I’ve decided Mondays this month shall be Underworld related. Unsurprisingly I own all the Underworld franchise films and have at least one poster from the series on my walls in my house. There was a time when I was playing City of Heroes I would watch Underworld and Boondock Saints every other day….for three months. So with that in mind, and the fact that I haven’t reviewed any of these films I am going to review them each monday this month, but in reverse order. Why reverse order? Why not? The closer we get to Halloween the more awesome the movie gets? It just happened to be the film Jess grabbed from her DVD shelf? Pretty much…a mix and match of those answers.
So, how is the 4th installment of the Underworld franchise?
The first warning comes in that there are a total of 9 credits related to writing. Nine.
This blow is softened only by the fact three of the credits are for character creation at the hands of Len Wiseman, Kevin Grevioux, and Danny McBride. That still brings us to six. Len Wisemen is repeated again in the story credit with John Hlavin, so in reality we only have four total writers on the work. Still…Jess’s Rule of Three applies. For those not familiar it is the rule where if you have more than three writers on a project that the movie downgrades by exponential degrees with only a handful of exceptions. Hlavin had no film credits prior, but did some story editing for The Shield. Wiseman created the series and has been involved the entire time, when not creating Sleepy Hollow the series. The last two credits go to Allison Burnett who didn’t have a great track record with films such as Fame and Untraceable on his resume. Then, however, there is a great writer J. Michael Stracyznski. I know him best from Babylon 5, but he also was a writer on Thor and Sense 8. Sadly this many writers with such differing backgrounds and levels of experience makes it hard where to place the blame for the overall script.
How do I feel about the script?
Ok directing? Neither Måns Mårlind or Björn Stein had any US film experience prior to this. This does not surprise me however, as much of the movie feels like other films I have seen come out of northern and eastern european filmmakers. There’s just something about the structure of shots, geography, and overall film production that reads European vs North American. The pacing shifts, the budget seems to get tighter in some areas while it gets abused in others still. I think what saves them on this project is the fact that Wiseman is involved along with Kate Beckinsale reprising Selene.
Kate once again fills the all too familiar corset and body suit and shoots her way through the setting with brilliant blue eyes, black hair, and pale skin. I think her familiarity with Selene makes so much of the movie possible as she is the audience connection into what is otherwise unconnectable. Theo James (Divergent) is almost laughable trying to be tough against the known Selene, he reminds me of a puppy puffing its chest and barking at a wolf. He has zero chemistry with her and next to no charm. Thankfully the movie gives us Stephen Rea who is an amazing and totally underrated actor who brings a level of gravitas to his roles that works really well for the films he is in, such as V for Vendetta or Citizen X. We are also given the gift of Michael Ealy (Almost Human, The Following), who has an easy charm like Chiwetel Ejiofor that allows him to glide in, sync up, and work with anyone.
From an FX perspective – how can a movie get that much worse over this much time? In 9 years graphics should have gotten better not worse. Then I look at the production design and make up department and see a distinct lack of Patrick Tatopoulos. I’d like to think part of the 70 million dollar budget went into the effects, a significant part. Perhaps it did, but…it doesn’t show.
This movie is a guilty pleasure. It isn’t good. Not by a longshot. It does some interesting things with the story and certainly advances the plot, but I just don’t care. Granted none of these films are great films, but this one is the weakest.
Should you watch it?
Well…only if you want to complete the series or prep for the next film. Otherwise Nope.
On a semi related note: do you like the youtube clips inserted in the review? Trying something new.