Having originally seen Underworld on HBO one summer night, I recall myself finding the film fairly dull and vapid. When I heard of a director’s cut coming out, I thought back to my original viewing of the film Daredevil, which was made that much better via more explanation of plot and the characters. Maybe this could occur for this film. Unfortunately, Underworld is not that much better this time around.
Underworld stars Kate Beckinsale as Death Dealer Selene. We learn, at the be…inning of the film, that there is a ancient blood feud that is occurring between vampies and Lycans (creatures we call werewolves). Unlike the typical werewolves we are use to seeing on screen, these Lycans can change form at will. Cue in the Death Dealers who try to kill off all of these Lycans. Why so much animosity toward the Lycans you may ask? Well, according to Selene, the Lycans are planning something big and this may be in correspondence to the ‘Awakening’. A vampire named Kraven (Shane Brolly) is in charge until the ‘Awakening’. Naturally Kraven doesn’t get along with Selene.
Selene believes that the Lycans will try to capture a human named Michael Corvin (Scott Speedman). Kraven, of course, does not believe what she is saying, which prompts Selene to find Michael and take him. Michael escapes and we soon learn why exactly the Lycans want to get a hold of Michael. Apparently the long-dead Lycan leader Lucian (Michael Sheen) will soon rise. What occurs next is what we all expect right, which is tons of exciting werewolf vs. vampire action right? Sadly the answer is no.
The reason why Underworld fails is mainly because the plot of the film makes us think a really cool big battle is going to occur soon. But the film would rather spend more time dealing with the politics of the story than delivering the big action we see in the trailer. Don’t get me wrong though. The film started off in a very interesting manner, but quickly depreciated into a great ball of nothingness. The story also spends so much time dealing with the finding of Corvin plot that we never get to learn exact history behind the werewolf/Lycan history. A little hint of their history is thrown at us here and there, but never enough for us to connect all the dots and see the big picture.
The Unrated Extended Cut of Underworld gives us, according to the official website, ’12 minutes of overall footage and 11 minutes of different angles and takes.’ The overall 12 minutes doesn’t really add up to much. I sat down and watched the film wanting to really like the film. I tried to put aside the faults I had with the original cut, but I ended up finding even more faults with the film than I wanted to. If the film had just spent more time developing the history between the werewolves and the Lycans, the film could pass off as a good way to spend a few hours.
Underworld is presented in a 2:35:1 anamorphic widescreen aspect ratio that is top of the line. Deep hues, dark colors and a clean, sharp print give us the visual pleasure that the actual film should have given us. If the film had not taken place at dark, this would be a reference disc for all you visual junkies. Yes, the image is that good!
We are given a Dolby Digital 5.1 English audio track. The audio track is just as good as the picture. The track is extremely aggressive, almost too aggressive at some points. Deep bass is constantly pumped via the subwoofer. This resulted in everything, from bullets to a sitting car engine, coming off with a huge boom. Bullets and debris constantly flies around the sky at such a rate that your speakers seem like they are working too hard. The response is so loud that the thunder in the film may cause such a boom in your living room that your neighbors may start to call you to turn it down. Not as good as the video transfer, but still nearly flawless.
Since this is the second release of Underworld, everything from the first release, minus two audio commentaries, are given to us on this release. I’m going to break it up by what is on each disc.
- Disc One:
- Audio Commentary with Director Len Wiseman, Kate Beckinsale, and Scott Speedman: While this commentary can be fun at times since both Wiseman and Beckinsale build up an interesting conversation, probably since they are married. Since Speedman leaves half-way through the commentary, we get to hear a little bit more about what was changed between the theatrical edition and the unrated edition. Worth a listen if you really like the film
- Outtakes: Here we are given a few outtakes from the film. Your typical laughing and goofiness results from these outtakes. We are also given the theatrical trailer to the film and a few tv spots.
- Fang vs. Fiction: This feature is mostly about the history of werewolves and vampires. While the feature is a bit long at 47 minutes, I did find a majority of it to be interesting as it showed a lot of various movie clips and what actors and actresses from the film thought about these creatures as a whole.
- The Making of Underworld: This features combines various movie clips and a few shots from the set. We hear from various cast members about the overall experience of making the film. A majority of the back story is covered here with a few hints at what is to come next.
- The Visual Effects of Underworld: This feature gives a lot of comments from producer/visual effects supervisor James McQuide, viuaal effects supervisor Payam Shohadai, and editor Martin Hunter. We mostly hear about the general duties of their jobs and the use of 3-D elements for various scenes including the Lycan transformation. While the first feature on Disc One was too long at points, this feature was too short and could have been a bit longer to dwell more into the effects.
- Creature Effects: Just like the other features, we get a lot of behind the scenes footage with various interviews. We get to hear about the design and creation of the Lycan costumes and some of the elements that went into creating the cosumters. A pretty informative program here.
- Stunts: Here we get to hear from Wiseman, Beckinsale and a few others on the films’ stunts. The topics discussed include the use of wire-work, and how the actors trained for the scenes despite a lot of the stunts being performed by professionals.
- Designing Underworld: In this feature, we get to hear from the production designer and conceptual artist Bruton Jones and the director Wiseman. We learn about the creation of the overall atmosphere used for the film. Most specifically, we learn about the sets and the various costume designs and props.
- The Look of Underworld: Director Wiseman and a few others speak about the drawings of the film. We learn how Wiseman chose his cinematographer, the various color schemes and the use of digital color correction in some scenes. We also hear about the decision to film in certain locales versus other locales (mostly Europe). This is another pretty solid feature.
- Sights and Sounds: This final featurette presents a sort of montage of the material used from the set of the film. We see video footage of random behind the scene shots. A pretty nice wrap up to these featurettes.
- Music Video: Here we are given a music video by the band Finch for the track “Worms of the Earth”. A majority of the video is the band performing with a lot of movie clips shining in and out.
- Storyboard Comparisons: We get a split-screen examination of the film’s opening sequence and four other scenes. Nothing too fascinating here.
So is this Extended Cut worth the price of admission? While I found the film to be rather dull, the DVD does boast incredible picture and almost as incredible audio with a lot of interesting features. For fans of the film, if you really love the film, this is definitely the edition to own since all of the features will give you that much more information on the film you like. For those of you who were not too impressed with the film, I would recommend renting this one just to see some of the features.
Special Features List
- Audio Commentary with Director Len Wiseman, Kate Beckinsale, and Scott Speedman
- Outtakes, TV Spots and Trailers
- Fang vs. Fiction
- The Making of Underworld
- The Visual Effects of Underworld
- Creature Effects
- Designing Underworld
- The Look of Underworld
- Sights and Sounds
- Music Video
- Storyboard Comparison