Main Menu Introduction
Dolby Digital Trailer
Main Menu Audio & Animation
Audio Commentary-Director And Writer
Audio Commentary-Technical Commentary
Featurette-The Look Of Underworld
Featurette-Sights And Sounds
Music Video-Finch: Worms Of The Earth
TV Spots-War, Trailer Cutdown
Trailer-Hellboy, Spider-Man 2, The Medallion, S.W.A.T.
|Year Of Production||2003|
|RSDL / Flipper||RSDL (71:21)||Cast & Crew|
|Region Coding||2,4||Directed By||Len Wiseman|
Sony Pictures Home Entertain
Dennis J. Kozeluh
Maynard James Keenan
|Pan & Scan/Full Frame||None||
English Dolby Digital 5.1 (448Kb/s)
English Audio Commentary Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
English Audio Commentary Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
|Widescreen Aspect Ratio||2.35:1|
|Video Format||576i (PAL)|
|Original Aspect Ratio||2.35:1||Miscellaneous|
|Annoying Product Placement||No|
|Action In or After Credits||No|
Set in the present day, Underworld takes us into a Gothic universe where the seemingly eternal war between vampires and Werewolves is coming to an end. The Vampires have hunted the Werewolves almost to extinction, but that has only made the Werewolves all the more hungry for one last, great, effort. In the midst of all this is Selene (Kate Beckinsale), a Vampire "death dealer" - essentially the shock troops for the Vampires in the war - who has spent almost her entire immortaldom hunting and killing Werewolves, or as the Vampires call them, Lycans. Following two suspected Lycans on a routine mission - looking for an opportunity to end their existence, naturally - events take a turn for the worse when Selene's prey attacks in full view of the public - something that they are generally loathe to do. When looking back at the situation, it seems the Lycans were after a young man named Michael Corvin (Felicity alumni Scott Speedman), but while tracking him down proves easy, discovering the reason for the Lycans' interest in him does not. On top of this is the fact that the local Vampire clan's leader seems to be more interested in building a political power-base than the war, and that a long-dead Lycan hero's legacy seems to be having an impact. Selene decides it is time to turn to Vampire elder Viktor (Bill Nighy) to help settle matters, but her actions may just spark the biggest split in Vampire ranks for a millennia, and her growing feelings for Michael are further complicated by the knowledge that he will soon become a Lycan - one of her arch enemies.
While the story has all the background necessary for a great film, it simply does not pull it off. There are many reasons for this, but the simple fact is that the characters do not seem to inhabit the same world as the backstory. They carry out actions that have supposedly been forbidden since the 10th century B.C. seemingly without thought. For characters that have been living with these rules for the better part of a thousand years, it should be almost unthinkable to go against those rules, yet they ignore them like a race-driver would a speed sign on the side of a street circuit. Another problem is that the characters do not even seem to listen to one another. Selene does not follow even one order from her supposed leader Kraven (Shane Brolly), and is not even particularly perturbed when she learns some information that should tear her apart. Kraven on the other hand offers her a "last chance" on at least four or five occasions, each time leaving her to make her own decision - hardly the actions of a natural born killer. Another blow is the fact that, while this is a Vampire/Werewolf movie, all the Vampires do when they "transform" is grow fangs and get blue eyes (the Werewolves at least make a full transformation), and there is not even so much as one human character killed. This is explained by the story ("it is forbidden"), but it gives the entire film a less threatening feel (although the producers seem to think this sets them apart in a positive way). Finally, the supposed "society" of the Vampires revolves around all of about thirty of them - one would have thought that after after a thousand years of existence, there would be just a little more.
Despite the problems with the story, this is not really a horror film, so much as it is an action film, and in that regard it does reasonably well - with one major problem. But first the successes - the stunts and physical fights in this film look great, and are impressive to watch. The creature effects are excellent, and rely as much as possible on prosthetics and physical effects (wire work) than CGI, which gives the film a more organic feel. It really is stand out work, and when the comparatively small budget is taken into consideration (it was shot for $US23 million, which is around one quarter to one fifth of the usual Hollywood action blockbuster, and only half of the budget for the freeway scene alone from the first Matrix sequel), the feat the filmmakers have pulled off is truly astonishing. The downside is that most of the action in this film is gunplay - and there are only so many ways you can film a shoot-out. Despite trying their hardest, the gunfights are starting to get old two thirds of the way through, and that still leaves the big final battle to come, by which time the audience is starting to hope the protagonists would just trip and shoot themselves. It would not be so bad if the wait between the action set pieces was not as long as it is, but when sitting through ponderous dialogue scene after ponderous dialogue scene, none of which impart more than a few tid-bits of useful information, the movies biggest flaw becomes apparent - pacing. An action film needs to be frenetic, with lots of energy, while Underworld, despite starting with a bang, is beginning to drag by about the hour mark, and it is a two hour film. Edited down to ninety-odd minutes, this could have been a fair amount better.
What Underworld does show is plenty of promise. Delivered by a first time director, with first time screen-writers, it is a very good start. By taking the subject matter seriously, they have come up with a film that at the very least does not drown in its own corniness. A tightening of the dramatic events, some more varied action, and a wider scope (the latter of which is obviously limited by budget) could have lead to a truly great cinematic experience, especially when coupled with the incredible visual style. As the main creative triumvirate behind this film are already talking of not only sequels, but other work they are considering doing together, the future still remains bright.
