Underworld: Evolution (2005)

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Released 15-May-2006

Cover Art

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Action Main Menu Introduction
Main Menu Audio & Animation
Dolby Digital Trailer
Audio Commentary-Filmmakers'
Featurette-Bloodlines: From Script To Screen
Featurette-The Hybrid Theory
Featurette-Making Monsters Roar
Featurette-The War Rages On
Featurette-Building A Saga
Featurette-Music And Mayhem
Music Video-"Her Portrait In Black" By Atreyu
Trailer-When A Stranger Calls, Dirty, The James Bond Ultimate Coll.
Trailer-Fear Itself: Dark Memories, Second In Command
Trailer-Final Fantasy VII: Advent Children, Waiting
Rating Rated MA
Year Of Production 2005
Running Time 102:02 (Case: 106)
RSDL / Flipper RSDL (92:10) Cast & Crew
Start Up Ads Then Menu
Region Coding 4 Directed By Len Wiseman
Studio
Distributor

Sony Pictures Home Entertain
Starring Kate Beckinsale
Scott Speedman
Tony Curran
Derek Jacobi
Bill Nighy
Steven Mackintosh
Shane Brolly
Brian Steele
Zita Görög
Scott McElroy
John Mann
Michael Sheen
Sophia Myles
Case ?
RPI $39.95 Music Marco Beltrami


Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None English Dolby Digital 5.1 (448Kb/s)
English Audio Commentary Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 2.40:1
16x9 Enhancement
16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 2.40:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles English
English for the Hearing Impaired
English Audio Commentary
Smoking Yes
Annoying Product Placement Yes, this is a Sony film
Action In or After Credits No

NOTE: The Profanity Filter is ON. Turn it off here.

Plot Synopsis

    Like its predecessor, Underworld: Evolution is a guilty pleasure - all style, with very little substance. But if you're a fan of the original vampires vs. werewolves multiplex monster mash, there's a very good chance you will enjoy its overly ambitious sequel. After all, Underworld: Evolution is a big-budget B-Movie written, designed, and produced with Underworld fans in mind. Others need not bother.

    In Underworld: Evolution, the beautiful Kate Beckinsale is back as the very sexy, ass-kicking vampire Selene. Underworld: Evolution picks up exactly where the last Underworld left off, with Selene and her half-werewolf/half-vampire boyfriend, Michael (Scott Speedman) on the run, having just killed her Vampire boss, Viktor (Bill Nighy).

    With Viktor gone, enter the new villains, one of the original vampires, the gargoyle-looking Marcus (Tony Curran), and Marcus' trapped twin brother, the original werewolf (Lycan), William. It's not clear why Marcus is so angry with Selene, considering he announces early in the film that he's glad she killed Viktor.

    Anyway, in Underworld: Evolution it falls to Selene and Michael to stop Marcus' plans of world domination (although it's never really clear what Marcus is really up to - he mentions becoming God at one point).

    In a sub-plot, Underworld: Evolution develops the romance between Selene and Michael, and we're treated to an almost nude love scene, which despite the fact that it promises much, and delivers little, was certainly the talk of the town amongst Underworld fans.

     Apart from the awkward love scene directed by her husband, Kate Beckinsale looks much more comfortable here than in the original film. Considering she also starred in Van Helsing in between the two, the modern big budget Gothic-flavoured Hollywood action/horror film must now be familiar territory. Kate certainly fills out her costume wonderfully, and is involved in a lot more of the wire-work stunts and hand-to-hand combat this time around.

    Indeed, this movie is pretty much all about watching the beautiful Kate Beckinsale killing werewolves and other vampires in her skin-tight black latex outfit. While Speedman is given equal billing in this movie, he isn't given much to do, except find himself in situations that require him to take off his shirt, get his hair wet, or drink Selene's blood to survive. Indeed, Speedman has been lumped with the role that the girlfriend usually fills in male action flicks: Look concerned for the hero, ask lots of questions to help explain the story, get in trouble while trying to help out, and require frequent rescuing.

    Despite the title, Underworld: Evolution pretty much offers just more of the same, but with a much bigger budget, although now Selene and Michael are dodging Lycans and the odd Vampire in the countryside amongst snow-capped mountains of what looks like Eastern Europe, and not in the rainy, urban setting of the original film. According to the story, no one seems to have moved, so this change in setting, like many other aspects of the film, is left unexplained.

    Co-Writer and Director Len Wiseman shows off his television commercial and music-video background. Underworld: Evolution is a string of chaotic chases and gun-fights weakly stitched together with scenes of exposition where characters stare off-camera and try to explain what's going on. There are a lot of fast-paced, sumptuously atmospheric eye-catching scenes cut together with frenetic editing. While the film has a striking visual style, and some great action set pieces, I personally find it far too solemn and pretentious.

    Unlike the enjoyably campy romp Blade: Trinity, Underworld: Evolution seems to take itself far too seriously. Perhaps the pretension is borne of the unexpected sleeper-hit success of the first film? Here, the characters are required to reel off lines such as "The blood memories of this wretched creature have shown me that your treachery knows no bounds!", with Shakespearian diction . . . and a straight face.

    This pretentious and humourless approach is surprising when one considers that the plot of Underworld: Evolution is really quite simple: Markus wants to free his brother; Selene and Michael want to stop him. Yet layers of additional back-story, exposition, flash-backs and mythology seem to be laid on top, with multiple layers of betrayal, and counter-betrayal, to needlessly confuse the story in a vain attempt to thicken up this watery soup.

     In summary, there are three reasons to see this film: (1) The very beautiful former actress Kate Beckinsale; (2) The sumptuous production design; and (3) The enjoyable action set pieces.

