Len Wiseman's "Underworld" looks great on the outside but there's little inside to support it. It had the potential to be great, but when movies forget such important details like "people," you know it's going to be a long shot.
It is unknown exactly where the film takes place though I'd guess London or somewhere close to that area in Europe. A war has been raging "for the better part of a thousand years" between vampires and werewolves. Selene (Kate Beckinsale) is one of the "Death Dealers," a middle-ranked vampire who wears tight leather and kills a lot of werewolves.
To keep it brief: Early on a fight breaks out between the vampires and werewolves in an underground subway terminal. Kate notices that the werewolves are tracking down a medical intern named Michael Corvin (Scott Speedman), a human, and one of the only two humans in the film. We learn that Michael belongs to an ancient family from which both the vampires and werewolves originated. The werewolves want to combine wolf and vampire DNA in him to create a hybrid warrior who'll have the strengths of both species each quality stronger than a vampire or werewolf by itself.
The leader of the werewolves is Lucian (Michael Sheen). He eventually finds Michael and bites him in the neck starting the slow process of converting him into a werewolf. I didn't think werewolves could do that, but it passes in this film.
Kate wants to foil Lucian's plot and save Michael from eventually turning into a werewolf but Kraven (Shane Brolly), the leader of the vampires won't allow her to do so. Kraven was put in charge by the supreme vampire, Viktor (Bill Nighy), one of the main rulers who sleeps in a coffin for centuries until it is his time to rule. Seeking his advice, Selene takes it upon herself to wake him through the obligatory ritual of spilling her blood into his coffin, even though she was never given permission to do so and that it is a job only suited for the elder council members.
Viktor will eventually rise and be grouchy over his premature awakening but will still lead over Selene and Kraven who never stop quarreling over power and ranking issues. With Viktor awake, Selene will soon learn more about her past and how the war started.
The vampires treat themselves like elitists and live in an old mansion as if they were upper-class citizens living in the Victorian era. But through the details I mention in a couple paragraphs down we know they don't live in the Victorian age, but instead a time more advanced than ours.
Except for the early fight scene in the subway because the plot requires them, there is not a single human--not a single bystander--not a single civilian in the movie. Battles take place in deserted streets and encounters take place in Michael's apartment complex where it appears that he is the only resident. Where are all the people in this film? How could a film that depends on humans not have any humans?
We already knew walking into the film that it wasn't going to be original, so it should have at least tried to stay true and old-fashioned. The atmosphere is gritty and always dark. The ruling color is black, but the 2004 luxury car that Selene drives herself around in is painted offensively gray. Vampires should not be driving top-of-the-line luxury automobiles that came straight from the commercials and into this movie. Vampires should also not be carrying cell phones and pagers. And vampire mansions should definitely not be guarded by Brinks Home Security.
To be fair, the film looks good exteriorly. I like the dark colors and the never-ending lightning storms that help out the soundtrack. The special effects are crisp and the action scenes are done very well. I liked the slow-motion shots and different angles used to show the characters in motion. These strong features are why I like the movie a lot more than this review suggests.
The fighting for the most part is done in human form, meaning the vampires aren't glowing and the werewolves aren't bursting out their clothes. Both species exchange gunfire but their weapons are distinctive. The vampires pack bullets loaded with liquid silver nitrate that poisons the werewolves, and the werewolves pack bullets containing sunlight, effectively called sunlight bullets, which do damage to vampires.
There are so many plot-holes and technical errors that I can't even begin to count them. There are many points where the action stops so a character can start explaining more plot and background details. It happens often however little is explained and I am still left with many questions.
1. Where does Selene, who is always wearing that sexy skin-tight leather outfit, hide her magazine clips she uses to reload her multiple automatic pistols? Surely one clip would put a bulge in her pocket, and since Len Wiseman's camera is often showing close-ups of her backside, we know she can't possibly be carrying all those rounds herself.
2. In the film we occasionally see the werewolves transform into giant hairy beasts, but most of the time they're gun-totin' street gang punks. If being a werewolf makes them so much more powerful, why aren't they always in that form? Can they control when they turn into werewolves? And the Vampires: Can they chose when to make their eyes glow florescent blue?
3. We often see the Brinks security control room in the vampire mansion complete with video surveillance equipment, yet the tomb of Viktor is left completely unguarded for Selene to enter. Shouldn't that room have a little more security?
4. We learn that Selene became a vampire as a child after her entire family got in the way of the war and took a slaughtering by the werewolves. Viktor bit her vampire-style and recruited her onto his team. She holds a grudge against the werewolves for killing her family however she tells Michael, "I'm not protecting you, I'm doing this for me. I hunt down and kill your people." So if she too kills humans, why still hold a grudge against the werewolves for doing what they need to do to survive?
5. Both species are immortal, except when struck by liquid silver nitrate or sunlight bullets. Wouldn't it make more sense if the two species just avoided each other and put their weapons down?
As much as I wanted to, "Underworld" is impossible to like. Despite its visual appeal and good action scenes, I can't forgive the mushy plot and atrocious dialogue ("Time for you to die!" and "You're acting like a pack of rabid dogs."). I was waiting for a valid reason that would justify the centuries old war, and when it came I just wasn't satisfied. We get two versions about how it all started, and I just wished a population existed in this city so the two species could sit down with a counselor and resolve their differences.