Unfortunately, the future will not help the present, and Underworld is a film that will never be of interest to any but die hard genre fans. The action focus will annoy dedicated horror fans, while the Vampire/Werewolf focus will alienate many pure action fans, so this is really only for those specifically interested in Vampires and Werewolves in general (as opposed to strict horror buffs). On the upside, even if they do not like the content, they will at least find it good to look at.
Presented at the original theatrical aspect ratio of 2.35:1, this transfer is 16x9 enhanced.
Sharpness is excellent, although fine detail is slightly reduced due to the high-contrast effect of the image processing applied to the film, however this does not have a large overall impact as it is largely hidden by the harsh whites and deep blacks. Shadow detail is also affected by the processing, causing the blackest areas to be virtually impenetrable, however as this is by design, it is forgivable. Where allowed to drop off "naturally", shadow detail is excellent, which is very important for a film that is set entirely at night. Grain is almost non-existent, only showing up noticeably from 29:45 to 30:06. There is no low level noise present.
Colours are, intentionally, extremely washed out and pallid. Digital post-processing has been applied to this film to remove any colour highlights, turn flesh tones pale, and give the whole film a very monochromatic appearance (albeit one tinged with blue). This lack of colour is rendered well, with good graduation in the harsh whites, and reasonable representation of the colours that are present.
There are no compression artefacts in this transfer, and as should be the case with such a recent film, there are no film artefacts either. Aliasing is only a minor nuisance, with the only really noticeable instances appearing on the Vampire House crest at 14:26 and 107:56, the lamp stand at 22:56, and the baggage rack on the train at 65:56. Unfortunately, the position of the artefact on the screen combined with the generally low level of aliasing makes these instances a little more obvious than they really should be.
Subtitles are well rendered, relatively accurate, and easy to read.
This is an RSDL formatted disc with the layer change taking place at 71:21 during chapter 18. It is quite obvious, as it is placed in a shot with a fair amount of motion, and a high level of ambient sound. This is a pity as there are many other moments where it could have been more conveniently placed.
There are three audio tracks present on this disc. The first is the original English dialogue, presented in Dolby Digital 5.1 (at 448 kbps). The other two are both audio commentary tracks, presented in Dolby Digital 2.0 stereo (at 192 Kbps).
Dialogue is clear and easy to understand at all times. It does sound a little "hollow" from time to time, but presumably that is in an attempt to avoid looping, and is preferable to bad sync.
The music for underworld consists of hard-rock/metal numbers and score music, credited to Paul Haslinger. The score is very much in the "industrial" style (and some standard orchestral as well), and fits in very well with the atmosphere and other musical cues, although its overall effectiveness is questionable - the style of the score loses its impact quite quickly.
Surround activity is aggressive and constant, delivering both high-impact and ambient noises throughout the soundstage for the entirety of the movie. The gun battles see bullets flying everywhere, cars roar from front to rear, or vice-versa, thunder rumbles all around, and the score is very evenly spread. The dynamic range is impressive and will tax your surround speakers considerably. This soundtrack is nothing short of sensational, and is most definitely one to put on for demonstration purposes.
As with the surround channel use, the subwoofer is driven to extremes. This is a soundtrack that is very much improved by a good subwoofer, with plenty of bass coming from gunfire, cars, trains, roars, fights, and the score itself. The rumbles are constant and hefty, and will threaten the foundations of the viewing room.
|Surround Channel Use|
NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.
The Region 4 version of this disc misses out on;
Update - 10/05/2004: Thanks to every one who let me know via the comments section that the Region 1 "Extended Cut" was due out very soon. Reviews have now started to appear, and based upon those, I have put together a new comparison chart.
The Region 4 version of this disc misses out on;
It is quite sad how little difference there is between the original release of Underworld and the new "extended" cut in terms of extras - a clear case of getting people to pay twice for what they want. It is a close call as to which is the better version, as the new 2-disc Region 1 edition comes with a new audio commentary, and a couple more featurettes, but it misses out on the original audio commentaries, both of which are quite good. On top of that, the additional scenes reportedly add little to the movie, making them largely superfluous. In the end, this has to go to the Region 1, but you could be very happy with the local version.
One final thing - the UK Region 2 version of this disc is specced similarly to the original Region 1 release (that is, it misses out on The Look of Underworld featurette), but it does have a half-bitrate DTS track. In my experience, there is no benefit to be gained from a half-bitrate track in comparison to a high-bitrate Dolby Digital track (although a full-bitrate DTS track is a different matter altogether), and as The Look of Underworld is the best of the featurettes, I would stick with the local version if I had decided to forego the "extended" edition.
The video quality is truly top-notch. This is a brilliant transfer that serves to show off the visual style of the film with aplomb.
The audio quality is also top-notch. The audio transfer is extremely aggressive and well spaced around the soundstage, but never sounds forced, while the subwoofer track is likely to crack walls.
The extras are surprisingly good, lead by two interesting and in-depth commentaries, and followed up by over an hour of detailed featurettes. Underworld has certainly received the special edition treatment. If only the film was even just a tiny bit better.
|DVD||Pioneer DV-555K, using Component output|
|Display||Loewe Xelos 5381ZW. Calibrated with Video Essentials. This display device is 16x9 capable.|
|Audio Decoder||Built in to amplifier/receiver. Calibrated with Video Essentials.|
|Amplification||Onkyo TX-DS787, THX Select|
|Speakers||Rochester Audio Animato Series (2xSAF-02, SAC-02, 3xSAB-01) + 12" Sub (150WRMS)|