Underworld: Extended Edition (Blu-ray) (2003)
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|
|Running Time||0:00 (Case: 133)|
|RSDL / Flipper||Dual Layered||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)
English Linear PCM 48/16 5.1 (4608Kb/s)
|Widescreen Aspect Ratio||2.35:1|
|Original Aspect Ratio||2.35:1||Miscellaneous|
|Annoying Product Placement||No|
|Action In or After Credits||No|
The Underworld films are a guilty pleasure - all style, with very little substance. The original Underworld, released in 2003, was a splashy vampires vs. werewolves action-horror flick that was universally panned by critics, yet grew a strong fan base with its release on DVD. This Romeo and Juliet with fangs and fur also launched an enjoyable sequel in 2005, Underworld: Evolution. Now, with Underworld III: The Rise of the Lycans due in cinemas next year, the original multiplex monster mash has been released in an extended version, on high definition.
In Underworld, the very beautiful Kate Beckinsale is the sexy, ass-kicking vampire, Selene. At the centre of all the film's shootouts and mythological mayhem, Beckinsale provides a stunning focus. Despite her slim and feminine build, her grace and chilly beauty go a long way toward making her character and her revenge-driven fierceness reasonably plausible. Both the Underworld films are pretty much all about watching Beckinsale killing werewolves (lycans) and occasionally some other vampires while donning a skin-tight black latex outfit. Indeed, Beckinsale shows off her chalk-white skin, grim pout, black corset, and strappy boots in a manner that wouldn't look out of place at a Sydney fetish ball. With her flowing black coat and steely resolve, she might appear to be just a female version of Keanu Reeves' Neo character, but she's poetry in motion: she can fall to the ground from six stories and land like a cat, rocking her heels gently like a gymnast. Selene savours her work as a "death dealer", hunting down and killing the lycans, and holds an intense hatred for their whole species, as she believes they killed her entire (human) family.
Tod Browning's 1931 film version of Bram Stoker's novel, Dracula, staring Bela Lugosi, was a potent vision for its time, and forever shaped the film conventions of the vampire genre, but that classic now appears dated and stuffy when compared to more modern vampire films, such as Van Helsing (which also starred Beckinsale). Underworld is a vampire film made for the new millennium - it's bold, loud, and darkly stylish. As with 28 Days Later, which sought to update the zombie film genre for a new generation, as a vampire film Underworld also takes its horror genre very seriously. Although I initially found these Underworld films to be far too solemn and pretentious, I am willing to admit that they have grown on me. First-time screenwriter Danny McBride and first-time director Len Wiseman, have both put fresh spins on dusty old mythology by merging a Romeo and Juliet story into a monster mash and veneering it with a Matrix-style artistic flamboyance.
Set in a dark, unnamed, rain-swept Eastern European city (it was filmed in Budapest), the movie takes place at the climax of a thousand-year-old blood feud between a coven of arrogant vampires and a pack of angry and bitter lycans. Set in modern times, these mythic horror characters no longer battle each other with fang and claw, as each race has adapted modern weaponry to meet its supernatural needs. Their high-powered, high-tech weaponry now fire bullets loaded with ultraviolet liquid (against the vampires) and silver nitrate (against the lycans).
The story supposes that these two mythological creatures are not the creation of legend, but the result of a mutating virus. In the fifth century AD, one man, Alexander Corvinus, survived a plague that wiped out his village. Corvinus' body mutated the virus and he became the first immortal. Corvinus had three sons, all of whom also carried this 'immortal' generic makeup. One was bitten by a bat, and the other by a wolf, which in turn started the vampire and lycan bloodlines. The third son, unbitten, carried the dormant immortal gene in its original form, passing it down through human bloodlines to today.
Thus the story is built on the premise that vampires and lycans have been secretly living amongst humans, and locked in a centuries-long blood feud between each other. Their war is subject to strict rules which both sides must obey for self-preservation. According to legend, lycanthropes (aka lycans) were once the servants of the vampires, and used as guardians of vampire lairs during the daylight hours. But since the middle ages, the lycans have grown powerful and unruly, driven by their insatiable appetite for human flesh. Weaving this elaborate back-story into an intriguing plot, humans are hardly seen in this story, but Selene discovers a lycan plot aimed at kidnapping a human for reasons that are, at first, a mystery.
