As far as Hollywood’s concerned, the answer to the question of whether movies should be about people in fancy hats sipping tea or showcase explosions and hovercrafts typically lies with the mighty dollar. This explains why we see sequels upon sequels that might not make sense to anyone except a studio's accountant. Upon release of the fourth film in the Underworld franchise, Underworld: Awakening, you may find yourself asking yet again: why? As a staunch defender of the series, I argue that if you look past Kate Beckinsale's taut catsuit, what you see might answer all your questions.
5. The series has read Plato.
This is a heavily effects-driven series, and knows it. Usually by the time anyone from the effects team (such as creature designer Patrick Tatopoulos) takes over as director, the series is done, but audiences still came a runnin' money-wise for the third film in the series, 2009’s Underworld: Rise of the Lycans. It featured work that was just as strong if not more innovative than what came before. Tatopoulos seamlessly integrated into the other two films, keeping the blue-tinted vibe of violence and destruction going, this time with a prequel instead of just a semi-predictable continuation of the previous two films. This is why the odds are better on Underworld: Awakening actually working now in 2012--the series got some breathing room to evolve the story.
4. No action shortage.
At the end of the day, these movies are mostly about people stepping out of high-rise castles and landing on the ground like nothing ever happened. And the more slow-mo the better, especially if Kate Beckinsale is putting on a trench coat. Major set pieces like helicopters crashing through buildings are commonplace, and scenes with village raids from Underworld: Evolution (2006) hold up to award-winners like Braveheart. If you want to watch people use chains to overpower others, and if the word "people" is sometimes substituted with "werewolf" or "vampire," then this is your series, and they have never shied away from that. You can always count on this series to provide a shot of testosterone to your heart. Oh, and please remember how in Underworld: Evolution, Kate Beckinsale pulls a spear out of her own body and uses it to kill another vampire, and then throws him into a propeller, Indiana Jones style. Case closed.
3. It's a smart hybrid of soap opera and gore.
While writing these scripts, it's possible that screenwriters Len Wiseman, Danny McBride (not the Eastbound & Down Danny McBride), et al might have been inspired by the sweeps-week plots of telenovelas. Throughout the three films, the timeline and story lines get pretty complicated. Selene's family was killed, sending her into a revenge-fueled rage, only to learn that she was after the wrong killer. Villainous Viktor's lithe and combat-ready vampire daughter fell in love with a werewolf, who had been imprisoned his entire life as a slave. Then there's the Lycan rebellion and an inter-species pregnancy too. More high-minded moviegoers might make another choice for a film on Saturday night, but all that melodrama cloaked in violence brings in consistent amounts of cash.
2. There are British people (or reasonable facsimiles) in it.
Let's face it--people from the United Kingdom are smarter than us and therefore terrifying, which is what spurred the creation of the British bad guy in the first place. It seems like in the first movie in 2003, director Len Wiseman figured he would ratchet up the tension by making American audiences unsure whether they were going to see evil beasties get killed, or watch everyone sit down to afternoon tea. Most of the characters in these things have an accent, but you barely notice if they're good at it or not because their dialogue is often punctuated by punching. Plus, the ashen-complexioned Bill Nighy fits into the role of Ultimate Baddie Viktor like a glove complete with rage-induced saliva dripping out of his mouth. It’s hard to imagine this movie happened the same year as Love Actually, where Nighy traded in baring his teeth for baring his aging-rock-star bottom.
1. It's the Anti-Twilight.
Underworld was doing Werewolves versus Vampires at least three years before the Twilight novel came out and made everyone outside their target demo want to commit seppuku. In Underworld there are no tortured teenagers moping around, staring meaningfully out of their bedroom windows. Selene and friends experience plenty of tragedy and sadness, but it always spurs immediate and enormous acts of brutality. In Underworld Evolution, Scott Speedman actually rips off a Lycan’s head in one of the most impressive moves by a bi-racial person in film ever. There are endless examples of impressive fight choreography and wire work in each film as well. In Underworld, monsters are likely to get speared. In Twilight, they just gets lots of homework.
And plus, the Twi-hards had to wait three entire movies before anything resembling sex happened and still didn't really see anything good. Underworlders got a smokin' fireside love scene right off the bat. This R-rated hotness continues throughout all the films, without necessarily having to show blatant skin (a la Underworld Evolution’s super-hot Selene/Michael love scene)—it’s so racy it brings about the ire of two entire breeds of monsters. Now that’s hot.
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