Underworld: Unrated Extended Cut With Underworld: Evolution Preview Disc US Theatrical Release: (Theatrical cut) September 19, 2003 (Sony Pictures) US DVD Release: January 10, 2006 Running Time: 2:13:29 (28 chapter stops) Rating: Unrated (Has a fair amount of bloody action violence and a few naughty words) Video: 2.35:1 Anamorphic (Extra Features: 1.33:1 non-anamorphic) Audio: English DD5.1, French DD5.1 (Extra Features: English DD2.0) Subtitles: English, French (Extra Features: None) TV-Generated Closed Captions: English (Extra Features: None) Menus: Skippable animated menus plus some background animation. Packaging: Standard 2-disc keepcase with plastic slipcover and cardboard disc sleeve gummed to the slipcover; inserts include a 48-page comic book and a 16-page production sketch booklet. MSRP: $19.94 THE WAY I FEEL ABOUT IT: 2.5/5 A gloomy, dark urban landscape. . .incessant rain. . .vampires. . .werewolves. . .industrial music. . .black skintight leather. . .is it a Goth fan's dream come true? Perhaps. Underworld certainly delivers the atmosphere, even if it doesn't always deliver the plot or depth of characterization. It's a classic case of style over substance, although it's just entertaining enough to get by. Selene (Kate Beckinsale) is a "Death-Dealer," a vampire warrior in a centuries-old blood feud between vampires and werewolves (referred to in the film as "Lycans") that rages in the shadows of the world of regular folks. She hunts werewolves with her trusty machine pistols (well, they appear to be regular old automatic pistols, but they're enhanced with machine-gun-like muzzle flashes and sound effects), which are necessary because her black leather costume is way too tight for her to manage any sort of hand-to-hand combat. On the subject of cool guns: in the opening sequence, the vampires discover that the werewolves have acquired a special type of bullet that uses ultraviolet light to kill the sunlight-allergic vampires with a neat visual effect. (The vampires guess that the bullets were stolen from "the Military," but don't really have an explanation for why the Military would find such a thing useful.) However, we only see this effect once, because these bullets never come into play again. Later, the vampires respond by inventing their own special bullet that contains silver nitrate liquid. This one actually gets used a couple of times, although the corresponding visual effect isn't quite as cool. Although the vampires appear to be cultured and intelligent, with a sophisticated home base and a regimented system of leadership, and the werewolves are shown to be animalistic and cruel, it's the wolves who've got a plan while the vampires loiter in decadence. Apparently, in olden days, a fellow named Corvinus had three sons: one was bitten by a vampire, one was bitten by a werewolf, and one remained "pure" of blood. The wolves have a scientist, Singe (Erwin Leder), who believes that the blood of a descendant of the unbitten Corvinus could be used to give great powers to the monsters. It's not clear why that is, and later events in the film make it even less plausible -- yet another case of the plot being driven by what looks or sounds cool at the expense of remaining coherent. Selene stumbles across this plan (via a leap of logic that would make Adam West's head explode) and, in perhaps the bloodiest Meet Cute of all time, manages to rescue the last remaining Corvinus descendant just as he's about to be abducted by werewolves. The human, Michael Corvin (Scott Speedman), clearly has no idea what's going on, but that doesn't stop Selene from nearly strangling him while demanding to know why he was being followed. No, it doesn't make sense, but it is a good excuse for a neat-looking wire trick. (On the other hand, maybe the fact that every other person in the city named "Corvin" had recently disappeared should have given him a clue.) Selene eventually brings Michael back to the vampires' lair, which alienates her from her compatriots. Desperate for help, she wakes up her mentor, the elder vampire Viktor (Bill Nighy), from his 200-year hibernation -- 100 years ahead of schedule. Apparently, the reason for this nap is that there are three elder vampires, and they take turns ruling the group for 100 years at a time while the other two sleep. Apparently, elder vampires really, really trust each other. Of course, this isn't terribly important, because the main reason for it is to build up a mysterious and powerful character who appears in a blaze of snazzy visual effects. As the film progresses, other scenes add to the atmosphere without adding to the logic. At one point, the leader of the Lycans (Michael Sheen) chases down a car driven by Selene and Michael and jumps on top. He whips out a huge knife blade and proceeds to stab into the car. Selene is driving, and Michael is in the passenger seat, but for some reason (it's not time for them to get stabbed yet?), the Lycan decides to stab down into the center of the car between them. After a couple of futile thrusts, he manages to nick Selene's shoulder, at which point she slams on the brakes, throwing him from the car. She then smashes the car into him, knocking him into the air for yet another cool stunt/ CGI effect. This effect provides a nice climax for the scene, so the Lycan simply decides to stop chasing them. In the end, everything culminates in a massive underground shootout between several groups of vampires and werewolves. It gets pretty confusing, with dozens of semi-recognizable characters running around in the dark, blasting away with various automatic firearms. The main characters fight their way through the chaos for a final showdown which, shockingly enough, is thoroughly stylish but not necessarily satisfying from a character standpoint. The "unrated extended" cut mainly adds a few shots and very brief scenes that were cut for pacing reasons from the theatrical cut. There isn't anything that would push the film beyond its original 'R' rating. Most of