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  Underworld (2003)  
  Rating: (7.3/10) (19 votes)
 
   
General:
Directors: Len Wiseman
   
Writers: Kevin Grevioux
Len Wiseman
   
OMDB: 0422995
Genre: Action, Fantasy, Horror, Thriller, Adventure, Romance
Country: USA, Germany, Hungary, UK
Language: English
Duration: 121 min
   
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Underworld
Directed by Len Wiseman
Produced by Robert Bernacchi
Gary Lucchesi
Tom Rosenberg
Written by Story
Kevin Grevioux
Len Wiseman
Danny McBride
Screenplay
Danny McBride
Starring Kate Beckinsale
Scott Speedman
Michael Sheen
Shane Brolly
and Bill Nighy
Music by Paul Haslinger
Distributed by Screen Gems (Sony)
Release date(s) September 19, 2003
Running time 121 min. (original theatrical cut)
133 min. (extended cut)
Country  Hungary
 United States
Language English
Budget $22,000,000
Gross revenue $95,708,457
Followed by Underworld: Evolution

Underworld is a 2003 action-horror film about the secret history of Vampires and a type of werewolf known as Lycans (an abbreviated form of lycanthrope). It is the first film in the Underworld series. The main plot revolves around Selene (Kate Beckinsale), a vampire who is a Death Dealer hunting Lycans. She finds herself attracted to a human, Michael Corvin (Scott Speedman) who is being targeted by the Lycans. After Michael is bitten by a Lycan, Selene must decide whether to do her duty and kill him or go against her clan and save him.

While reviewers generally received the film negatively, criticizing the lack of character development and overacting, a smaller number of reviewers praised elements such as the film's stylish Gothic visuals, the "icy English composure" in Kate Beckinsale's performance, and the extensively worked-out vampire-werewolf mythology that serves as the film's backstory.

[edit] Plot

Perched on the ledge of a building in a rainy night, two black-garbed vampires known as Death Dealers track a pair of werewolves who are walking on the street below in their human form. The vampires, Selene and Rigel, specialize in assassinating an ancient species of werewolves known as Lycans. Selene's motivation goes beyond duty; she also wants revenge, for she believes that Lycans slaughtered her family when she was a child. The vampires believe that they defeated the werewolves many centuries ago and killed their leader, Lucian, and that they must now kill off the survivors. As the vampires follow the Lycans into a subway station, the werewolves open fire with submachine guns. After the Lycans retreat from Selene's barrage of machine pistol fire, she tracks them to their lair, where she hears loud howling and finds out that the Lycans have developed a new high-tech bullet to kill the vampires.

When Selene arrives at the vampire coven's ornate, gated mansion, she recounts the evening's events, and urges an attack on the Lycans, but the vampire regent Kraven tells her to drop the matter. After some research, Selene realizes that the Lycans may have been following a human, Michael Corvin, which would be very unusual behavior and secretly continues her investigation. Meanwhile, in an underground Lycan lair, a scientist named Singe is testing blood from kidnapped descendants of the ancient Corvinus family, to try to find a pure source of the ancient and powerful Corvinus bloodline. Soon after Selene finds Michael, the pair are attacked by werewolves, including Lucian, the original Lycan leader, who still lives. After Lucian bites Michael on the shoulder, Selene helps Michael escape, and the two become romantically attracted to each other.

Meanwhile, Selene discovers that when Lucian was supposedly killed, Kraven was the only witness. Sensing a conspiracy between Kraven and Lucian, she wakes a powerful elder vampire, Viktor, who has been in hibernation. Viktor is angered by his early awakening, as it was Markus's turn to rule in the cycle of the Elders, not his. Viktor chooses to believe Kraven and orders Selene to acquiesce to the vampire hierarchy. Meanwhile, Kraven has secretly planned to kill the Vampire Elder, Amelia, and her companions, with Lucian's help. Selene escapes from the mansion with the help of Erika, a maidservant enamored with Kraven.

Selene tells Michael about the feud and her past. She then chains Michael to a wall, fearing that when he changes at the full moon, he will kill innocent people. Later, Selene captures Singe while Michael is captured by Lycans. Selene brings back the wounded Singe, who admits to Viktor that the Lycans have been trying to combine the bloodlines of the two species with the Corvinus Strain to create a powerful hybrid. After Kraven flees the mansion (because Singe reveals that Kraven and Lucian are working together), news arrives that Amelia, who was coming to awaken Markus, has been killed by Lycans. Viktor kills Singe and gives Selene the chance to redeem herself for awakening him by killing Michael.

Meanwhile, in the Lycan lair where Michael is being held captive, he learns that long ago, Lucian and Viktor's daughter, Sonja, became lovers. When Viktor learned that his daughter had become pregnant by a Lycan, he condemned her to death to prevent any crossing of the two species, which led to the war. Selene arrives with a group of vampire assassins to bring an end to the Lycans and kill Kraven for his treachery. Lucian prepares to fight, but Kraven betrays and shoots him with a newly-designed bullet containing silver nitrate. Selene arrives and rescues Michael, but he is soon shot by Kraven. Kraven informs Selene that it was Viktor who killed her family, and that he would have killed her too if she hadn't reminded him so much of his daughter, Sonja. Afterwards, Kraven offers Selene one last chance to join him but Selene turns him down causing Kraven to point his gun at Michael to finish him off, but Lucian emerges, injures Kraven, and tells Selene to bite Michael. Selene complies, and Kraven flees, but not before killing Lucian. Viktor enters and throws Michael through a wall. Selene asks Viktor if what Kraven said was true. Viktor concedes that it was, but tries to convince Selene that he gave her more than what her human family ever could have, immortality. Viktor and the Hybrid Michael fight, but even if Michael's powers are greater than Viktor's, he still has far less experience than the Vampire Elder. In the end, Viktor gets the upper hand and attempts to strangle Michael. However he has forgotten about Selene, who sneaks up behind him and cuts his head in half with his own sword.

