Halloween 2017 Movie Special, Day 3: “Underworld 1-5”

After being scared senseless in Insidious 1-3 and The Conjuring 1+2, it’s time to get some mindless vampire/werewolf action with the five Underworld movies.

Underworld
(USA/UK/Germany/Hungary 2003, director: Len Wiseman)

Caught between the war of werewolves and vampires, death dealer and vampire herself Selene meets human Michael whose blood could be a turning point for the lycans.

Trying to tell a serious modern vampire story with lots of shooting and gruesome fights with werewolves already sounds like a bad idea, but most of the time it works quite well, even if a bit less talk would have made this first installment less tedious. Granted, the dark atmosphere with rainy streets is oppressive, but as almost every character seems to wear the same Matrix clothes, it’s difficult to take it seriously in the more dramatic scenes.

Kate Beckinsale does a great job of playing the cool heroine and the fight scenes are well-done, but it’s noticeable that there is too much story to have a steady pace of suspense. Her character’s relationship with the new hybrid of werewolf and vampire seems to be handled with more subtlety, but it’s obvious where it ends, and the chemistry between them (not to mention her partner’s lack of acting abilities) isn’t quite right. Despite all the narrative and character flaws, its long run time of over 2 hours, this is still a fun and bloody take on the genre that might lack originality, but makes up for it in some great creature morphing sequences, gory shoot-outs and fights.

Score: 7/10

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Underworld: Evolution
(USA/Canada/Hungary 2006, director: Len Wiseman)

Selene and Michael try to find the origins of their bloodline, while they’re hunted by the elder vampire Marcus who wants to free his werewolf brother William from imprisonment.

After having established the main characters and background stories about the vampire and lycan mythology in the first movie, the second one finally goes all out on action with a surprising amount of gore, especially at the end. Unfortunately, it also suffers from some over-exposition and downright silly revelations. Runtime is a bit shorter, which is a good thing, as the movie really shines when the action kicks in, and it’s much more memorable this time around.

The new antagonist is reminiscent of classic over-the-top videogame bosses, so its bad CGI doesn’t make it much of a character to take seriously, although using wings as spiky weapons is quite violent at times. The love between the main characters isn’t as cheesy as expected, but it’s also not very convincing, either. So this is just a slight improvement of the modern vampire/werewolf fighting template, although it has to be said it’s much more entertaining.

Score: 8/10

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Underworld: Rise of the Lycans
(USA/New Zealand 2009, director: Patrick Tatopoulos)

In the Dark Ages, werewolf Lucian falls in love with the vampire king Viktor’s daughter Sonja and soon unleashes a rebellion and war between the oppressed and oppressors.

Origin stories usually suffer the fate of predictability and sometimes inconsistency. With a series like Underworld that relies on modern technology and fashion, choosing the sword-and-axes scenario is a brave attempt, and fortunately it works out quite well. Even if one knows how everything turns out in the end, there’s enough story and character material to make it stand on its own. The theme of slavery and revenge might not be the most original in movie history and the love story around which everything revolves isn’t always convincing, but for its short run-time of just 90 minutes, it never gets boring.

Rhona Mitra does a good Kate Beckinsale imitation (without the guns) as the tough lady, and her love interest played by Michael Sheen who obviously reprises his role from the first movie is convincing in his transformation from rising up against his oppressors. It’s all a bit Spartacus and Ben Hur (without the supernatural elements) and there are many violent torture and killing scenes, but this is only in accordance with the series, so that this movie might not be what fans expected next and can actually be skipped if one wants to, but it’s no bad effort at all.

Score: 7/10

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Underworld Awakening
(USA/Canada 2012, directors: Måns Mårlind/Björn Stein)

As humanity learns about the existence of vampires and werewolves, they start a cleansing during which Selene and Michael are separated, but waking up years later, the death dealer soon realizes that the war isn’t over yet, with everything revolving around her daughter’s powerful hybrid abilities being sought after by the lycans.

If the first two movies relied on too much exposition, this one is lacking in the explanation department. It feels rushed, as if a lot has happened, some plot elements neglected, and as if this is almost like a restart. If this sounds bad, it depends on how much time one wants to spend caring about character and story development or if one would rather enjoy blasting action with all sorts of monster fighting. Introducing a young girl who turns into a vicious Exorcist-like creature adds to the horror aspect that was often lost in the melodrama of the older movies. So maybe it’s not such a bad thing that the dialogues make way for more blood, gore, and action.

With a short run-time of 90 minutes, one won’t feel bored, although there is always the nagging feeling that too much is happening that doesn’t make a lot of sense. So if mindless action with vampires and werewolves with a bit of possessed girl horror is your thing, then it can’t get any better than this.

Score: 7/10

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Underworld: Blood Wars
(USA 2016, director: Anna Foerster)

Selene is given amnesty by the vampire clan again, only to find out that it’s not her fighting powers to train young vampires they want, but her blood and daughter.

Returning to more story development is to be commended, but if it’s as nonsensical and simply boring as here, then maybe more action would have made it more enjoyable. As it is, there is simply too much talk and a ridiculous storyline that introduces white-haired vampires living in an abbey-like environment. With a title that has “war” in it, there’s actually not much happening. Suspense can’t be found anywhere, so it’s only the action sequences that save the movie somewhat.

The shooting and slashing formula has never been a very original concept, and while there are some well-choreographed fighting sequences, they’re too few and not even memorable. The Underworld series has always tried to be epic at some points, but with the use of modern weapons and Matrix-styled action held together by CGI blood and gore, it was always more about entertainment, something Underworld Awakening almost understood with its emphasis on more action and horror. Unfortunately Underworld: Blood Wars goes in the wrong direction with too much story and characters one starts to feel tired of.

Score: 5/10

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About nufafitc

Being an avid gamer, cinemaniac, and bookworm in addition to other things the internet and new media present, I'm also very much into DIY music, rock and pop in particular. Writing short or longer pieces about anything that interests me has always made me happy. As both an editor for German website "Adventure-Treff" and UK website "Future Sack", I like to write reviews and news about recent developments in the movies, games and book industry.
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2 Responses to Halloween 2017 Movie Special, Day 3: “Underworld 1-5”

  1. Pingback: Halloween 2017 Movie Special, Day 4: “From Dusk Till Dawn 1-3” | Emotional Multimedia Ride

  2. Pingback: Overview of (blog) life in October 2017 | Emotional Multimedia Ride

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