A Full-Grown Man Bit You?
I recently found myself on a trip from work, and mostly superbly bored. Thankfully, there was a movie theater within walking distance of the hotel I was staying at. I was saved! During the course of this week, I managed to fit in two movies. Today’s movie is not one of them. Now, before you go crazy about that long introduction to nothing, it does relate to today’s movie. The movie I saw in the theater was the fourth part of this series. But, before I reviewed the newest one, I felt like I needed to review the previous three. Today, we get started with the movie Underworld, written by Danny McBride (not THAT Danny McBride) and Kevin Grevioux, directed by Len Wiseman, and starring Kate Beckinsale, Scott Speedman, Bill Nighy, Michael Sheen, Shane Brolly, Erwin Leder, Sophia Myles, Kevin Grevioux, Zita Gorog, and Wentworth Miller.
As we all know, vampires and werewolves do not get along. We join this fray as two of the vampire’s elite soldiers, the Death Dealers, are tracking a group of werewolves, here called Lycans, who are themselves tracking a guy named Michael Corvin (Scott Speedman). This situation devolves into a fight between the Death Dealers and the Lycans, and only the Death Dealer Selene (Kate Beckinsale), the Lycan Raze (Kevin Grevioux), and Corvin walk away in tact. Selene determines that the Lycans were hunting Corvin, but doesn’t know why. I’ll tell you, Selene! It’s because their leader, Lucian (Michael Sheen), is trying to create a hybrid of the vampires and the Lycans, and Michael Corvin is the last remaining descendant of the original immortal, Alexander Corvinus, and the only one likely to survive taking on the vampire and Lycan diseases simultaneously. Selene is also not having fun times at home because Kraven (Shane Brolly), the guy currently running the household, is trying to tap that and she’s having none of it. She wants to wake up her father-figure, Viktor (Bill Nighy), to help her fix a few issues, like the Michael situation and the fact that only Kraven asked her to the prom, and he’s so totally lame.
I remembered this movie being better than it turned out to be. After having just recently watched the fourth movie, I expected this movie to be heavy on the action and light on the story, but this movie felt a little like the opposite. The story is pretty good and interesting, but it definitely could’ve used more action, in my opinion. The story is vaguely a mystery, but it’s never really kept all that mysterious to the audience. We pretty much know what’s going down. The characters in the movie remain oblivious to it much longer. After that, it’s not a whole lot more than your average vampire/werewolf movie. But, in a world where vampires go into the sunlight and become gay sparklefarts, this movie gets a little more love from me. There were a couple of good lines in the movie as well, like when Michael was asking Selene what they do with the bullets after they interrogate the Lycans and she said “We put the bullets back in.” They also did a good job hiding the big betrayal at the end of the movie. But, on this watching, I found myself a little let down by the amount of action. It was mostly cool and stylized when it happened, but it was pretty spread out here. They probably assumed their story was a lot more compelling than I actually found it, but they should’ve given us a little more, and probably a little better action. First of all, these bitches in this movie couldn’t hit the broad side of a barn from three feet away. 98% of the bullets fired in this movie hit everything around their mark, but never the mark itself. The only time I can presently remember anyone hitting what they aimed for was when Selene decided the best method for retreating was to point her guns at the ground and spin in a circle, effectively cutting a hole in the ground for her to fall through and then run off. And speaking of falling: the director apparently loves to watch Beckinsale drop from high places. We watch her jump from high locations and drop lightly to the ground about 10 times in this movie. It’s not particularly interesting visually, so I’m not sure why I was watching it so much. It seemed like the director was thinking that we may have forgotten that she was a vampire, so they better do something that other people couldn’t, like drop from 6 stories up and walk it off. But I was with you, Wiseman, you don’t have to keep showing gravity’s money shots all the time. The werewolves in the movie could’ve looked better, most of them being fairly reminiscent of Tokka from the second Ninja Turtles movie. Sometimes they were entirely CG, but not all that convincing. Other times they were kind of animatronic but they didn’t move very fluidly. The vampires had a much easier day in the makeup chair, just having to be pasty white and wear a pair of contacts. It also occurred to me during this movie that wearing vampire teeth apparently gives most people what I called “kissy face”, but I don’t feel like defining what I mean by that. YOU FIGURE IT OUT! Their transformation is also nowhere near as impressive. The transformations of the Lycans, from humans to werewolves, was actually pretty well done. Their bones shift in a way that makes your skin crawl, and they pop out hair as if they were Ron Jeremy or something. The vampires? Their teeth get a little longer and they hiss at people a lot. I did like the whole process involved with waking Viktor up, involving an elaborate mechanism to bring his coffin out of storage, then the blood has to be focused or else his performance when he wakes up will be really quirky, and then you attach some blood bags to his back for a couple of hours.
The performances in this movie were surprisingly solid. Kate Beckinsale’s main goal in this movie seemed to be to wear skin tight leather and be ridiculously hot, and she knocks that part right the hell out of the park. She also acted the part really well. But at one point Kraven slaps her and, though she does that typical thing where she just looks right back at him defiantly, it made me wonder why the fuck this bad ass Death Dealer would let some asshole she hates already slap her in the face. There was one weird scene where she, I guess, just took a shower and wrote the name “Viktor” in the fog on the mirror, then wiped it off. I have no idea why this happened at all. Thanks for wasting a minute of my life, movie! Scott Speedman didn’t really do anything for me in this movie. I was neither for nor against him. I was hoping there would be a little more awesomeness out of him when he turned hybrid, but he was actually fairly ineffectual. When he finally turns into a hybrid, his first big movie is to shove Bill Nighy like they were fifth graders on a schoolyard. Granted, that shove put him through a wall and down a story or two, but it was a shove nonetheless. Speaking of Bill Nighy, his quirky performance really works for the character here. He was supposed to have fragmented memories, so his little weird mannerisms worked really well for it. He was pretty bad in the fight scenes though. He’s an old man, so I can’t blame him, but they maybe should’ve gone stunt double a little more than they did. The first time I had seen this movie, I had no idea who Michael Sheen was, so I didn’t think much of him. But having added Tron: Evolution and 30 Rock to my memories, I paid a lot more attention. And he was really good. He’s actually a funny, charming guy from what I’ve seen in interviews, but he can be a badass if he wants. Shane Brolly is a very unlikeable character, but that’s what he’s going for. It did bother me that he had this hot chick hounding after his nuts for probably centuries, but didn’t really catch on until the events of this movie. That begs the question: How many Kravens does it take to screw in a hot blonde? 14, of course.
I remembered Underworld being much more awesome than it turned out being, but it was still enjoyable. The story was good, but nothing really special. The action was okay when it happened, but it should have happened much more. And the look was pretty good, but they probably didn’t have very much money for special effects at this point. We’ll see if that improves for the next movie. But, for now, I still think Underworld is worth a watch. I own it on DVD, and I don’t feel very bad about that. So check it out if you haven’t already. Who knows? Maybe I’ll be saying that the fourth Underworld is awesome, but you really need to catch up on the story to understand it. Either way, Underworld gets “I want to stay with you…” out of “Your incompetence is becoming most … taxing.”