Monday, December 28, 2009

Review: Underworld (2003)

Written in 2008.

There are some things in this world I just flat out despise, and one of them is this movie. I've referenced its magnitude of terrible-ness in other reviews and even in every day conversation, but I figured it was time I owned up to all that and reviewed it to see exactly what I thought of it now, three years after I first attempted to watch it, and fell asleep in trying to do so. I mean, surely it can't be as bad as I figured at first. People like it, right, so it can't be that terrible, can it?

Nope, I was right after all; this is every bit as bad as I thought it was, and then some. I know there's a market for this kind of sissy, black-wings-and-trench-coats, blood-drinking Gothic crapola out there, and that is why Underworld succeeded in the first place, but anyone with taste can safely avoid this. People say it isn't as bad as this review claims, but it is, and it's filled with enough atrocious acting and played out cliches that I was reaching for the barf bag at fifteen minutes in. Never in my life have I seen such a hideously monotonous film, and I've sat through more bad horror movies than I care to admit!

The first thing wrong with this is evident almost immediately: where is all the color? Why is it always nighttime and raining? I mean, sure, it's London, so it made sense for a little bit, but there is NO INSTANCE OF DAYLIGHT AT ANY POINT IN THIS MOVIE. It is ALWAYS NIGHTTIME. Why? There's no reason for it, no logical explanation. We're just supposed to sit here and accept that it's always dark in this world, which still has regular, sentient human beings in it, too. Do you think they ever wonder where the sun went? Imagine how horrible that must be for them. They should have just made the movie about that. I would watch a movie about that; imagine the possibilities. No boring vampires or half-assed werewolves at all...it's like a paradise compared to this movie, and we're not even ten minutes in yet.

And another thing you might notice is, the acting sucks. Kate Beckinsale is pretty hot, but ye Gods, is she ever wooden in this. She is constantly wearing this blank, misty, ominous expression with her eyebrows furrowed and her lips ever so slightly pursed that just screams "I'm so dark, tormented and angsty, smell my black nail polish as I write my woes on Facebook!" She would be the worst actor here if not for the presence of Shane Brolly, who tries to be menacing and convincing, but mostly just comes off as a whiny douche, if I'm not mincing words. The other actors all give relatively terrible performances, but I think Brolly takes the cake for making me want to slap him silly every time I see him. He actually looks the part, it's just when he opens his mouth that he stops being credible as a villain. Pretty much every single line he spouts comes off as bitching, moaning and whining on a global scale. It is grossly intolerable.

There was this one scene where the writers seemed to realize this, and had Beckinsale's character clock him in the jaw after he tried to boss her around again (as he had been doing for the last hour and a half or so). I think it was the only good scene in the entire movie. Nothing else made me crack a smile, at least.

While I'm on the subject of the actors and their performances, what is up with the characters in this movie? All they do is argue, scold each other and generally talk down to one another. I can count at least four or five separate incidents in which a character dismissed another character with nothing more than a simple "Leave us." This sort of boring, one dimensional hostility is just unappealing and un-entertaining. Who wants to watch a movie where none of the characters interact in any kind of profitable way? This is so boring that I'm having a hard time even describing why. Is it that hard to write dialogue that is decent enough to tie the scenes together? God damn.

So, with that in mind, how about the plot? What is this movie about? It can be summed up in three words: Vampires Versus Werewolves. Oh, sure, throw in a plot involving some sort of magical "awakening" and an age-old war, and some romance, but it's really just about vampires versus werewolves. It's kind of cute that they seem to think the audience cares about their half-assed plot, but that is all ruined by the fact that they made a sequel to this garbage a few years later, and there is a third one of these cinematic nuclear bombs on the way down the shithole, too. My God, what have we created?! Anyway, though, the plot is thin at best and ludicrous at worst. I think the main thing wrong with it is how the writers created this whole universe behind our eyes without answering some vital questions: is this taking place in our time-line, or have there been serious alterations (i.e. is it just the same as our world, except with vampires and werewolves, or did the vampires and werewolves have some impact on its development)? Why don't we see more of the humans, and how they react to the bloody mayhem being caused all around them? The amount of background characters used here is shockingly low, and it would be much more believable and acceptable if this movie showed more civilians and every day people amidst the constant barrage of unbelievable plot holes that is the blanket of night and rain thrown over this. Where did all of this futuristic technology come from? If you're going to make such a complex and unrealistic set-up for a movie, at least have the balls to follow through with it and explain everything, you lazy assholes!

At one point, Scott Speedman's character shouts, "What the fuck is going on?"

I can only reply, "I wish I knew."

Even beyond all that, though, Underworld is just boring as Hell. It can't keep my attention for more than a few seconds at a time, even when it tries to be all action-y and fast paced, but that is all boring, slowed-down Matrix-wannabe crap anyway. A lot of this movie is just talking, and although I am not one of those morons who can't stand more than a few minutes of that in a movie, it's just terribly written. We, the audience, are supposed to sit there and try to digest these reams of dialogue as the characters spew them out, line after line of cyclical talk about some vague "war" and "awakening" and a "party," and a lot of angry, brooding talks and shouting about how "Kraven is not Viktor," and other mundane, useless things that we cannot grasp at all, but nothing that is actually interesting or engaging. Did they really think we'd gravitate to this tampon-starved political angst in the least? I really hate movies who substitute a plot for meaningless politics and the crutch of Fantasy. It is lazy and shows no effort at all on the writers' part. If you want to  put this shit in your movie, guys, at least try to make it interesting! Did you even care, writers? I kind of doubt it.

The elements of the film that are not fabricated in a dense wall of "plot" are always extremely cliche ones that have been borrowed and re-used throughout history, and it's all so lifeless, the romance especially. We've got a woman who likes a man who she isn't supposed to like, thus causing a rift between her and her tribe. Hm, that doesn't sound at all like Romeo & Juliet or Pocahontas, does it? There is a plot twist at the end that could have been lifted from Star Wars. It's like watching a bad Harry Potter fanfiction attempting to mimic Shakespeare at the same time. Seriously, it's like the worst Gothic vampire story ever written by a fourteen year old Myspace kid ever turned into a movie. No substance at all.

This movie is just ridiculous. The plot is phoned in, the acting is terrible, the characters aren't interesting, and the writing is just awful all around, and can you believe this shit took three people to pen down? It took three people to construct this melodramatic, feces-slinging Holocaust on the film industry. It took three people to write a movie that thrives on a plot so thin that it is transparent, and it took one director to tie it all together. This is basically just two hours of ass-fisting mall-goth mania, and people liked it. God, I hate this movie. The ending sets it up for its sequel, but the next time I touch any movie with the Underworld label on it will be never. If you never see this movie, it will be for the best.