|Len Wiseman Director|
Vampires and werewolves: the age-old conflict continues. However, hunter Selene finds that something new is going on when the lycans begin to follow a man named Michael Corvin, attempting to create a powerful werewolf/vampire hybrid and turn the tides of the war.
Screen Gems green lit both a sequel and prequel prior to the release of the first installment, having been impressed by box office takings in Canada.5 More Trivia
7 More Quotes
I am a Death Dealer, sworn to destroy those known as the Lychans. Our war has waged for centuries, unseen by human eyes. But all that is about to change.
|Danny McBride||Story & Screenplay|
|Scott Speedman||Michael Corvin|
|Wentworth Miller||Dr. Adam Lockwood|
|See Full Credits|
Underworld is an action/horror film released in 2003, starring Kate Beckinsale, Scott Speedman and Michael Sheen. The film sees Selene, a vampire Death Dealer, tracking down and protecting a human, Michael Corvin, who is wanted by Lycans for experiments. After Michael is bitten by a Lycan, Selene is forced to ensure his safety from both warring factions. The film was written and produced by Len Wiseman (who also directed), Kevin Grevioux and Danny McBride. The film achieved a reasonably strong box office performance, leading to two sequels - Underworld: Evolution and Underworld: Awakening, as well as a prequel, Underworld: Rise of the Lycans. Although largely dismissed by critics, the film has since gained a cult following amongst fans.
Underworld was devised by Len Wiseman, Kevin Grevioux and Danny McBride, all of whom had no prior experience in writing a feature film. Before approaching a production studio to seek funding for the project, the co-creators realised the viability for a future Underworld franchise, and so decided to flesh out the complex back-story that would later be used in the subsequent movies. Speaking about the film’s inception, director Wiseman said:
We sort of mapped out an entire history and story... a massive collection of ideas and stories that we're putting out at certain times.
When designing the fiction, the writers felt it was crucial to make strategic changes to the traditional mythology of vampires and werewolves in order to improve the audience’s experience. The warfare employed by the respective factions was updated, with the introduction of UV rounds and blood packs to fit into the alternative modern universe. The approach to combat that the characters, and in particular Selene, would take was also an aspect that had to be handled carefully. Wiseman said:
Since there was that romantic involvement it would just put people off if in between those scenes you see Kate running off to tackle some human in the street and suck his blood and kill him. And we needed people to identify with her more as the quote-unquote good guy as much as you can be as a vampire.
Following the film’s release, controversy over its originality ensued. Nancy A. Collins and White Wolf Inc. claimed that the movie infringed on copyrighted material featured in the Sonja Blue novels, leading to the two parties launching a lawsuit against Sony Pictures, Screen Gems and Lakeshore Entertainment. Wiseman has since denied having copied the ideas and has re-affirmed the originality of the work:
But it’s strange because there are so many instances where someone will ask me in an interview, "That scene where Kate shoots through the floor, Wiseman copied that from some 70s Japanese movie"…And that’s something I’ve never even seen. It does shock you and it does upset you because you put all this time into something. It was me, Danny [McBride] and Kevin [Grevioux, co-writer] sitting around a dinky little apartment going, "What do we think is cool? What if we did this? What if we did that?" Then all of a sudden, people present it as if you’ve ripped it off. It takes the fun out of a lot of it. I don’t think it’ll go anywhere.
The lawsuit eventually led to an out of court settlement between Sony Pictures and White Wolf.
While fulfilling an assignment of eliminating a target, Selene crosses paths with Raze, a powerful Lycan who after a brief gunfight, unintentionally leads her to a lair of his fellow werewolves, led by Lucain. After escaping, she informs high ranking vampire Kraven of what she has discovered, but her claims are quickly rejected. Undeterred by being ignored, she discusses the matter further with her close friend, Erika, before eventually discovering on the CCTV footage that Raze was following a human when the attack occurred. After investigation, Selene manages to identify the man as Michael Corvin and discover his location. Although she is successful in finding him, they are attacked by several Lycans, including Lucian, who bites Michael, before Selene manages to escape with him.
