Len Wiseman’s Underworld is another page in the vampire/werewolf fantasy genre that doesn’t fit.
The problem with this oversaturated platform is everyone’s desire to distinguish themselves as individuals. Almost universally, creating your own identity is a good thing. It simplifies or further complicates your product, both of which can work if executed correctly. It gifts your own space to create without other similar entities invading your work space.
The complication with this niche is the space allotted to it is the equivalent of the closet Harry Potter lives in at the Dursley’s. The creative balcony is spacious but due to overpopulation, the cupboard under the stairs metaphor works quite nicely here. There are too many people fighting for the same real estate.
Everyone who enters this business, specifically the vampire/werewolf enterprise, is bent on forming their own mythology. In addition to becoming a mandatory part of every exercise into these woods, it shortens screen time and leaves some films stuck in the mud, specifically those who don’t properly detail the rules in their realm.
Underworld‘s title is almost ironic because Wiseman’s world is so underwhelming. It’s amorphous and vague. What are the rules? In your imagination, what can vampires and werewolves do and what can’t they? These are basic questions and yet by the end they’re still there. This film’s backdrop was not designed by a showman or creative mind. It was made by someone in a hurry.
Disagree with me if you will but this isn’t rocket science. If anything, I’d think it would be the fun part. You get to be the architect of your movie’s formation, the interior designer of your sets and the illustrator of your story. Why do I get the impression the blueprint for Underworld was scrawled on a used napkin in a crumbling Burger King?
Between Wiseman’s hesitation to say anything thematically to the lack of Gothic aesthetic that you would think would be pummeled down my throat during a vampire/werewolf combo to the stunt choreography that feels written to the beat of a Taylor Swift pop anthem to the acting gigs stolen from a soap opera, Underworld is a mess.
Back when the vampires vs. werewolves plot line was still running rampant in the early 2000’s, Wiseman put together this farce. Werewolves and vampires in a war…..wait for it….using guns.
Why? Why would vampires and werewolves use guns? Guns are expensive. Changing into killing machines is free and timeless. What possible rationale do you have for using guns?
In the opening monologue, we’re told this war has been going on for nearly six centuries. Given their accuracy, I can believe that.
There seems to be a time in every film where our hero is put in a perilous situation and manages to somehow, through physical prowess or by the grace of the screenwriter, get out of it. Imagine watching a film where this constantly happens. It steals tension from the grips of movement and rips the emotion from the dance of vicious choreography. It is an offbeat arpeggio more than it is a synchronous chord.
Underworld is out of rhythm though the argument could be made they never started one. They were a conductor who stepped onto the stage and never bothered to finesse his magical wand to the flurry of instruments and talents available to him. They awkwardly postured, almost modeled but what impression can a body in a tuxedo make when compared to the masterpiece of an orchestra’s output?
Underworld is an oddly placed sculpture on a New York City sidewalk. There are moments of curiosity but the question, “Why is this here?” persists.
Built on mythology that we are never gifted to, its watch-as-you-go approach is overly aggravating and many components of the story’s tale seem unlikely if not impossible. For example, we are told vampires have been winning this war, but for the entirety of the film, the werewolves dominate, which makes sense because werewolves are werewolves and vampires have little fangs and in this universe, no ability to fly.
It’s a plot-driven story with little to no emotion. Kate Beckinsale’s role is attempted but not steered. As a whole ensemble, Underworld‘s stakes aren’t sold as dire. The characters are never in real danger of anything, made all the more evident when random bodies are strung over the set in an attempt to add any sort of suspense.
As you sit through Beckinsale monologue after Beckinsale monologue and follow a vampire who evidently has an unhealthy obsession with Sherlock Holmes, view Scott Speedman play clueless protagonist number one and watch Bill Nighy do what Bill Nighy does, you start to slowly piece together the shards from other ideas and previous makings and realize Underworld is neither creative nor a world of its own, yet the title is still appropriate. This movie is Underworld in the sense that it belongs under the world or at the very least in an alleyway next to a sewer cap.
Once again, if you’re new to my blog, I’ve always ranked movies on a scale of 0-100 (I don’t know why, I just always have). Here’s the grading scale.
80-89 It was a pretty good movie and definitely one worth seeing, but it doesn’t quite scratch my top ten percentile. (Olympus Has Fallen, The Cable Guy, The Cabin in the Woods, Tears of the Sun, Edge of Tomorrow)
60-69 It’s got plenty wrong with it but I still got enjoyment out of this one. (The Crow, Hardcore Henry, Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 2)
50-59 This movie isn’t intolerable but it’s not blowing my mind either. I’m trying really hard to get some sort of enjoyment out of this. (The Do-Over, X-Men: Apocalypse, D-Tox/Eye See You, Constantine, Race)
40-49 This movie is just mediocre. It’s not doing anything other than the bare minimal, so morbidly boring that sometimes I’m actually angry I watched this. (Batman & Robin, Bloodsport, War, The Ridiculous 6, The Lost Boys)
30-39 Definitely worse than mediocre, the 30′s ironically define the 1930′s, full of depression, lack of accomplishments, poverty and just so dumb. (The Crow: City of Angels, Centurion, Planet of the Apes, Stonados, Redemption)
0-19 Watching this movie resulted in one or more of the following: seizure, loss of brain cells, falling asleep/unconsciousness, feel you wasted your time/day, accomplished nothing for you, left the movie knowing less about it then you did going into it, constantly asking yourself why you came to see this movie, or near-death experience. In short, staring at a wall was just as entertaining as watching this movie. This movie deserved a sticker or a label that said, “WARNING: EXTREME AMOUNT OF SUCKAGE.” (The Coed and the Zombie Stoner, The Forbidden Dimensions, Cyborg, Outcast, Sabotage)
My score for Underworld: 52.
Riddled with misfirings, all audiences can do is watch Underworld clomp along in the muck like a depressed artist drowning himself in hopelessness, dreaming of what could have been as he makes his long journey home empty-handed.