Underworld (2003)

underworld poster 2003 movie
6.5 Overall Score
Story: 6/10
Visuals: 7/10
Acting: 7/10

Some nice visuals, Kate Beckinsale

Overly complex story, bad editing, bad looking werewolves

Movie Info

Movie Name:  Underworld

Studio: Lakeshore Entertainment/Screen Gems/Subterranean Productions UK Ltd.

Genre(s): Sci-Fi/Fantasy/Action/Adventure/Horror

Release Date(s): September 8, 2003 (Toronto International Film Festival)/September 19, 2003 (US)

MPAA Rating: R

underworld selene kate beckinsale

Selene patrols the city…werewolves beware!

The war between the vampires and the lycans is escalating.  When a vampire Death Dealer named Selene (Kate Beckinsale) notices that the lycans seem to be targeting a human named Michael Corvin (Scott Speedman), she suspects that her master Kraven (Shane Brolly) is working with the believed to be dead lycon leader Lucian (Michael Sheen).  Awakening Viktor (Bill Nighy) before his time, Selene starts a chain of events that could destroy both races and expose the source of the war once and for all.

Directed by Len Wiseman, Underworld is an action-adventure horror film.    The film was the subject of controversy in that both Vampire:  The Masquerade and Werewolf:  The Apocalypse thought that the film stole from their ideas and White Wolfe, Inc. and Nancy A. Collins settled out of court in the case.  The movie was generally panned by critics but still was a big moneymaker.

underworld guns selene kate beckinsale

The best part of a werewolf/vampire movie is…the gunfights?

Underworld is a sad case of a movie.  There is a lot in the movie I want to like.   The movie has so much to work with in blending the genres of action-adventure and gothic horror to tell an original werewolf/vampire story.  I like the set-up and the different styles, but the meeting of these elements ends up being a mess.

The story of Underworld is very convoluted.  I give the writer Danny McBride (no, not that Danny McBride…but the stuntman) credit for trying to create something that wasn’t simply “vampire versus werewolves”, but the attempt to make you feel like you have been thrust into an age old war just leads to more confusion than anything.  I feel that it was attempting to be something like the first Star Wars where you feel there is more backstory than you know…but the reveal of the backstory is clunky and a movie that should be an hour and a half is stretched too long.

The acting in the film does work in many aspects.  Kate Beckinsale’s cool and icy demeanor in the film matches her leather outfit and her cold eyes.  Along with the other actors however, the movie is way over-the-top, and though it works for her, everyone else takes it too far.  It surpasses being stylized and ends up being rather cheesy…combined with the pompous speeches of the script, it isn’t a good thing.

Hey, man…I’m like an emo werewolf ok?

Visually is where Underworld really sinks.  If you took stills from this movie it would be stunning…like a Tim Burton style Batman look.  However, the editing is confusing and the movie switches unnecessarily to slo-mo all the time…a la Peter Jackson…but at least Peter Jackson has better control over the images and story.  The movie’s backstory is told through these hard to watch flashback memories absorbed by the characters and this just adds to the confusion.  Plus, those CGI werewolves are not very good.

I wanted to like Underworld when I went to see it, but I instead found the movie dull.  With the easy “give-me” nature of the movie, it was able to find a real audience and start a franchise.  Underworld was followed by Underworld:  Evolution (2006) which continues the story, but a third film Underworld:  Rise of the Lycans (2009) is a prequel to this film.

Related Links:

Underworld:  Evolution (2006)

Underworld:  Rise of the Lycans (2009)

Underworld:  Awakening (2012)

Underworld:  Blood Wars (2016)

Author: JPRoscoe View all posts by
Follow me on Twitter/Instagram/Letterboxd @JPRoscoe76! Loves all things pop-culture especially if it has a bit of a counter-culture twist. Plays video games (basically from the start when a neighbor brought home an Atari 2600), comic loving (for almost 30 years), and a true critic of movies. Enjoys the art house but also isn't afraid to let in one or two popular movies at the same time.

Leave A Response