Despite the risk Michael now poses, Selene brings him back to the vampire manor, Ordoghaz. Upon discovering her actions, Kraven turns on her, threatening both her and the life of the human if she didn’t remove him from the premises.
Although shaken by the verbal rollicking she received, Selene becomes suspicious of Kraven’s behaviour, and after investigating him further discovers that he appears to be involved with Lucian - the Lycan he was supposed to have killed some years previously. Now aware of Kraven’s betrayal, Selene awakens Viktor from his hibernation state, believing him to be the only one with enough power to restore order. Before she can explain the circumstances, Viktor orders her to be kept in isolation for breaking his sleep cycle prematurely. Realising the danger they all face, Selene escapes the manor and is reunited with Michael. At this time, she also captures Singe, a Lycan scientist, who reveals their plans to combine the two bloodlines into one species.
With this information, she returns to Ordoghaz and is declared innocent by Viktor and the council. However, in order for her to complete her atonement, he also demands that she kill Michael to prevent the possibility of the Lycans becoming more powerful. Realising that she has developed feelings for Michael, she disobeys the orders and instead attempts to assist Michael in escaping from the vampire assassins. Jealous of her affections for the human,
Kraven tracks them down and shoots Michael with a silver nitrate bullet - the sole material capable of killing him. In a desperate attempt to save him, Selene allows Michael to drink her own blood and in doing so, creates a vampire-Lycan hybrid. The pair return to face Viktor and take revenge for murdering her family. After a series of failed attacks, Michael appears to be on the verge of being killed, only to be saved by Selene, who manages to bisect Viktor’s head with his own sword.
With the story for the film fully developed in concept, it was now time to search for a female lead to play Selene. When considering which actress to cast, several high profile names were earmarked as possibilities -
namely Halle Berry and Milla Jovovich, who would land their own action film roles in Catwoman and Resident Evil respectively. Ultimately, the part went to British actress, Kate Beckinsale. Initially, Beckinsale was reluctant to get involved with the project, believing it to be the wrong fit for her acting skill set. However, after multiple suggestions from her agent to reconsider, and viewing several sketches that Wiseman sent with the script, she decided to sign on.
Casting the part of Michael Corvin proved to be a difficult task, with several actors vying for the part. Multiple actors who auditioned for the role went to appear in the film in other capacities: Wentworth Miller played Michael’s co-worker, Shane Brolly portrayed Kraven and
Michael Sheen went on to earn the role of Lucian. Scott Speedman was chosen to play Michael, with director Wiseman believing him to possess the necessary charisma to pull off the part. Pre-production began in 2002, with a projected budget of just over $20 million. Filming took place primarily in Budapest, Hungary until its completion. Wiseman decided to take the somewhat unusual decision of rejecting the heavy use of CG, instead preferring to create shots with practical effects, only using CG in order to enhance them.
Reviews for Underworld were mostly poor, despite receiving a positive reaction from fans. Roger Ebert criticised the emphasis on the film’s aesthetics over character development, resulting in the whole movie faltering:
"This is a movie so paltry in its characters and shallow in its story that the war seems to exist primarily to provide graphic visuals". Peter Travers of Rolling Stone highlighted the weakness of the romantic aspect of the plot: “Kate Beckinsale looks fetching in fangs and black vinyl, but the sparks she struck off camera with director Len Wiseman don't carry over to Scott Speedman, the human her character loves.” Andrew O’Hehir offered a more positive appraisal of her performance, claiming ‘Beckinsale's icy English composure creates a sense of stillness at the center of the general art-directed chaos of "Underworld”’, while raising doubts over her male counterpart’s ability to match her in this respect: “Speedman is handsome, all right -- in the mild, sweet manner of a frat boy who actually believes the organization is about community service -- but he never feels well-matched to Beckinsale's cool, translucent beauty.”
Here's What You Missed: Underworld
Want to catch up on the Underworld series before Awakening comes out? Probably not, but here's this anyway!
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