For many centuries Vampires and Werewolves, known as Lycans, have been at war. The root cause of the war has long since been lost to history and those who continue the fight are not encouraged to research into the past. Continuing the fight for the Vampires are elite hunters who track and kill their lycanthropic foes. In all the centuries that the war has continued, Humans have never become part of the battle, until now.
Selene (Kate Beckinsale) is one of the Vampire's hunters who begins to suspect that the Lycans are tracking a Human for reasons of their own and uncovers a secret that will change the fate of both races.
What we have here is an extended cut of the film, which has approximately 12 minutes of additional footage. Although it should be noted, as indeed it is in the commentary track, that this is not a directors cut it is simply an extended version.
Underworld should have been great. Director Les Wiseman makes it clear throughout the extras on this special edition, that his intent was to bring the best of the graphic novel style to the screen and to do so with a look all of it's own. Unfortunately critics panned the movie on its release and, whilst I wouldn't completely write it off, I'm inclined to say that this extended edition does little to improve the situation. The movie feels hugely derivative with a mixture of sub-Hammeresque plotting, Blade style modern vampires and a look and feel which must surely owe a tip of the hat to the Matrix trilogy, therein lies the problem.
Beginning with a rapid and slightly confusing narrative, which introduces the ongoing war, the movie feels like the middle instalment of an ongoing serial. It is not until around the midpoint of the movie that all of the players in the movie become clear. Indeed, if I wasn't already aware of the plotline I probably would have been wondering who or what the Lycans are, up until Selene explains to Michael that they are otherwise known as werewolves.
Also Underworld is supposed to follow a defining point in the war between two immortal groups of mythical creatures yet most of the battles take place using machine pistols, albeit machine pistols with some cool refinements. Given the obvious powers of the two races, as evidenced by Selenes acrobatics, some Vampiric ceiling walking and Selenes sword handling at the movies climax, why where there not more hand to hand, or claw to fang, encounters?
The whole thing just feels like a Matrix wannabe and that's a real shame since there's a good premise behind this movie. Sadly the storyline isn't the only problem with some confusing casting also presenting itself. For the most part Beckinsale plays Selene convincingly enough with the material she has been given but is, ultimately, unconvincing in her portrayal of an immortal hunter that has been fighting a foe for centuries. Even the normally fantastic Bill Nighy, cast as Viktor the prematurely awoken vampire elder, seems oddly out of place and is missing the sense of menace and evil that the role should have had; seeming instead to decide not to take himself, or the role, too seriously.It's not all bad news though. The movie looks fantastic set against a darkly gothic backdrop and does feature some excellent set pieces including many Vampire/Lycan fights and some superb creature and effects work which reach beyond its, comparatively, modest budget.