Selene and Michael flee the Lycan lair, now enemies of both Lycan and Vampire. Back at the mansion, Singe's blood seeps into the sarcophagus of the remaining Elder, Markus, a carrier of the original Corvinus Strain. When his eyes open, they are vampire blue but then turn pitch black, the eyes of a hybrid.

[edit] Cast

[edit] Legal controversy

The film was the subject of a copyright infringement lawsuit filed by White Wolf, Inc. and Nancy A. Collins claiming the setting was too similar to the Vampire: The Masquerade and Werewolf: The Apocalypse games, both set in the World of Darkness setting, and the Sonja Blue vampire novels. White Wolf filed 17 counts of copyright infringement, and claimed over 80 points of unique similarity between White Wolf's game systems and the movie. White Wolf, Inc. also claimed the script was very similar to a story entitled The Love of Monsters (1994) which they published and was written by Nancy A. Collins. [1] In September 2003, a judge granted White Wolf an expedited hearing; this is what the last White Wolf's press releases had to say about the case: [2].

[edit] Critical reception

Critics generally gave Underworld a negative reception. It scored a 29% approval rating at the film-critics' aggregate site Rotten Tomatoes. Roger Ebert said, "This is a movie so paltry in its characters and shallow in its story that the war seems to exist primarily to provide graphic visuals". However, some critics were more favorable: the New York Daily News praised it as being "stylish and cruel, and mightily entertaining for certain covens out there".

Salon reviewer Andrew O'Hehir gave mixed criticism and praise, stating, "[B]y any reasonable standard, this dark vampire epic — all massive overacting, cologne-commercial design and sexy cat suits — sucks". But O'Hehir also remarks that, "...at least it gives a crap", conceding that despite the movie's flaws, the complex vampire-werewolf mythology back-story "has been meticulously worked out".[1]

Kevin L. Nault writes that one "significant character, Kraven (played by Shane Brolly), was consistently flat or simply off. Almost without fail, he came across with an emotion that I didn't buy, given the circumstances, or merely came across emotionally flat when I was expecting real terror."[2] Nault goes on to note that "a powerful performance by Kevin Grevioux (also one of two writers for the movie) as the werewolf Raze was partially wasted by the fact that I constantly wondered who he was. He was clearly an important part of the werewolf group, but didn't appear to be exactly second in command or anything."[3]

[edit] Sequels and Prequels

The follow-up story, Underworld: Evolution, in which Markus awakens, was released January 20, 2006. The prequel Underworld: Rise of the Lycans, which gives more detail as to the creation of the lycan species and Lucian's hatred, was released January 23, 2009.

[edit] Soundtrack

The film's soundtrack was produced by Danny Lohner and distributed via Roadrunner Records. Lohner (born 1970), a bass guitarist, guitarist and keyboardist who has recorded with Nine Inch Nails and Marilyn Manson, contributed several songs to the soundtrack under the pseudonym Renholdër. Lohner continued included a song by Skinny Puppy, a Canadian industrial band. Lohner also included a song by The Dillinger Escape Plan, a US band which performs an aggressive, technical style of hardcore punk called mathcore; a song by US alternative rock/post-hardcore band Finch entitled "Worms of the Earth"; a song by The Icarus Line, a band known for its abrasive form of rock music; and Lisa Germano, an American singer/songwriter and multi-instrumentalist who specializes in alternative rock and dream pop.

Music critic Bill Aicher notes that the "soundtrack follow[s] in a similar gothic vein" as the visuals and states that it "does an excellent job setting the dark mood" by using "a veritable who's who in the genre" with an "impressive array of metal, hard rock, industrial, and otherwise gothic-themed tracks".[4] Aicher notes that since "a majority of the selections [are] written, produced, or featuring Lohner, the album retains a sense of cohesion throughout, making it much more a complete product than has generally been the case with similarly-themed products."[4] He states that the "album's highest point" is the song with Maynard James Keenan (from Tool and A Perfect Circle), David Bowie, and guitarist John Frusciante (of The Red Hot Chili Peppers), which is entitled "Bring Me the Disco King (Loner Mix)"; he calls the song "[d]ark, brooding, sad, and twitchy".[4]

[edit] Video games

In July 2003, Sony contracted with Black Widow Games for the production of Underworld: Bloodline, a Half-Life mod intended as promotion among video game-players.

A shooter, Underworld: The Eternal War, based on the film, was released for the PlayStation 2 in 2004.

[edit] References

  1. ^ "Underworld" - Salon.com
  2. ^ Kevin L. Nault, "Jesse and Kevin goto the movies: Underworld a slightly-flawed gem," The Good 5c Cigar (10/9/03).
  3. ^ Kevin L. Nault, "Jesse and Kevin goto the movies: Underworld a slightly-flawed gem," The Good 5c Cigar (10/9/03).
  4. ^ a b c "Maynard and Borland and Bowie, Oh My!". Music review by Bill Aicher http://www.music-critic.com/sdtrks/underworld.htm

[edit] External links



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