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 Underworld
 Critic's Rating
   [C+]
 Date Posted
   12th October, 2003
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Cast: Kate Beckinsale, Scott Speedman, Bill Nighy
Director: Len Wiseman

'Underworld', which starts with a voiceover by vampire Selene (Kate Beckinsale), introduces us to a world where vampires and werewolves, here referred to as Lycans, have been at war for centuries. In this setup alone lies much promise for entertainment. However, the cause of the war, like all superficial wars depicted in movies, ties the themes of love and revenge but remains hazy and of no real concern to the overall objective, that of unsuccessfully trying to achieve style over substance.

At the center of the conflict is intern Michael (Scott Speedman), who is being chased by the Lycan leader Lucian (Michael Sheen) and is supposedly of great importance to them, a fact that piques the interest of Selene and the rest of her vampire clan. To resolve this conflict, vampire leader Viktor is prematurely awakened from his slumber, causing great distress to Kraven (Shane Brolly), who plans of rising to the throne as vampire leader with an unwilling Selene by his side.

The question anyone should ask before determining the viability of a movie such as this is whether it would have existed had other movies such as 'The Matrix' and 'Blade', films that 'Underworld' heavily imitates, not have been made earlier. To be inspired is one thing, but reducing the experience to a mere lackadaisical retread leaves little room for genuine excitement.

Since this was a movie about gothic creatures, I was expecting something much more than loud gunfights and explosion. These people carry more fire power than a small African nation's army typically would. It also seems that most vampires have nothing better to do than sit bored in a massive mansion with drinks in hand. Add to that the unconvincing usage of modern equipment (laptops, ultraviolet bullets) and done to death visuals, with little or no originality in their execution.

Beckinsale, who does her best Trinity impression emptying cartridges and hiding behind crumpling pillars, is a snore to watch as Selene. There is nothing wickedly vampire like about her. She is reduced to mere eye candy for the screen. Contrast this with the icy, vicious portrayal of a cursed poignant vampire that was played by Kristen Dunst in 'Interview with a vampire' and you get a feel of what's missing from this performance.

Michael Sheen as Lucian is the only convincing performer. His helps to add a little depth to the cause of the clash. However the vampire effects never get more detailed than snarling teeth, while the Lycans look like obvious CGI at best. The conclusion, which widely leaves the door open for a possible sequel (and as per recent news reports circulating on the Internet, probably a trilogy as well), patches together some hocus about creating new hybrid species. When and if it is made, one can only hope that the powers that be will bother to give this continuing war a more traditional approach. - Faizan Rashid

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