As I sat in the theater, preparing to watch this movie, I wasn't sure what to expect. If the trailer was any indicator, this would be the best movie I'd seen in awhile. But trailers have been bad to me recently, so I tried to go in "neutral". I own the first two Underworld movies on DVD and really enjoyed them. What started as a relatively small action film(Underworld) quickly leaped forward in the second installment(Underworld: Evolution) to an explosive vampire/werewolf action flick.
But this movie lacks both Scott Speedman and Kate Beckinsale, the lead performers in the other films. It also has a new director and takes place hundreds of years before "Underworld" begins. I knew that this could go either very right or very wrong.
I'm pleased to say it went very right.
Despite this being director Patrick Tatopoulos' second film, with most of his career focused on special effects work, it's clear he knows how to bring together a good movie with characters you can invest in. It also helps that Michael Sheen (reprising his role as Lucian from "Underworld") and Rhona Mitra deliver performances that, while not record setting, draw you in and make you care. Bill Nighy delivers another great performance as Viktor, and compellingly reminds you of why you love to hate him.
If you've seen the Underworld films, you know where this movie is headed. But when the climax arrives, it is still very intense and involving. There are also a few revelations and sequences not covered in the flashback scenes from "Underworld" that fans will be impacted by. I was afraid the movie would end without sufficient payoff, simply leading into "Underworld", but they manage to have the bad guys "get their due" in a very satisfying way. Although part of a trilogy, the story stands on its own, as do the characters.
The violent action is plentiful and intense. The FX are not groundbreaking, but still look cool. The fight sequences are at times brutal and in a few instances beautiful. The costumes and setting make the movie stand apart from the first two films, given that this is a period peice. If you're a fan of dark medieval fantasy, you will probably really enjoy looking at this world and its people. I would enjoy seeing this director helm a Dungeons and Dragons type of film, as his instincts seem dead-on for the genre.
A few times the camera was too close on the action and it was hard to get a complete sense of what was happening. But I was sitting closer to the screen than usual, and this was only in a few sequences and not a common element.
As for veracity, this film deals with themes of love, betrayal, racism, hatred and slavery. But none of these topics were handled in a way that made me give them a second thought, nor does the movie lend itself to much meaningful conversation. It's mostly just a really cool flick to watch and enjoy.
This film would round out and complete a trilogy nicely, but I'd be interested in seeing another one made. Either another prequel with Selene (Beckinsale) in the lead, or a sequel with Speedman in on the fun, too. I would trust either to this director and creative team.
Rated R for bloody violence and some sexuality