the additions aren't noticeable enough to affect the pacing much, but some of them do add a little depth, making this the preferred version of the movie. Still, the atmosphere and action just barely manage to overcome the less-than-perfect storyline (and they won't for everyone). THE WAY I SEE IT: 4/5 The image is dark, desaturated, and grainy in nearly every shot, and the DVD does a very nice job of reproducing it. Blacks are solid, and there is a decent amount of detail, considering the dark, grainy look. Digital artifacts are not an issue. There is a bit of edge enhancement, but it's not too visible. The almost colorless blue-black tone that adds to the graphic-novel feel of the film was created using digital color timing in creative ways. Overall, it's a very cool effect. THE WAY I HEAR IT: 4.5/5 The immersive soundtrack is really top-notch. The surrounds and LFE are extremely active with all sorts of directional and environmental effects and musical ambiance, but the 5.1 mix keeps things under control. Dialogue is never overwhelmed, even when the LFE gets a bit boomy. Not a bad demo disc for your audio system. THE SWAG: 4.5/5 (rating combines quality and quantity) Commentary with Director Len Wiseman and Actors Kate Beckinsale and Scott Speedman This conversational group track veers between interesting production information and giggles over stories involving some of the actors and scenes. It's not bad, but will appeal more to those who enjoy conversational commentaries more than to those who prefer more hardcore and techy tracks. Wiseman points out the various shots that were cut from the theatrical version, mostly for reasons of pacing. Outtakes (3:43) A moderately entertaining gag reel. Fang Vs. Fiction (47:04; 6 chapter stops) A fun program about the history of vampires and werewolves, from ancient legends around the world to the mythology of Underworld. It even features a rather hairy gentleman who, too nerdy even for Live-Action Role-Playing Games, claims to actually be a werewolf! Of course, it wouldn't be a vampire documentary without a few ¨¹ber-Goths who are into actual blood-drinking to round things out. The material, in case you hadn't guessed by now, ranges from the interesting and scholarly to the thoroughly silly. Trailers Four trailers and two TV spots are included. Underworld (2:30) (DD5.1; 1.78:1 anamorphic) Hellboy (2:32) (DD5.1; 1.78:1 anamorphic) Resident Evil: Apocalypse (1:24) (DD5.1; 1.78:1 anamorphic) Spider-Man 2 (2:10) (DD5.1; 2.35:1 anamorphic) Teaser Cutdown (Underworld TV Spot) (0:32) (DD2.0; 1.85:1 non-anamorphic) War (Underworld TV Spot) (0:32) (DD2.0; 1.85:1 non-anamorphic) Disc 2 Featurettes Seven featurettes are included. They can be played separately or via a Play All button. The Making Of Underworld (13:02) A mixture of the interesting and the not-so-interesting as cast and crew talk about the story and about the production. There's some good material here, but it's a bit heavy on the film clips. The Visual Effects Of Underworld (9:56) A pretty good discussion of the CGI work, with plenty of computer renderings and pre-CGI elements. Creature Effects (12:29) The director and crew explain the creature designs. There's some cool footage of the creation and inner workings of the werewolf suits. Stunts (11:42) Introduced by some silly stuff with the director and stunt coordinator, this piece covers the actual stunt work and the training that the actors, who did a lot of their own action, went through. Designing Underworld (10:45) Production Designer Bruton Jones and Director Len Wiseman talk about how they came up with the look of the film. Some conceptual art is compared to finished scenes. The Look Of Underworld (19:11) Various members of the crew, including cinematographer Tony Pierce-Roberts, discuss the intended look of the film and how it was brought to life. They go into a fair amount of detail regarding the digital color correction, which was used to give every frame of the movie a very specific and unnatural look. Sights And Sounds (9:07) A montage of random behind-the-scenes footage, including some gags and bloopers. Storyboard Comparison (6:42) Five scenes from the film are shown alongside the corresponding storyboards. Music Video by Finch: Worms Of The Earth (2:45) Disc 3 Sneak Peek At Underworld Evolution (5:44) Some of the cast and crew talk about the new sequel, with a few clips and some behind-the-scenes footage. Standard stuff. Sneak Peek At The New Underworld Evolution Comic The first few pages of the graphic novel that ties in to the new film. Not too much here -- only about 5 screens' worth. DVD ROM Link A weblink that leads to a scene from the new movie as well as a few more pages of the comic. Underworld Evolution Trailer (2:23) (DD5.1; 1.85:1 anamorphic -- actually a bit wider than that, but not quite 2.0:1) Comic Book A 48-page condensed graphic novel adaptation of the film. It's a neat item, but some folks may need a magnifying glass to read the tiny reduced print. Drawings Of Underworld A 16-page book of design artwork, with film stills for comparison. SUMMING IT ALL UP The Way I Feel About It: 2.5/5 The Way I See It: 4/5 The Way I Hear It: 4.5/5 The Swag: 4.5/5 Underworld looks and sounds fantastic, but be sure to turn your brain off at the door. While the story isn't awful, it won't stand up to any real scrutiny. The action sequences work pretty well, but as with the plot, they're more about looking cool than making sense. Where the film really succeeds is in working all the different aspects of filmmaking to create a wonderful graphic-novel atmosphere. Thankfully, the top-notch A/V quality of the disc really does that atmosphere justice. The icing on the cake is the solid collection of special features. Although they may be more good than great, they provide several hours' worth of added value. Considering the new low price, this is a must-buy for fans of the film. On the other hand, those who aren't sure whether Underworld is for them may do better to rent it.