Directed By: Len Wiseman
Starring: Kate Beckinsale, Scott Speedman, Shane Brolly
Tag line: "This Fall, when the battle begins, which side will you choose?"
Trivia: Scott Speedman suffered a concussion when a set prop that was supposed to be a piece of the wall hit him in the head
Vampires vs. Werewolves. It's the sort of scenario most horror fans dream about, and 2003's Underworld not only gives it to us, but employs plenty of style in the telling.
Since the death of their leader, Lucian (Michael Sheen), many years ago, the Lycans (also known as werewolves) have been locked in a bitter war against their sworn enemies, the Vampires. Following a fierce showdown with several lycans on a subway platform, the vampire Selene (Kate Beckinsale) begins to wonder if Lucian is, in fact, really dead. Kraven (Shane Brolly), the head of her coven, claims to have killed Lucien centuries earlier, but Selene is not convinced, and tracks down a human doctor named Michael Corvin (Scott Speedman), whom the lycans were pursuing prior to the subway confrontation, for some answers. As it turns out, the confused Corvin was recently bitten by a lycan, and will therefore become one upon the next full moon. Still, Selene agrees to help him, and awakens the vampire elder, Viktor (Bill Nighy), from his centuries-old slumber to ask for his guidance. But there's more to this story than Selene realizes, and not even Viktor will be able to protect her from the truth.
We’re given a sense of what to expect from Underworld in its gorgeous opening scene, where Beckinsale’s Selene, perched high atop the city, stares down at the streets below. Suddenly, she and her companion, Rigel (Sándor Bolla), spot a pair of lycans heading into the subway. They follow them, and a gunfight ensues when the lycan, Raze (Kevin Grevioux), senses the vampire’s presence. Rigel is killed, and hundreds of bullets are fired by both sides as helpless human bystanders look on, unaware of the magnitude of what’s going on around them. It’s a vivid, exciting beginning, establishing up-front that Underworld will not only be a continuation of an age-old battle between two immortal foes, but a kick-ass action movie as well.
From the fetishistic way in which the camera lingers on Beckinsale’s leather-clad frame to the impressive CGI effects that transform the lycans from human to werewolf, Underworld is a feast for the eyes. And though its story starts to fizzle well before the finale, the movie is nonetheless bolstered at all times by an almost graphic-novel vibe (think Batman Begins with monsters), and just the right amount of The Matrix tossed in for good measure.