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Blu-ray Review Underworld Trilogy - The Essential Collection Blu-ray Review

Discussion in 'Blu-ray and UHD' started by Todd Erwin, Dec 30, 2011.

  1. Todd Erwin

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    As a tie-in to promote the upcoming Underworld: Awakening due in theaters on January 20, 2012, Sony has released Underworld Trilogy - The Essential Collection on Blu-ray, a repackaging of the first three films in the franchise, along with a bonus disc of anime-style shorts.
     
     

    Underworld Trilogy - The Essential Collection


    Studio: Sony Pictures Home Entertainment
    US BD Release Date: December 20, 2011

    Underworld
    Original Release Year: 2003
    Rated: Not Rated
    Running Time: 134 minutes
    Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1
    Audio: PCM 5.1 (English, Italian), Dolby Digital 5.1 (English, Italian, French)
    Subtitles: English, English (SDH), French, Italian

    Underworld: Evolution
    Original Release Year: 2006
    Rated: R (for pervasive strong violence and gore, some sexuality/nudity and language)
    Running Time: 106 minutes
    Aspect Ratio: 2.40:1
    Audio: PCM 5.1 (English), Dolby Digital 5.1 (English, French)
    Subtitles: English, English (SDH), French, Chinese, Portuguese, Spanish

    Underworld: Rise of the Lycans
    Original Release Year: 2009
    Rated: R (for bloody violence and some sexuality)
    Running Time: 92 minutes
    Aspect Ratio: 2.40:1
    Audio: Dolby TrueHD 5.1 (English, French), Dolby Digital 5.1 (English, French, Spanish, Portuguese)
    Subtitles: English, English (SDH), French, Spanish, Portuguese

    Movie: 3.5 out of 5 (average)
    Underworld: 3.5 out of 5
    Originally marketed as a Vampire/Werewolf version of Romeo and Juliet, Underworld tells the story of vampire Selene (Kate Beckinsale), a Death Dealer who’s sole purpose is to hunt and kill Lycans (werewolves). She has a particular hatred for Lycans, as they killed her parents and siblings, only to be saved by one of the head vampires, Viktor (Bill Nighy). As the film opens, what are thought to be the remnants of the Lycan clan are on the hunt themselves, after a human, Michael Corvin (Scott Speedman). When Selene brings this to the attention of the leaders of her coven, they dismiss it, claiming that since the leader of the Lycans, Lucian (Michael Sheen), was killed several years ago, werewolves are more of a pest than a real threat. But Selene senses that something is rotten in the coven, and uncovers that Lucian is very much still alive, attempting to breed a hybrid species (part vampire, part werewolf) as revenge, and Michael may be the key after Lucian bites Michael. Selene also discovers that one of the leaders, Kraven (Shane Brolly), is actually in cahoots with Lucian as part of a power play within the coven.

    Underworld is a fun mess of a movie, with thrilling action sequences courtesy of first-time director Len Wiseman (who would later direct Live Free or Die Hard), but the film never lives up to its promise of a Romeo and Juliet style tragic love story, and there is way too much plot for the filmmakers’ to keep track of. Many of the performances are on the bland side, particularly Shane Brolly as Kraven and, unfortunately, Scott Speedman as the supposed love interest and key to the hybrids Michael. Kate Beckinsale is, perhaps, the best thing about this movie, with a very cold performance as Death Dealer Selene.

    Underworld: Evolution: 2.5 out of 5
    Grossing over $90 million at the worldwide box office does not usually guarantee a sequel, but Underworld gained an even larger cult following on DVD and cable. In response, a sequel was released in 2006, Underworld: Evolution, which opens with a flashback to 1202 AD where vampire elders Viktor (Bill Nighy), Markus (Tony Curran), and Amelia (Zita Gorog) lead an army into a small village that has just been plundered by Lycans. Markus’ brother, William (Brian Steele), a werewolf, is captured and imprisoned by Viktor. Cut to modern day, and Markus has been awakened and is now on the hunt for Selene (Kate Beckinsale) and Michael (Scott Speedman), who are in the possession of a pendant that has significant meaning to Markus. Selene and Michael then seek help from exiled vampire historian Andreas Tanis, who in turn directs them towards finding Alexander Corvinus (Derek Jacobi), the first immortal and patriarch to both the Vampire and Lycan clans. Alexander Corvinus reveals to them both the true fate of Selene’s family, as well as the location of William and the reason Markus is after them. This leads to an ultimate battle, pitting Selene and Michael against Markus and the freed William.

