Legends of vampires and werewolves are almost as old as time itself. Long before Bela Lugosi and Lon Chaney defined these creatures for Hollywood, the myths persisted. Cave drawings in South America depict stories of changelings and blood suckers that were told 5,000 years ago. Underworld offers a refreshing spin on both tales. What if the clans of Vampires and Werewolves were at war for over a thousand years? The dark, seedy “Underworld” is visually compelling. Let’s not even talk about Kate Beckinsale. The wonderfully photographed blend of Gothic and modern settings owes much to the European locations. Imagine hi-tech cars speeding along on ancient brick streets. The pacing is often strange, lending an emotional uneasiness at times which plays handsomely into the required atmosphere.
The impressive 5.1 track does everything a good surround mix is supposed to do. It never settles on just being subtle or aggressive, but changes to meet the needs of the film. Ambients are almost more felt than heard as rain falls around you or glass shatters far off in the distance. During the Matrix-like shootouts, the mix comes alive with powerful sub and explosive clarity. Dialogue never seems to get lost in this circus of sounds.
There is a commentary track featuring director Wiseman. It is highly conversational in tone and offers only the most technical of new insights.
Underworld is filmed in its theatrical aspect ratio of 2.35:1. The print is extremely clean. I found no evidence of artifact or specks. The overall feel is that of a digital film. Grain, even in this predominately dark film, is kept to a minimum. The wonderful blue filters used to create this supernatural world are reproduced with great care and skill. The cinematography can be quite artful, and a bad print would be disastrous to the necessary atmosphere created for the film. Darks are absolutely beautiful. There is little contrast throughout the film giving it at times an almost monochrome feel. This effect could easily become monotonous if not handled as well as it was here.
Unfortunately the disc offers only a handful of short features. I was really looking for deleted scenes here.
“Making of Underworld” is a series of interview clips and behind the scenes images that cover all aspects of the film. “Creature Effects” is by far the best feature. The film uses CGI, makeup and animatronics to make the “Werewolf In London” style werewolves.
Another feature deals with the incredible stunts and wirework. A music video and the typical trailers and spots combine with a collection of storyboards to fill out this average features section.
Kate Beckinsale was a relative unknown going into the film. Now she’s married to director Wiseman and has an impressive slate of films upcoming including Van Helsing with another wolf of sorts, Hugh Jackman. A sequel to Underworld is already planned.
If you haven’t seen this film, it deserves at least a rent. You will find it to be a unique blend of action, horror, and even James Bond. I missed the film during its theatrical run and so had to watch it for the first time on video. I’m glad I finally saw it “And now I am forced to do so again”.