Underworld Special Edition DVD Review
PictureThis 2.35:1 anamorphically enhanced is notable for several reasons. Firstly this has to be about the darkest film I can recall, if I were to say 98% of this film is set in the dead of night, a sewer or underground cavern etc, then that estimation may in fact be conservative. The (almost) complete low level of lighting is befitting a film that has such gothic overtones. The colour palette is also suitably grim, made up almost entirely of dark blues, greys and black. Those very few moments that do involve primary colours (other than blue) show saturation, but blink and you'll miss it, a rug here a bit of blood there. Swapping between scenes within the extras and the actual film scene gives a very real world picture of the level of filtering employed. Skin tones, which perhaps are the only real frame of reference, appear very natural when given the chance too. Detail levels are very good indeed given the gloom Edge enhancement could be discerned in the odd scene but in general will be all but absent to the majority of smaller displays. A smidgen of grain could be detected as could a little noise, compression artefacts were commendably non-intrusive.Overall then this is a good transfer indeed, it's dark image will however ask a lot of your players and display devices.
SoundThe soundtrack has both English and French Dolby Digital 5.1 (both at 448kbs) streams. There is no extended surround enhancement, nor a DTS option, however neither of these omissions should be considered as fatal.Starting with my only real grumble, the opening dialogue just sounded dismal, as if Beckinsale is facing in another direction. On first listen I genuinely had thought that I was having technical “difficulties”. This aside, the soundtrack could best be described as busy. Peppered with the usual shock tactic orchestral stabs, distant thunder and lightning, heavy rain effects etc, they're all here. Add to that Face Off style shootouts, hissing and howling creatures of the afterlife and some very heavy rock music themes, and you have nothing less than an enthusiastic multi-channel presentation. Aggressive with plenty of discrete effects, all the channels are charged with good dynamics and detail. The LFE channel plays its part also ensuring your subwoofer is not left feeling undervalued. Dialogue (other than the opening minute) is clean and easily discernible.I would not personally consider this as one of my reference/demo disc's, for me it just lacked that something that separates the good from the best. It is at least good if not very good - for an action type film, it's only failing (if this is possible) is that it was “only” very good!
ExtrasA reasonable quantity of additional material is present on this single disc release. Two commentaries are present, a Director and Writer's and a Technical commentary. Whilst neither were exactly earth shattering I did find interest in parts of both. Four shortish featurettes, The Making of Underworld, Creature Effects, Stunts and Sights and Sounds were frankly puff pieces and held nothing of real interest whatsoever. A music video “Worms of the Earth” by Finch is “A-Typical” of the choice of music found in the film. Storyboard Comparisons give an on-the-fly comparison for selected scenes. Two short (U.S) T.V Spot trailers are included. Finally a selection of 6 full length trailers, Underworld, The Forsaken, John Carpenter's Vampires, John Carpenter Presents Vampires: Los Muertos, Resident Evil and Resident Evil 2: Apocalypse make up the extras roll call.Overall I felt very much a case of quantity over quality and certainly the commentaries being the best on offer here.
VerdictWell, the films nothing special and neither are the extras, conversely the soundtrack is technically very good as generally is the image quality. The Vampire/Werewolf theme clearly has potential, but I feel most would consider it not particularly well exploited here. The stylistically dark and brooding look will appeal to some and the lovely Beckinsale in tight leather will no doubt appeal to more. I did enjoy this and may indeed watch it again at some point. My overall opinion, if asked, would be buy if you like this sort of thing otherwise wait for a rental release. I certainly wouldn't cancel a decent meal with a good red for it.
Suggested retail price when reviewed: £28.95
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