Thirteen years ago action horror film Underworld was released and audiences were first introduced to Death Dealer vampire Selene, a gun toting, butt kicking Kate Beckinsale in skin tight black leather, and the centuries-old war between the bloodsuckers and Lycans, a species of werewolf. The film was a decent watch and featured sweet action, an interesting mythology and Goth aesthetic and, best of all, Beckinsale’s wonderfully icy performance.
The film spawned three sequels which suffered from the law of diminishing returns. A fourth, Underworld: Blood Wars, is scheduled to hit theatres in January. For this post I will be discussing the trailer and then ranking the other four films. So strap on your leather, load up your silver bullets and with a huge SPOILER ALERT let’s get to it:
Blood Wars trailer
The trailer (linked above) begins with some flashbacks to the previous films and Selene lamenting that everyone she has loved has been hunted down. The “everyone” is her Lycan/vampire hybrid beau Michael Corvin (Scott Speedman in the first two films), who went missing in the last film Awakening, and her hybrid daughter Eve. Selene then speaks of a “new war” being waged and we learn that the Lycans have a new leader Marius who is gathering his forces to destroy the last vampire sanctuary. How is Lycans versus vampires a new war? Never mind.
We also see some white haired folks fighting Lycans, Selene’s vampire buddy David (Theo James) from the last film, Charles Dance as David’s vampire father Thomas being all stately, and Selene or someone that looks exactly like her, rocking a white haired doo, a warm fur coat and pulling off a disappearing act. Whaaaaaaaaaat?
The film echoes the original in a good way and I am glad they are returning to the basic war which made the first one so great. And the action looks cool too so I will be checking Blood Wars out when it drops January 2017.
So that’s it for the trailer. Now let’s get into the ranking:
#4 Underworld: Awakening
I, and I presume the majority of Underworld fans, were glad to hear that Beckinsale would be returning for the fourth film after she sat out the prequel film Rise of the Lycans. And I was also intrigued by the premise that humans had learned of the existence of both vampires and Lycans and were seeking to wipe them out. Sadly that aspect of the film was pretty much shelved after the first 10 minutes and we returned to well worn territory.
What we did get was Selene and Michael being cryogenically frozen and Selene discovering she has a daughter named Eve who gets all slashery when she gets mad. Talk about your temper tantrums. The bonding between mother and child was interesting but the two lacked in the chemistry department.
The introduction of David and his vampire coven was a nice touch and there was some okay action. But things got a bit too cheesy and the giant Lycan battle at the end made it look like they ran out of ideas and the franchise had run out of steam. We will see if Blood Wars can revive it.
#3 Underworld: Rise of the Lycans
This third installment was chronologically the first in the series and tells the tale of the original Lycan slave revolution and the start of their protracted war with their former vampire masters. The period setting was a cool change from the modern times of the first two films and both Michael Sheen and Bill Nighy do commendable jobs reprising their roles as charismatic Lycan leader Lucian and brutal vampire elder Viktor respectively.
Sadly the same cannot be said for Rhona Mitra who played Viktor’s daughter and Lucian’s star crossed loved Sonja. Mitra tried to do her best to come off strong and fierce but came off mostly dull and forced. And she and Lucian lacked romantic chemistry which was not good for a relationship that was at the core of the film. The more Mitra was on screen the more you pined for Beckinsale. And new director Patrick Tatopoulos lacked the sleekness of previous director Len Wiseman. Lycans may have risen but this movie falls somewhat flat.
And on a side note in the flashback of Sonja’s death in the original Underworld the character had blonde hair but in Rise of the Lycans Mitra is a brunette throughout. Why not have her change her hair colour to blonde as she attempted to escape from her father? Seems pretty simple to me.
#2 Underworld: Evolution
The second film in the franchise, and the second directed by Beckinsale’s then husband Len Wiseman, we see Selene and Michael on the run from recently awakened vampire elder and original vampire Markus (a terrifically terrifying Tony Curran) who seeks to release his brother William, the first and most powerful werewolf (unlike Lycans they cannot regain human form and are raging beasts).
We are treated to some nice effects work courtesy of Markus’ bat mode, Beckinsale and Speedman are cool together, and there is some fantastic over the top action, especially in the climax. But the revelations about Alexander Corvinus hit with the force of a wet diaper and Selene’s Corvinus-blood upgrade is a bit meh. And while I enjoyed Markus I found myself missing the Lycan/vampire war aspect from the first film and felt a bit short changed.
If you have been paying attention, and I am sure you have, you will notice that the ranking is in direct descending order from fourth to first. And sadly none of the sequels were able to fully recapture the fun and style of the original.
In Underworld Beckinsale really killed it and killed lots of folks in her first outing as Selene. Sheen was solid as Lucian, Nighy nailed it as the villainous Viktor and Shane Brolly was terrific as the treacherous vamp Kraven. It was great seeing the vampire and Lycan factions square off and seeing the affluent vampire covens and grimy Lycan dwellings. The effects were cool and the Lycans genuinely creepy. The mythology and genealogy stuff, while a bit much to take in, was intriguing. And the action was suh-weet especially the scenes where Selene kicked butt and took no names. The scene where she shoots herself a hole in the floor and when she slices Viktor’s face off are both memorable.
The original Underworld was a solid action horror hit that delivered the goods. Only time will tell whether Blood Wars will be another subpar sequel or finally a worthy successor. And there is also a sixth film planned but no word yet whether that will be the final chapter.
So what do you think of the Blood Wars trailer? And what is your favorite Underworld film? Feel free to comment below and if you enjoyed this post you can share it with your peeps. Sharing is caring.
For more horror movie rankings you can check my list of some of the best and worst Stephen King adaptations here. And for more leather clad movie lists you can check back redmangoreviews for new posts Monday to Saturday and also follow me on Twitter @suprememango012 for updates and other cool stuff.
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