The human target of the lycans is Dr. Michael Corvin (Scott Speedman), a young medical intern who is initially completely unaware of the great interest being shown in him by both supernatural sides, and who unknowingly holds the fate of their war in his bloodstream. As a team of lycans closes in on him, Selene rescues Michael in a blistering shootout on a city subway. When Selene expresses her fears about the lycan plot to her temporary vampire coven leader, Kraven (Shane Brolly), she's profoundly rebuffed and ridiculed. Unperturbed, Selene decides to continue her own investigation and discovers that the lycan leader, thought dead, Lucian (Michael Sheen) is very much still alive, and that he's behind the lycans' attempts to kidnap Michael. Selene also learns that Michael is a direct descendant of Corvinus' unbitten son, and that his untainted blood is required by the Lycan scientist, Singe (Erwin Leder), to create a hybrid - a cross breed with the genetic features of both supernatural sides. This hybrid would be an uber-immortal, superior to any being on either side, and thus gain dominance for the lycans in their war.
However, in their escape, Michael was bitten by Lucian, and has become infected with the Lycan virus. Through protecting Michael from both the vampires and the lycans, Selene develops an emotional bond with him, and although confused by all that he sees and hears, Michael seems equally attracted to his supernatural saviour, Selene. Having broken a number of their vampire code of conduct rules, and with Kraven very unhappy, Selene needs a powerful ally - someone who will listen to her. Selene decides to prematurely awaken one of the three sleeping vampire elders, Viktor (Bill Nighy). These immortal elders each take turns in ruling the vampire clan for one hundred years, and sleeping for two hundred. Although the father-like Viktor is fond of Selene, he is understandably unhappy about being woken early. He also carries the greater responsibility of the coven, and will not necessarily dance to her tune.
As the surly elder of the vampire clan, the creepily regal Nighy is excellent in his role. He breathes a character of such evil and malignant power that he single-handedly helps ground the film and carry the plot. Although Scott Speedman is given equal billing to Kate Beckinsale in both films, 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.
Director, Len Wiseman shows off his television commercial and music-video background. Both Underworld films are a string of chaotic chases and gun-fights, stitched together with scenes of exposition, where characters stare off-camera and explain what's going on. Both Underworld films also feature a lot of fast-paced, sumptuously atmospheric eye-catching scenes cut together with frenetic editing. The Underworld films have a striking visual style, and the art direction is an exhilarating celebration of their gothic style. Indeed, along with The Crow, the original Underworld may be one of the first Hollywood films to really embrace the modern Goth subculture. Although there's silliness to the story that the movie never really overcomes, it builds an absorbing momentum that eventually won me over.
In relation to the action set pieces, a nice touch in both the Underworld films is that many, perhaps most, of the effects are basically physical, and enhanced by CGI, as opposed to being CGI only. Perhaps due to an artistic choice, or perhaps due to their very limited budget, 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. For example, the werewolf transformations are CG-driven, but then elaborate prosthetics take over. Meanwhile, the vampires rely on physical props and costumes.
This edition of Underworld has been extended. Although the differences between this version and the original DVD release are not always obvious, some additional scenes are very noticeable, such as the added vampire sex scene between Kraven and the vampy, Erika (Sophia Myles), and the extended climactic battle between the vampires and lycans.
In summary, there are three reasons to watch the Underworld films: (1) The very beautiful former actress Kate Beckinsale; (2) The sumptuous production design; and (3) The enjoyable action set pieces.
Visually, Underworld has a desaturated and metallic look and feel which suits the story well. The transfer captures this beautifully on this well-authored high definition disc. The BD's transfer is noticeably sharper and far more detailed than the previous DVD release, and this high definition disc is now the very best presentation of this film to date, and the ultimate way to enjoy Underworld at home.
The transfer is presented in high definition, having been authored in 1920 x 1080p. It has been encoded using AVC MPEG-4 compression, and presented in a widescreen aspect ratio of 2.35:1, in a native 16x9 frame. This is the film's original theatrical ratio.
The BD's transfer is crisp, and noticeably sharper than the previous DVD release. For example, consider the vastly improved delineation in the scene in the mausoleum at 14:49, or the detail in the vampire coven foyer at 67:43. This is a very dark film, and fortunately the black level is generally excellent throughout, and despite the high contrast level and harsh lighting, the shadow detail is also surprisingly good.
