Underworld is one hell of a confusing movie.
I saw Underworld when it was first released in theaters, way back in 2003. And I’ve rewatched more than a handful of times since then, mostly because of my huge girl crush on Kate Beckinsale. And every time that I watch this movie, I find myself wondering what the Hell’s going on.
I mean, I get it. There’s a centuries-old war between vampires and Lycans and the Lycans are basically werewolves but they’re called “Lycan” because Lycan sounds better than werewolf. The Death Dealers are vampires who go around and shoot Lycans on dark rainy nights. And apparently, the vampires think that the Lycan threat has been neutralized because the leader of the Lycans, Lucian, is dead but maybe he’s not because Lucian’s body was never found. And meanwhile, there’s three vampire rulers and two of the rulers get to sleep while the other one reigns and they switch out every few centuries.
Oh! And the vampires and the Lycans are not really supernatural creatures. Instead, they’re people who have been infected by a virus that causes them to live a really long time and have a craving for blood or something like that. So, that explains why none of the vampires turn into a bat or anything like that during the movie. Instead, everyone just runs around and does parkour and shoots guns at one another.
Also, the vampires don’t have to prey on human beings because they’ve learned how to clone blood because cloning is the solution for everything.
And also, everything happens at night while it’s raining because the vampires and the Lycans are secretly living in the same world with humans, they’re just living underground. They’re living in an underworld, if you will.
Well, listen, there’s a lot of plot in this movie. Underworld lasts for 121 minutes and there’s really not a slow spot in the entire film. In fact, that’s probably one of the film’s greatest strengths. The nonstop action keeps you from thinking about how the plot of the film just seems to be something that the filmmakers made up as they went along. Instead of wondering how everything fits together, you’re too busy watching as the movie flies from violent set piece to another.
Underworld‘s other great strength is that it stars Kate Beckinsale. Nowadays, the action girl who kicks ass and defeats evil while looking good has become such a cliche that it’s easy to forget just how exciting it was when we first saw Kate Beckinsale, clad in leather and effortlessly dodging bullets and ruthlessly killing Lycans. Though its impact may have subsequently been diluted by too many sequels and imitations, watching Underworld for the first time was a very empowering experience. Watching Underworld for the first time, I wanted to be Kate Beckinsale. If Kate could defeat both vampires and Lycans without breaking a sweat then I knew that I could defeat my own insecurities. Of course, unlike Kate, I didn’t have the advantage of movie magic to help me down a backflip off of a wall and I ended up spraining my ankle but still, Kate Beckinsale in Underworld was the perfect antidote to years of previously watching women in horror and action films be treated like either disposable victims or damsels in need of rescue.
In Underworld, Kate Beckinsale played Selene, a Death Dealer who tries to figure out why the Lycans are all after a human named Michael (Scott Speedman). Selene also falls in love with Michael, which leads to some complications after Michael gets bitten by Lucian (Michael Sheen), the Lycan leader who wasn’t really dead after all. Meanwhile, Kraven (Shane Brolly) wants to take over the vampires and a vampire elder named Viktor (Bill Nighy) is woken up early and then ages backwards through the film, which is actually a pretty clever idea.
And, as I said before, it never really makes much sense. But, as incoherent as Underworld may be, it’s still an undeniably addictive viewing experience. The movie is pure style. It takes place in a world where it’s always night and it’s always raining and where everyone is beautiful and deadly at the same time. Whether they’re a vampire or a Lycan, People in Underworld movies don’t merely enter a room. Instead, they throw the doors open and allows blue light to flood in as they make a grand entrance. At times, the film’s style is so kinetic and overwhelming that it threatened to get a little bit silly but, again, that’s a part of the film’s appeal. While Kate Beckinsale thrills you with her empowering performance, the visuals grab you and say, “We’re going on a trip and don’t worry about whether it makes any sense!”
That’s why I’ve watched Underworld several times. It doesn’t have to make sense. It just has to kick ass.