Underworld (2003)

Directed by Len Wiseman

Can make a two hour movie out of a slim-figured woman in tight leather? Yes.

Can you make a good one? No.

To be honest, I think I was pre-disposed to dislike Underworld so when it met my very low expectations it didn’t come as a surprise. But admittedly, I probably wasn’t entirely fair to it since I didn’t expect to like it.

Ultimately, the movie does nothing interesting. It rehashes a tiresome idea – vampires. It throws werewolves into the mix to jazz things up a bit but really the whole thing is an excuse to have people jumping around, have monsters snarl and to use a lot of dark images (just so you know it’s about danger and so on).

The movie takes a James Bond approach to its beginning. It’s an action sequence that goes on and on with little or no dialogue. This is to grab your attention.

And I suppose it does this though it doesn’t seem particularly riveting, suspenseful or anything, really, except noisy.

Unfortunately, the movie doesn’t understand why the James Bond movies can open the way they do and get away with it.

The reason they can is because, after about 30 years worth of James Bond movies, we know the characters. So they don’t have to take time establishing who Bond is, or Moneypenny or M, and the bad guys are always the same. So we know who everyone is.

Kate Beckinsale in Underworld (2003).

But in Underworld, we don’t know who anyone is or why we should care one way or another about them. After the lengthy opening, when things quiet down, though the movie may have had our attention it didn’t engaged us. So now we’re looking for our popcorn, whispering to the person next to us, and generally uninvolved with what is happening on screen.

Eventually, when we start watching again, we find out we’re in a world of vampires and werewolves and they are lifelong enemies who are at war.

And this brings up another problem I have – not just with Underworld, but the whole vampire genre (which can include werewolves etc.).

For heaven’s sake, why are there so damn many of them? If you go by these movies, there are ten vampires to every human. Wasn’t the entire point of the monster genre that they are isolated? Outcasts? Different and therefore shunned and feared by humanity?

For the sake of action sequences, everything scary and suspenseful has been thrown out the window in vampire genre. For the sake of style, everyone has a Paris runway take on the goth look.

These characters are never unique; they are all the same damn dull thing.

While you don’t want Dracula repeated endlessly, you would hope some of the things that made the genre compelling would be kept – if only because there was a reason we found them interesting, which I would say is at least in part their solitary quality, their isolation.

I suppose you could say they are all still lonely since they all seem to be bitchy, angry, and obnoxious – and who would want to hang out with that? (Worse still, they’re boring.)

And of course, they all have huge arsenals of weapons because, you know, the most frightening thing about vampires is they are armed to the teeth.

What a travesty.

Anyway … while true of Underworld, this is true of most of the SPAM factory vampire movie productions – dull, redundant and unimaginative.

But Kate Beckinsale looks good. So at least it’s got that.

© 2003 Piddleville Inc.

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