    The gore, blood, and violence factors are upped significantly in this sequel, as is the sexual content. The storyline is even more of a mess than the first film, and the action sequences, while well-staged, are also over the top. Len Wiseman returns to the director’s chair, sharing story credits with Danny McBride. Speedman is even more bland than he was in the previous entry, and Shakespearean-trained Derek Jacobi seems so out of place in this film as Alexander Corvinus. All that being said, the film is still beautifully photographed, as was the first entry, and the action set pieces at the very least keep the audience interested.

    Underworld: Rise of the Lycans: 3.5 out of 5
    A prequel to Underworld and Underworld: Evolution, Underworld: Rise of the Lycans tells part of the backstory hinted at in the previous films. A war is underway between vampires and a breed of werewolves unable to return to human form. An imprisoned werewolf gives birth to Lucian (Michael Sheen), the first of its kind able to switch freely between werewolf and human. Viktor (Bill Nighy) reluctantly allows Lucian to live, and uses his blood to create a slave army of Lycans to protect the vampires during the daylight hours. A forbidden love affair develops between Lucian and Viktor’s daughter, Sonja (Rhona Mitra), and we finally get the Romeo and Juliet storyline that the first Underworld failed to deliver on.

    Len Wiseman, after directing Live Free or Die Hard, turns the director’s chair over to Patrick Tatopoulos (production designer on the two prior films). Tatopoulos does a capable job, keeping the action sequences exciting and the pacing brisk. Bill Nighy, who seems to be making a career of late playing villains, is over the top as Viktor, with glimpses of his Davy Jones character from the Pirates of the Caribbean movies appearing from time to time (minus the CGI makeup). The big surprise here is Michael Sheen, best known for playing David Frost in Frost/Nixon, as the anti-hero Lucian. Sheen appears equally comfortable in action sequences as he does in more dramatic scenes.

    Underworld: Rise of the Lycans is a genre filme, first and foremost, well-deserving of its R rating from the MPAA for its violent and often gruesome action sequences and a graphic love scene. Like most prequels, the film does suffer from a lack of peril, as we know the ultimate fate of these characters and how the story will likely end. Ultimately, though, the ride from beginning to end is a fun one, and much more enjoyable than what is passing for horror these days.

    Video: 3.5 out of 5 (average)
    Underworld: 4 out of 5
    Although this is the same exact disc released on Blu-ray back in 2007, this 1080p AVC encode, preserving the film’s original theatrical aspect ratio of 2.35:1 still holds up very well today. Blacks are nice and deep, and whites are crisp, never looking overly hot. The entire film is bathed in a blue tint (as are all of the films in the franchise), but colors remain consistent. Film grain is naturally noticeable and never distracting, compression artifacts are virtually non-existent, and detail is very good.

    Underworld: Evolution : 3.5 out of 5
    The sequel was one of the first films that Sony released on the then brand-new high definition format in the summer of 2006, and this is the same disc with the same 1080p MPEG-2 encode. The transfer suffers from some very minimal instances of banding (especially during the opening logos) and an overall hint of softness, partially due to the fact that Sony crammed everything on to a BD25 disc. The softness is negligible, providing some surprising detail, especially in the fabrics and skin complexions of the actors. Like the first film, blacks remain deep and inky, and while the film is bathed in a cool blue tint, colors remain consistent. Film grain is naturally noticeable and never distracting, and compression artifacts are virtually non-existent.

    Underworld: Rise of the Lycans: 3.5 out of 5
    Filmed in High Definition using Panavision Genesis cameras, the 1080p AVC encode was difficult to review. This is a darkly-lit film, bathed in blues with lots of shadows. Additional grain appears to have been added during the digital intermediate process, giving the film a gritty look. At times, however, the additional grain seems so artificial that the HD cinematography looks too much like processed video and not film. Still, this Blu-ray does do a nice job replicating the theatrical presentation.

