll most likely be disappointed. While there isn't an elaborate plot (it's basically what it's billed as....vampires and werewolves have a nasty little feud going....with a little bit of who and why thrown in) it thoroughly entertains, while giving a distinct feel for both creatures. However, that is also one of it's downsides as well. You get a feel of what it is like for the vampires and werewolves, but you never get to know them.

Underworld theoretically could have been much better. As others had mentioned, the characterization is weak, there are the normal "coincidences" needed to make movies like this come together, characters, often unexplained, engage in strange behavior and much of the little things are just thrown at you with no explanation. None of that though, distracted me from having a wildly good time. There are some interesting theories at work here (most notably the "revival" of dormant vampires) and the movie never really spoon-feeds anything to you. On the flip side, I wish some of the theories had been more detailed.

Flawed, but fantastic is my final word. However, those not as interested in vampires and the such may be left a little more dry.

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#6 of 24 Chuck Mayer

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Posted September 20 2003 - 08:35 AM

Derivative. Basically the trailer. A bit long. Yes, yes, and yes.

But still quite entertaining. I've been waiting a while to see this, and it was as good as advertised, which is good enough. Scott's review covered a lot of ground, so I won't bother. Kate should have been given more, but is she not stunning or what? And yes, Shame (I meant Shane, but my initial misspelling is legitimate) Brolly was atrocious, but the other players were decent. Horrible theater experience with the cell phones, watch alarms, and crying children.

Decent movie. Likely buy, and would happily pay for the sequel. It was doing boffo business in the No VA area...I'd expect >$30M, which would be huge.


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#7 of 24 Ted Todorov

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Posted September 20 2003 - 11:57 AM

Underworld is an absolutely putrid film. I can't remember the last time I've seen something this badly written, and this senselessly violent. Everything about it from concept to end result is plain awful.

The only redeeming qualities are the costumes, especially Kate Beckinsale IN her costume. Her acting, considering the non-existent help from the script is surprisingly good as well -- she almost succeeds in inventing a character for herself.

However unless you absolutely, positively must see Kate Beckinsale in fetish clothing, avoid this mess at all costs.

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#8 of 24 Lou Sytsma

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Posted September 20 2003 - 02:17 PM

Chuck summed up it pretty well for me.

It was what it was and I enjoyed on that level.
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#9 of 24 Steeve Bergeron

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Posted September 20 2003 - 02:19 PM

I really liked this movie! This is basically Blade meets The Matrix. If you liked these movies, you'll probably like Underworld as well.

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#10 of 24 Zen Butler

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Posted September 20 2003 - 06:48 PM

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Stylistic, dark and moody. The tone of this film never let me go. Kate Beckinsale, despite all the talk of how good she looks in fetish wear, commands the screen with a pretty solid performance. The plot is complicated, but nontheless rich and worth repeat visits. The movie did not fully rely on style. Complaints of the weak script, to me are invalid as it served its purpose for a 2hr. fare. Actions sequences were great, and the lycan morphs a visual treat. This is a film that produces much more than its conservative 23 mil budget. I didn't feel gyped a bit. This wasn't schlock just thrown together. An all around treat and a fun movie. Not perfect, but I haven't seen a perfect film in years. Sit back and enjoy this one.


#11 of 24 Guy_Uhler



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Posted September 20 2003 - 07:25 PM

This film was great. My favorite of the year so far. It had a good balance of drama/action. It wasn't action packed and it wasn't a tear jerkeror too serious . It was what it was. A great movie. It was dark, exciting, and the special effects were great. I've been hyping this movie for the past month and when I started hearing about the mixed reviews, I was in for a big let down, but I was pleasantly suprised to find out that it wasn't as good as I thought it was going to be, it was even better. The story was great...a bit confusing and they didn't bore us with the relationship stuff. Just the essentials...and Kate Beckinsale in leather(HOT!!!) So in closing, I loved this movie. If you are a big vampire or werewolf fan I really suggest this movie to you and even if you're not, it's well worth the ticket to go see it.

