Take Baz Luhrmann’s “Romeo Juliet”, remove the pesky sunshine, add werewolves and vampires, take out the romantic chemistry in the love story, and ladies and gents that’s Underworld.
Kate Beckinsale stars as Selene, in a film about the events that surround a centuries-old war between vampires and lycans (werewolves). As the film begins, Selene explains the vampires’ current dominance over the lycans solely because of the death of the lycan leader, Lucien.
After Selene’s initial voice over, Underworld quickly escalates into a virtual shoot ’em up of vampires versus lycans.
Anyone familiar with vampires and werewolves realizes that guns can’t kill either, so Underworld undertakes the task of expanding the existing mythos surrounding the two species of monsters. The vampires are given bullets filled with silver nitrate and the lycans have bullets filled with radiation akin to that emitted by the sun.
With the ability to kill with guns intact, the writers apparently deem it unnecessary to focus on the one thing that separates vampires and werewolves from humans, super powers. Ultimately, this neglect leaves the viewer watching a really intricate gang war between some furry guys and people that have a habit of landing on their feet.
The storyline is no slouch either. The story focuses on Selene attempting to figure out why the lycans are interested in a human, Michael Corvin, played a bit dryly by Scott Speedman.
Selene’s own past as a vampire and Michael’s importance to the war bring a level of intensity and complexity to the movie. However, by adding in a tepid love story and the extensive history of the vampire/lycan war and several smaller character specific storylines, Underworld becomes bogged down quickly with its own lofty storytelling goals.
In the end, the story is shamelessly set up for a sequel. The bottom line is that werewolves and vampires are meant to provide cheap scares and gory deaths to humans in one form or another. Once you leave that ideology too far behind, you’re not creating art but an imitation of a well-established genre of films.
On the bright side, the gunplay and gratuitous violence is even better than that of The Matrix: Reloaded.
Jason E. HutchinsJe_hutchins@hotmail.com