    In relation to these action set pieces, a nice touch in Underworld: Evolution is that many, perhaps most, of the effects are basically physical, and enhanced by CGI, as opposed to being CGI only. Wiseman and his production design team have opted to keep the CGI effects to a minimum, and wherever possible seem to have used puppets, prosthetics, miniatures and animatronics.

    Underworld: Evolution also features some very detailed and extravagant physical sets, and the costuming, art direction, and set design are all superb.

    Interestingly, the Studio behind Underworld: Evolution, Screen Gems, reluctantly agreed to a pre-release screening for film critics, but then famously booked that screening for 10:00pm on the night before its US opening day. I'm sure there's a message in there somewhere.

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Transfer Quality

Video

    Visually, the second Underworld has very much the same look and feel as the first film, which suits the story well. The transfer captures it beautifully on this well-authored disc.

    The widescreen transfer is presented in its original aspect ratio of 2.40:1. It is16x9 enhanced.

    The sharpness is excellent, as can be seen with the leaves in the forest at 23:30. The black level is excellent throughout with true, deep blacks. With almost the entire film comprised of dark and shadowy scenes, fortunately the shadow detail is also excellent throughout.

    The film's set, costume and overall production design are fantastic. Just about everything in the movie is grey and grimy. I'm assuming the whole film has undergone digital grading, with day-for-night shooting. There's a consistent grey-blue monochromatic metallic look to just about every scene, with silvery moon-like lighting. Occasionally splashes of colour are used for effect, such as in a childhood flash-back, and the DVD boasts a rich, well-saturated palette when required. Skin tones are accurate, at least for vampires.

    While the image is often intentionally a little grainy, there are no problems with MPEG artefacts such as pixelization.

    There are also no problems with film-to-video artefacts such as aliasing or telecine wobble.

    A few small film artefacts appear infrequently throughout, but these were never distracting. It is only that the film is so dark that they are easier to spot - at least the tiny white flecks were.

    English, English for the Hearing Impaired, and English Audio Commentary subtitles are provided. They are accurate.

    This is a Dual Layer disc, with the layer change placed in the closing minutes of the film at 92:10.

Video Ratings Summary
Sharpness
Shadow Detail
Colour
Grain/Pixelization
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts
Overall

Audio

    As one would expect from a recent big-budget action/horror film, the movie has a wonderful sound design, which in turn translates into a great home theatre experience.

    There are two audio tracks offered on this DVD: English Dolby Digital 5.1 (448Kb/s), and English Audio Commentary Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s). Sadly, despite being released theatrically with a dts soundtrack, no dts audio is on offer here.

    Despite the often frantic action and extensive use of ADR, the dialogue quality and audio sync are very good on the default English Dolby Digital 5.1 audio track.

    The musical score is credited to horror film specialist Marco Beltrami, and it is an effective orchestral score as it helps set the uneasy and eerie mood of the film.

    The surround presence and activity is wonderful, and it really adds a lot to the film in terms of providing viewers with a more atmospheric experience. Apart from supporting many of the surround effects, such as the circling helicopter at 16:38, and 'boo' scares, the rear speakers are often used to provide ambience, such as during the forest scene at 28:22.

    The film also boasts a wonderful LFE track, and the subwoofer is utilised very effectively throughout - for example the explosion at 39:29, or the booming footsteps at 45:26.

Audio Ratings Summary
Dialogue
Audio Sync
Clicks/Pops/Dropouts
Surround Channel Use
Subwoofer
Overall

Extras

    There are a few genuine and interesting extras.

Menu

    Animated with audio.

Forced Anti-Piracy Commercial

   This annoying advert raises its ugly head again.

Audio Commentary-Filmmakers'

    A screen-specific commentary track featuring Director Len Wiseman (who claims he grew up listening to DVD commentaries??!), Production Designer Patrick Tatopoulos, 2nd unit Director and Stunt Co-ordinator Brad Martin, and Editor Nick De Toth. During their chatty commentary the team identify many of the film's visual effects, locations, CGI work and sets. Wiseman also identifies most of the 2nd-unit work, as if to credit Martin. Interestingly, there are some anecdotes and some light-hearted discussion of Wiseman directing his wife in the nude love scene.

Featurettes:

    The featurettes all include letter-boxed clips from the film, some behind-the-scenes footage, and interviews with key cast and crew.

Music Video

    The Goth-rock inspired "Her Portrait In Black" performed by Atreyu, and featuring clips from the film.

Trailers

R4 vs R1

NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

    Underworld: Evolution will be released in R1 on June 6, 2006. So far we're ahead on extras, as according to the information available the R1 misses out on the music video and trailers.

    I will update this section when the R1 is released.

Summary

    Underworld: Evolution is what it is. It seems to have been written, designed and produced solely with Underworld fans in mind. See it if you enjoyed the original. Otherwise, enter at your own risk.

    The video quality is excellent.

    The audio quality is also excellent, and very atmospheric.

    The extras are good.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Brandon Robert Vogt (warning: bio hazard)
Friday, May 19, 2006
Review Equipment
DVDPioneer DV-535, using S-Video output
DisplayGrundig Elegance 82-2101 (82cm, 16x9). Calibrated with Video Essentials. This display device is 16x9 capable.
Audio DecoderBuilt in to amplifier/receiver. Calibrated with Video Essentials.
AmplificationSony STR DE-545
SpeakersSony SS-V315 x5; Sony SA-WMS315 subwoofer

Other Reviews NONE
Comments (Add)
Great review - Pendergast (Why not take a look at my bio, you might think it stinks.) REPLY POSTED
Underworld Story Location - Anthony