163 – Underworld

It’s the oldest war of them all. No, not Democrats versus Republicans, or politicans versus the truth. It’s vampires versus werewolves (or Lycans, if you prefer), Evil versus evil. Or good evil versus bad evil.

Selene (Kate Beckinsale) is a beautiful vampire warrior who comes across a human named Michael (Scott Speedman), who’s been marked by the werewolves. Why Michael? Are the Lycans planning to use him in their endless battle with the vampires? Will Michael fall for the lovely, the talented Selene? Will Selene get to kick some werewolf butt? Yes, like sand through the hourglass of time in a bottle, these are the burning questions that are thankfully answered within the
first twenty minutes or so.

The film is very similar to The Crow in style (and in a nod to the earlier film, Speedman’s character is named Michael Corvin; the lead character in The Crow: City of Angels was named Ashe Corven); it’s dark, noirish dark, foreboding dark, bad-guy dark, you name it. See, there’s dark, and then there’s dark dark. This is the latter. Now, the original Crow movie was wildly stylish, and Underworld carries that torch a little bit further. Not only does style triumph over substance, it body slams it to death and then dances on its grave. In other words, don’t look too closely at the plot, which doesn’t always hold up to close scrutiny. But that’s not likely, since the film’s so dark (did I mention that).

As with most comic-book-atmosphere tales, this one is full of Pretty People. Even vampires and werewolves gotta look good, you know, what with the extra grooming and tooth filing and all. At any rate, there’s nary an Ugly Person in sight. Even the despicable ones are Pretty People.

As Selene, Kate Beckinsale is very good, appropriately slinky and pliant. Beckinsale’s not known for taking on tough roles such as this – you usually see her in upper-crust films such as Emma and Cold Comfort Farm. But she acquits herself very well, so much so that there’s a sequel planned for 2005.

Her primary foil is Shane Brolly as Kraven, the leader of the vampires. Brolly snarls a lot, showing off what have to be more than the usual 32 teeth in the process. Brolly didn’t have much in the way of facial expressions here, just you’re basic “I’m mad!” and “I’m madder!” looks.

Underworld is agreeably well done, with a believable romance between Speedman and Beckinsale shunted to the background. This is about werewolves versus vampires, with men in the background, clueless as always, so the romance played out well on a subtle level.

Underworld: **1/2

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