    Audio: 3.5 out of 5 (average)
    Underworld: 4 out of 5
    Underworld: Evolution : 4 out of 5
    The PCM 5.1 track is a highly immersive mix, with full dynamic range and lots of surround and LFE activity. Dialogue comes across loud and clear, mostly through the center channel. This track does not disappoint. For backwards compatibility, a 640 kbps Dolby Digital option is provided.

    Underworld: Rise of the Lycans: 2.5 out of 5
    The English Dolby TrueHD soundtrack, although at times immersive with its use of music and discrete sound effects, was disappointing. The dialogue was difficult to hear, mixed at a much lower level than the rest of the audio. I do not recall this being an issue when I first experienced this film during its theatrical run, and the other language tracks do not exhibit this problem. Unfortunately, the 640 kbps English Dolby Digital track also exhibits the lower-level dialogue issue.

    Special Features: 4 out of 5 (average)
    This is essentially just a repackage of the previously released discs of the first three films in the series, with two new extras.

    Underworld: Endless War (17:26): The disc (which can be found in a white paper sleeve jammed in between the blue keepcases of the three Underworld discs) begins with a promo for Sony’s Face Of The Fan series of contests where you can upload an audition video for a chance to appear in an upcoming movie. This promo announces the winner for the upcoming Underworld: Awakening. After the promo, a menu appears, providing access to view the three anime-style shorts, either individually or with a Play All option. The shorts are presented in 1080p in the 1.78:1 aspect ratio, and were compressed using the MPEG-2 codec, and audio is only available in English in a lossy 192 kbps Dolby Digital 2.0 stereo track. The video suffers from some minor banding issues, with desaturated colors (retaining the palette of the feature films). Detail is perhaps too good, showing how virtually lifeless the animation is. Audio is about what you would expect from a lossy Dolby 2.0 track, with clear dialogue and a decent stereo mix. The real problem is that the stories are boring, with insipid dialogue (credited to no one) and a storyline that even die-hard fans of the series could really care less about.

    UltraViolet: Also included inside the package is an insert with a redemption code, allowing you to stream the three Underworld films to virtually any UltraViolet-supported device, including most computers, provided you have both an UltraViolet account and an account with an UltraViolet provider (such as Flixster).

    Underworld: 4 out of 5
    Audio Commentary With Director Len Wiseman, Kate Beckinsale, and Scott Speedman: The three often sound like they are having a good time reminiscing about shooting the film, but with very little insight on how the film was actually made.

    Outtakes (SD, 3:43): The film’s blooper reel is presented in 4:3 standard definition.

    Fang Vs. Fiction (SD, 47:18): A documentary on the lores of vampires and werewolves, narrated by Tattiana Yassukovich.

    The Making of Underworld (SD, 13:00): The cast and crew discuss the making of the film in this vintage EPK short.

    The Visual Effects of Underworld (SD, 9:56): The visual effects supervisors discuss the use of CGI and miniatures on the film.

    Creature Effects (SD, 12:30): Creature Designer Patrick Tatopoulos discusses the various make-up effects used in the film, and Director Len Wiseman discusses his decision to go with more practical creature effects rather than CGI.

    Stunts (SD, 11:43): Stunt Coordinator Brad Marton and Director Len Wiseman, as well as members of the stunt team and cast, discuss many of the stunts performed in the film.

    Designing Underworld (SD, 10:46): The featurette takes a brief look at the production design on the film.

    The Look of Underworld (SD, 19:12): Director Len Wiseman, Producer Richard Wright, and Cinematographer Tony Pierce-Roberts discuss the look of the film and how important it was to make it look as close to a graphic novel as possible.

    Sights and Sounds (SD, 9:07): Essentially a montage of behind the scenes footage during production of the film.

    Music Video by Finch - Worms of the Earth (SD, 2:45): The band Finch performs the song Worms of the Earth intercut with clips from Underworld.

    Storyboard Comparison (SD, 6:42): Five sequences are presented side by side with their respective storyboards.

    Underworld: Evolution : 4 out of 5
    Audio Commentary With Director Len Wiseman, Production Designer Patrick Tatopoulos, Second Unit Director Brad Martin, and Editor Nick De Toth: The team actually discuss the making of the film, which shots were recycled from the previous film to save money, the many changes made to the script before production, as well as problems of directing a love scene with your wife.