The film's set, costume and overall production design are fantastic. Just about everything is grey and grimy. I assume 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. The BD accurately reflects the colour palette of the source material.
The BD's transfer has an average bit rate lower than what I have seen on other BDs that I have reviewed. It ranges between 20-25 Mbps, compared to 25-30 Mbps. 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, for example, tiny black or white flecks, appear infrequently throughout, but these were never distracting, and indeed, they were hard to spot.
English, French, and Italian subtitle streams are included. The English ones are accurate.
The feature and extras are presented on a BD-50 (50 GB) Blu-ray disc. The feature is divided into 16 chapters.
The sound on Underworld provides a great home theatre experience, and again there is a noticeable improvement over the DVD.
Underworld was released on DVD with the choice of three audio tracks: The first was the original English dialogue, presented in Dolby Digital 5.1 encoded at 448 kbps. The other two were both audio commentary tracks, presented in Dolby Digital 2.0 stereo, both encoded at 192 Kbps. The BD improves matters again, by offering English Linear PCM 48 kHz/16-bit 5.1 surround audio, encoded at 4.6Mbps for the feature. There is also the option of English Dolby Digital 5.1, French Dolby Digital 5.1, Italian Dolby Digital 5.1, and Italian Linear PCM options as well.
As mentioned above, the BD's Linear Pulse Code Modulation (Linear PCM) audio is encoded at 4.6 Mbps. Linear PCM is not necessarily lossless, but the higher the sampling-rate and the bit-depth, the closer the LPCM audio is to the original recording. Although LPCM is supported by the DVD standard, it is very rarely used because it requires such a high bit rate, which takes up valuable disc space. But with dual-layer BD's enjoying 50 GB of disc space, movies on BD can take advantage of uncompressed PCM as an audio option.
Despite all the extensive use of ADR, the dialogue quality and audio sync are excellent.
The music for Underworld combines goth-metal tunes with a traditional orchestral score credited to Paul Haslinger. This approach suits the film well, but the score itself is not particularly memorable.
As with the DVD, the surround presence and activity is wonderful, and really adds a lot to the film in terms of providing viewers with a very atmospheric experience. Apart from supporting many of the surround effects, such as the gun battle at 4:28, and many 'boo' scares, the rear speakers are often used to provide ambience, and support the score. The film boasts an excellent LFE track, and the subwoofer is utilised very effectively throughout, such as the ominous rumbling at 21:34.
|Surround Channel Use|
This BD comes loaded with a number of genuine and interesting extras.
As with other BDs, the menu can be accessed while the film is playing.
This is a screen-specific chatty and light-hearted commentary for the extended edition, with director Len Wiseman, and the film's stars, Kate Beckinsale and Scott Speedman. From comments made throughout, it was recorded between the production of the two Underworld movies, for what I assume was the Unrated Extended Edition released on DVD in R1. The three provide a number of anecdotes throughout, but little technical information about the production. Wiseman does point out the significant added scenes, and explains why they were originally removed (usually for pacing).
A collection of fluffed lines and mistakes
Music Video (2:45)
Worms of the Earth performed by Finch
Storyboard Comparison (6:42)
A split-screen comparison, presenting various scenes from the film.
Underworld has previously been released on DVD and UMD (PSP Movie) in Australia. In R1 it has been released on DVD no less than three times, including a Superbit edition and an Unrated Extended Edition (which is the same film version as this cut).
Our Underworld BD is identical in content to the US BD. Underworld will not be released on HD DVD.
While it lacks depth, Underworld is still an enjoyable action-horror film. Enjoy it for what it is!
The video quality is excellent.
The audio quality is also excellent.
The extras are genuine and interesting.
|DVD||Sony Playstation 3 (HDMI 1.3) with Upscaling, using HDMI output|
|Display||Panasonic High Definition 50' Plasma (127 cm). Calibrated with Video Essentials. This display device is 16x9 capable. This display device has a maximum native resolution of 1080p.|
|Audio Decoder||Built in to amplifier/receiver. Calibrated with Video Essentials.|
|Amplification||Samsung Pure Digital 6.1 AV Receiver (HDMI 1.3)|