English actress Kate Beckinsale stole a werewolf part from a
harry actress, playing a Vampire in 'Underworld.'
Directed by Len Wiseman
Written by Danny McBride, Kevin Grevioux and Len Wiseman
Produced by Tom Rosenberg, Gary Lucchesi and Richard Wright
Starring Kate Beckinsale, Scott Speedman, Michael
Sheen, Shane Brolly, Bill Nighy, Erwin Leder, Sophia Myles, Robbie
Gee, Wentworth Miller, Kevin Grevioux, Zita Görög, Dennis
Kozeluh, Scott McElroy and Todd Schneider
so thoroughly obeys the expectations of its genre that there was
no real reason to make it. From “Nosferatu” to “Blade
II,” everything has already been done better—with a
more cohesive story.
The film is basically an excuse for a combination of action and
melodrama in which gloomy characters walk around a chiaroscuro-lit
Budapest, Hungary, and talk about…well, nothing, really.
The Vampires, everyone’s favorite immortal bloodsuckers, have
been at war with the Lycans, popularly known as werewolves, for
what seems like eternity—which means something to people who
actually live for eternity. The Lycans haven’t put up much
of a fight in recent centuries due to the death of their leader,
Lucian. The plentiful Vampires have been stalking and assassinating
in unseen corners of society. Now, however, a creepy, mysterious
werewolf (Michael Sheen), has been organizing and planning.
The werewolves catch our heroine, Selene (Kate Beckinsale), off-guard
while she’s hunting them in the subway. They surprise her
and fight back, shooting ultraviolet bullets (“they harness
the power of daylight”), killing her partner.
Such advanced technology makes immortals much easier to kill than
in the olden days. Of course, in other scenes the Lycans kill Vampires
simply by biting them and drinking all their blood, which is a bit
The story’s ultimately empty political angles provide intrigue
early in the film. The Vampires and Lycans have been fighting for
some time (“1,000 years”) and the elder Vampires forbid
any study of the past. This setup has the same effect on the consciousness
as a giant title card reading “A plot twist’s a-coming!”
The setup doesn’t, however, hint at how hackneyed the multiple
twists are. The screenplay attempts to rearrange everything without
moral ambiguity—a quality that would have created an interesting
Once all the twists are sorted out, we get an ending based not on
what the immortal societies would logically do, but on what might
set the stage for a dandy sequel.
As a character, Selene shows a lot of potential. Her mentor and
recruiter, Viktor (Bill Nighy) is one of the three Vampire elders
who operate on a 100-year rotating sleep schedule. Since he started
sleeping, the man he left in charge has been causing Selene trouble.
Kraven (Shane Brolly), who earned fame by killing the Lycan leader,
wants Selene as his bride and doesn’t approve of her warrior
In fact, he’s almost taken the Vampires completely out of
battle mode. The communal mansion’s lobby displays the gluttony
Kraven forbids Selene to research a human named Michael (Scott Speedman),
whom she realizes the Lycans were following in the subway. As Kraven
is no fool, he realizes that this fellow is a potential love interest
While the film includes multiple strong female Vampires, looking
pale in sexy black outfits, lovers of hairy women should be warned
that there are no female werewolves. Why, oh why are there no female
werewolves? One Lycan character says that he was “born into
slavery” to the Vampires. So doesn’t he have a werewolf
mommy? Despite claims from some that strong women in action films
are feminist victories, we won’t have true equality until
fur-bearing women can show off whatever skin is visible on their
For those not interested in hairy women, the story gets lost in
poor pacing. Some scenes go on forever as characters explain bloodlines,
recite rules and regulations and explain things that are obvious.
Other sections of the story don’t get enough treatment, like
the love story that exists only by default. It begins to feel like
the only thing to do is enjoy the film’s look.
Cinematographer Tony Pierce-Roberts creates a successful and coherent
look, with low light and creepy shadows. Of course, it helps that
there’s no sunlight in the entire film. Most scenes are so
stripped of color that it’s odd that the film isn’t
simply in black and white.
With obvious credit to classic German Expression, the filmmakers
are taking from the style of recent gothic films with cult followings,
most notably Alex Proyas’s “The Crow” (1994) and
his masterpiece “Dark City” (1998). Perhaps it’s
too harsh a comparison, but the production design pales to that
of the Proyas films and it’s simply boring.
First-time director Len Wiseman shows promise, but needs to set
up better situations. Some of the action scenes are too routine.
A car-chase scene even throws in a stab-at-people-through-the-roof
sequence. Wiseman might be starting an impressive career, but it’s
only the start.
For now, only devotees of the gothic genre will enjoy the work.