    Bloodlines: From Script To Scene (SD, 13:26): The cast and crew discuss making a sequel to Underworld.

    The Hybrid Theory (SD, 13:00): This featurette focuses on the visual effects used in the film, and how much more difficult they were than the previous film.

    Making Monsters Roar (SD, 11:56): The make-up effects and costume teams discuss the many improvements made in the werewolf suits to improve mobility and facial expressions.

    The War Rages On (SD, 9:54): Stunt Coordinator Brad Martin and Director Len Wiseman discuss many of the stunts used in the film.

    Building A Saga (SD, 12:57): This featurette takes a look at the production design in the film and shooting in Vancouver.

    Music And Mayhem (SD, 11:50): This is a fun featurette focusing on the film’s sound design and Marco Beltrami’s score.

    Music Video: Her Portrait In Black by Atreyu (SD, 3:54): The band Atrey performs the song Her Portrait In Black intercut with clips from Underworld: Evolution.

    Underworld: Rise of the Lycans: 4 out of 5
    Playstation 3 Theme and Wallpaper A pleasant surprise, not mentioned on the cover, is an Underworld: Rise of the Lycans theme and wallpaper for the PS3. Accessible as a disc download from the Games menu on the Playstation 3’s XMB screen, the theme consists of 3 lobby cards from the film that randomly rotate whenever the PS3 reloads the XMB (such as ending a movie or game) and a set of icons in white stone with red backlighting.

    CineChat is Sony’s BD-Live online text chat feature, similar to the chat features on Universal’s Hellboy II and The Incredible Hulk. A Sony BD-Live user ID is required, and chats are by user invitation only.

    Filmmakers’ Commentary is a roundtable discussion with producer and co-writer Len Wiseman, director Patrick Tatopoulos, producer Richard Wright, producer Gary Lucchesi, and executive producer and visual effects supervisor James McQuaide. The five discuss how the film was made, what it was like shooting in New Zealand, and even hint at a possible new cut of the original Underworld, replacing footage of the blond Sonja with footage from this film with the intended dark-haired Sonja (and why Sonja was blonde in the first film, due to budget constraints). They also joke amongst themselves about some of the mistakes made in this film.

    Behind the Castle Walls: Picture-In-Picture is similar to Universal’s U-Verse feature, using interviews and behind the scenes footage in a window in the lower right corner of the screen. Unlike U-verse, it is not possible to turn this feature on and off at any point in the film and remain in the film. When you turn off the feature, you are taken back to the main menu. Although the standard pop-up menu is locked out, you can use the scan or chapter skip buttons to find a particular section of the movie with the PiP feature still engaged.

    Lycanthropes Around the World Interactive Map is a rather useless feature, a bit of a letdown considering how heavily it is promoted on the disc’s cover. From the world map, you can choose a continent to explore, and then choose a reported sighting on that continent. The number of sightings is, sadly, sparse, as is the information provided once you click on the sighting. Expect slow load times for this feature, even on the Playstation 3.

    Underworld: Rise of the Lycans: From Script to Screen A 9 minute EPK featurette with the filmmakers discussing how quickly they had to get the screenplay ready for shooting due to the WGA strike and actor commitments, shooting in New Zealand to keep costs down, and how they had to make all of the props and costumes from scratch.

    The Origin of the Feud is a 20 minute featurette documenting the storyline and characters, and how they tie into the other Underworld films.

    Recreating the Dark Ages – The Look of Underworld: Rise of the Lycans is a 13 minute featurette on the film’s production design.

    Music Video: Deathclub (Wes Borland/Renholder Remix) This is your typical movie clip music video, with the musician performing the song interspersed with clips from the movie.

    Overall: 2.5 out of 5
    Fans of the series likely already own the three previously released films on Blu-ray, and since these are the same exact discs, in the same keepcase packaging, the only reason to purchase this set is for the dreadful Underworld: Endless War anime shorts. Since a fourth film is due in theaters in just a few weeks, this can hardly be called an Essential Collection, as we will likely see a boxed set of all four films when Underworld: Awakening arrives on Blu-ray later in 2012.
     
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