A and A's Movie A Day

Watching movies until we run out.

Movie 272 – Underworld

Underworld – November 27th, 2010

I think I’ve made it clear that I work in a library. As such, I am often asked if I’ve read whatever book a patron is checking out, returning or requesting. Sometimes I can say yes, sometimes I have to say no. I’ve found that regardless of what I say, I will usually be treated to that patron’s thoughts on said book. This got especially bad with the Twilight books for a while, and I really do try to be diplomatic at work. I have opinions, yes, but what it boils down to is personal taste. And when it comes to vampires? Twilight is not my taste. I like my vampires a little less sparkly and a little more nasty. I’m not looking for romance. I’m looking for action.

While I am well aware that this is a movie that is far more style than substance, I can’t help but like it because it does indeed deliver on what I want from a vampire movie. For one, there’s plenty of blood. As well there should be, since that’s kind of a key point of vampire mythology. There’s also plenty of back-stabbing and nefarious plans and sinister figures. Oh, and action. There’s a heck of a lot of action. And that’s a good thing. There’s also a pretty impressively detailed backstory and world for the movie to be set in, so I’m willing to forgive a lot. I’m willing to forgive the fact that this isn’t Oscar-worthy material. It was never intended to be.

It’s a little risky to go saying “Oh, it’s okay that this movie’s not great because it wasn’t meant to be great.” That leads to a whole world of crap where I excuse things like Lost Boys 2: The Tribe. For the record, I do not excuse that movie. But really, take a look at that. It’s a vampire movie with a lot of blood and a lot of action and a tiny dab of romance. And it stinks on toast. It’s a horrible movie with a single redeeming feature and his name is Corey Feldman. This movie, on the other hand, while not being a masterpiece of cinema or an instant classic horror movie, is still a perfectly good addition to the genre. The acting is a little overblown, but not bad. The writing is a little overblown too, which I honestly thing is on purpose and spurred the overblown acting.

This is a movie about a centuries-old battle between two supernatural species. The vampires live in posh mansions full of all the trappings of great wealth. They’re decadent, in the true meaning of the word. Their world is supposed to feel dramatic and cold and vast. The Lycans live in the sewers and subways. They’re hungry and eager. Their world is supposed to be desperate and angry. None of the set-up here lends itself to subtle emotion or performance. What action movie has nuance? They’re few and far between, okay? And nuance isn’t necessary to make this movie head and shoulders ahead of crap like The Tribe.

Really, a lot of effort was put into the world here. The mood of the vampires, with their mansions and private trains and crypts and elite armed force whose sole purpose is to guard against and take down the Lycans? That’s presented beautifully. It’s a goth kid dream here, really, but it’s also so very empty. The barely contained energy of the Lycans is well done as well. They’re all straining at the need for secrecy, just itching for a reason to act. And it all plays right into the backstory, which fuels the main plot.

Like I said, this isn’t award material. It’s pretty and it’s got a great mood to it and a fun world. But the actual story is just okay at best. Poor hapless Michael has no idea he’s the heir to a bloodline that can merge vampire and Lycan traits. Angry vampire Selene is certain that something is afoot in the sewers and vows to find out why even though the senior vampires, including the creepy Kraven, say otherwise. The Lycans, led by Lucian (I totally did not recognize Michael Sheen in this as the same guy who played David Frost in Frost/Nixon) are after Michael, so Selene’s after him too, and then she wakes up big bad vampire Viktor. It’s kind of messy, and there’s a lot of Selene going back to the mansion and arguing with Kraven, then leaving again when he tells her not to. There’s a lot of Erika, a younger vampire with the hots for Kraven, throwing bitch glares at Selene. There’s a lot of Selene lone-gunning it on the streets before once more heading back to the mansion to fend off Kraven’s advances. Oh, and a lot of Michael running away from people, towards people, getting caught, getting tied up, and generally being a puppet. The story I get. But the telling of it? Messy.

So really, it’s a good thing that the movie has all this style. And there is some substance there in the form of the worldbuilding done to support the plot. I give everyone a pass on the acting and I admit I really do enjoy Kate Beckinsale as Selene and Bill Nighy as Viktor. They both seem to have enjoyed their roles. The action is fantastic, there’s plenty of blood, and while I could do with a little less back and forth, the actual plot works fine. And in the end there’s some great back stabbing and well. These vampires are pretty evil when you come right down to it. They’re bad-assed (especially Selene and the head of the guard for the mansion, Kahn) and pretty much exactly how I like my vampires. What romance there is? Is kept to a minimum. Mostly there’s just a lot of action. And blood.

November 27, 2010 - Posted by | daily reviews | , , ,


  1. Underworld was alright. It served it’s purpose which was to entertain with some action and bits of gore.

    Comment by Richard Allen | November 27, 2010 | Reply

    • Yup. It’s a very nicely stylized vampire action flick and it doesn’t make me want to find a stake like The Tribe did.

      Comment by ajmovies | November 27, 2010 | Reply

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