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#12 of 24 Mikel_Cooperman



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Posted September 21 2003 - 05:26 AM

I saw it last night.
I was really looking forward to this movie. From the previes ot looked a bit like The Crow and Blade which I enjoyed. This movie I did not.
It was all look to me and not enough at the core to keep me interested.
First of all, the bass was up so loud, everytime a door opened or there was some sort of thumping I had to cover my ears. It was very distracting.
As someone else mentioned on the thread, the two main characters were badly written. You never got any sense of caring for them and they barely speek.
More care is gone into the explosions and different kinds of bullets.
I do agree the back story was good, its just what they did with it that failed.

#13 of 24 todd stone

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Posted September 21 2003 - 05:53 AM

not a bad movie overall, but it did drag at times. I did not like Kraven. I thought Michael Wincott *bad guy from the crow 1* should have played Kraven.


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#14 of 24 Vince Maskeeper

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Posted September 22 2003 - 02:34 AM

The guy who played Kraven was the worst actor I've seen on the big screen in a while- reminded me of a bad afterschool special.

Overall the movie was watchable (and since it's one of the few I've seen in theaters since I saw the trainwreck that was "league of extraordinary gentlemen" it was refreshing...)

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#15 of 24 ChuckSolo



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Posted September 22 2003 - 05:22 AM

After seeing "Cabin Fever" last weekend, this movie in comparison, rated far better. I found myself really interested in the whole concept of the movie, Lycan vs. Vampire and the whole origin of the war.
I enjoyed the reference to Lycans as being born into slavery as a few of the older vampire movies had werewolves protecting vampires during the day.
I liked the action sequences and didn't find myself getting bored at all. I can tell when a film is not going to do it for me if I have to fight to stay awake. I didn't nod once in this one. While the script could have been better in parts, especially Scott Speedman's part (I can't get by typecasting him as "Ben" in "Felicity"), I think it worked quite well overall. The final battle between
Michael and Victor was quite good and I found myself actually hoping Victor would win.
Overall I would rate this movie a B.

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#16 of 24 Tim Glover

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Posted September 23 2003 - 03:39 PM

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Not a bad movie, but not very good either. Some cool moments and I liked the story. Kate is awesome.

#17 of 24 Carlo Medina

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Posted September 30 2003 - 04:19 AM

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People have pretty much covered the positives: great action, atmosphere, interesting enough story and background, and of course, the lovely Kate Beckinsale.

The negatives for me: a couple of highly derivative Matrix moments (hey, I like homages, but these were direct rip-offs). I won't elaborate here since it's a review thread, but let's just say it was bad enough to take me out of the movie for a few seconds while noting "Matrix Rip!"

The unfortunate thing is that I think the story and plot were interesting enough without having to rip off those Matrix moments. If they weren't there, I would up this rating another 1/2 a star.

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#18 of 24 Shane S.

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Posted September 30 2003 - 01:53 PM

I Just saw this Movie and I have to say I'm pretty pleased. By no means a classic epic but good none the less. I am a fan of the genre but too often the movies are just plain bad. This movie was quite entertaining. I would have liked more history, but at the same time it was nice the way you start changing your mind about who the bad and good guys are.
I must say that I don't entirely agree on the Kraven thing that a few people have mentioned. The way I see it he was cast quite well. His character is an ambitious scheming type who is living off a lie. He is NOT the warrior/leader he is portraying to the rest of the Vampires. In that sense someone like Michael Wincott would have been to strong a character. A believable "bad-ass" when he should be more of a coniving(sp) type. When your watching it your supposed to be thinking..."That was the guy that killed there worst enemy...really" someone like MW would never have planted that doubt.
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#19 of 24 Matt<>Broon


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Posted October 01 2003 - 01:17 AM

I agree more or less with the average reviews summed up above.

I enjoyed the film, but I'm pretty positive I wouldn't want to sit through it again. The action scenes were good but the waffly and frankly overlong plot scenes for what should have been a simple enough premise do detract.

for me the highlights were definitely the delectable Kate Beckinsale and the performance of Bill Nighy as Victor.

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#20 of 24 JasonRH


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Posted October 01 2003 - 09:28 AM

I enjoyed this one a lot more than I expected. This will be a definate DVD buy for me when it comes out.