'Underworld': Cold, blue, dark
September 25, 2003
By Franklin Harris
"Underworld" may be the first movie done in by bad lighting. The film is lit entirely in a cold, metallic blue, and by the time the end credits roll, you'll be feeling cold and blue, too.
Kate Beckinsale stars as Selene, a vampire whose world revolves around the killing of werewolves, or lycans. For centuries, rival vampire and lycan clans have fought each other in a war that has led the lycans to the brink of extinction. And Selene is one of the vampires' best "death dealers." Clad in black latex bondage gear, which is more flattering than functional, she uses a combination of silver-nitrate bullets and post-"Matrix" gun-fu to dispatch packs of vicious werewolves. For her, it's a centuries-old quest to get revenge for her murdered family.
Photo © Copyright Screen Gems|
Kate Beckinsale stars in ''Underworld.''
Of course, the lycans don't sit still for this. They also have a modern approach to killing old enemies. Their bullets are filled with radioactive liquid that has the same effect on vampires that sunlight does.
Selene discovers that the lycans are pursuing a human named Michael Corvin (Scott Speedman) and intervenes to learn what use lycans could have for a mortal male, apart from eating him, and because she thinks Michael is cute.
As it turns out, Michael is the key to ending the war and uniting the vampire and werewolf clans (but of course). In any case, it's love at first sight, but, as always, there is a complication. A lycan bites Michael, meaning that at the next full moon, Michael will become a werewolf, and that puts him on the wrong side of the war as far as Selene's masters are concerned.
Apart from the "Romeo and Juliet" angle, "Underworld" is filled with decadent vampire politics. Elder vamps lord over the younger vamps, and the younger vamps rebel. Do I care? Not really. The vampires are too unsympathetic for me to care which faction wins. But at least they all look gorgeous in their neo-Victorian goth fashions.
The special effects, however, are not gorgeous. While a couple of werewolf transformation scenes are well done, the finished creatures lack substance. And why do the lycans spend so much time crawling along walls? They're werewolves, not werespiders.
I'm sure a Marxist critic could have a grand time deconstructing the class relationship between the vampires (portrayed literally as capitalist bloodsuckers) and the exploited lycans.
But it's easy to over-analyze what is really just an action movie that uses bad lighting to cover up bad effects.