12th August, 2009
Recently I went on a bit of a spending spree on Amazon, and picked up a few DVDs, games and a mouse I’d been wanting for quite some time. One of these was the Underworld trilogy. Recommended to me by a good friend who also happens to know his movies, it also fitted in quite well with the style of the rest of those on my shelf: Hellboy and Hellboy 2, Van Helsing, Ultraviolet, The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, Wanted… you get the picture: these films are my kind of thing. I couldn’t turn down 3 films of gun-wielding super-sense Vampires led by Kate Beckinsale (below) as Selene versus marauding half-human-half-wolf Lycans headed up by Michael Sheen.
So, a bit of the storyline. The first two films are the story of Selene, a “Deathdealer” Vampire, whose job it is to seek out and destroy the last few remaining Lycans. Turned into a Vampire having been bitten by one of the oldest Vampires Viktor (played excellently by Bill Nighy), the first film opens with excellent fights and chase scenes as she attempts to see off some Lycans.
The Lycans are after a human called Michael, who turns out to be a hybrid between the two species, a direct descendant of the two brothers, one of which was bitten by a bat and the other by a wolf. Michael is of interest to Selene because he is the first for many years who has survived the bite of both a Vampire and a Lycan. Selene explains her hatred for Lycans arising from when she was a child and they slaughtered her family, before Viktor arrived to save her. He turned her into a Vampire and raised her like his daughter.
As the war escalates and the Vampires go after the Lycans, one of the Vampires tells Selene what really happened the night her family died - it was not the Lycans that killed them, but Viktor on a killing spree, thirsty for blood; but he could not bear to kill her. In the final epic battle of the film, Selene bites Michael so that he becomes stronger than both Vampire and Lycan, before slicing Viktor’s head in half. Suddenly she has become the hunted.
In the second film, Underworld Evolution, Selene takes Michael into hiding, and attempts to awaken the only remaining Vampire elder, Marcus. However, he has already been awoken by Kraven (the leader of the Vampires, who was in charge while the Elders slept), who he killed and then drank his blood to find out the events since he was last awake. Marcus finds Selene and Michael in the woods outside their hiding place, where they proceed to have a massive fight which spills over into a chase sequence with Selene driving a pickup truck, Michael on the back, and Marcus flying behind them. The sun rises, and Selene and Michael end up holed up in a container, while Marcus sleeps in a nearby cave.
The next evening, Selene and Michael visit a Vampire historian (who it turns out has been dealing with the Lycans). He tells her the real truth behind why her family were killed - she has a key to a prison build by her father for Viktor to imprison William, the first (and most dangerous) Lycan. Selene then meets Alexander Corvinus, the father of the first Vampire and Lycan, who is then killed by Marcus. Before he dies, he gives Selene some of his blood to drink, so that she becomes a Vampire-Lycan hybrid, before going after Marcus who has intentions of opening William’s prison and setting him free. The film finishes with an epic battle between Selene and Michael on one side, and William and Marcus on the other. Eventually Marcus and William are dead, and Selene and Michael are left to build the future of the Vampire-Lycan hybrids.
The final film in the trilogy is actually the prequel, telling the story of how the great war between the Vampires and Lycans started. It was once that the Vampires were the rulers, the Lycans their slaves. Lucian, the Lycan ruler from the first two films, is Viktor’s “favourite” slave, and is the castle blacksmith. He is secretly in love with Viktor’s daughter, Sonja, who he frequently sees in secret.
Sonja ventures out against Viktor’s orders to escort in a human noble family, who are bringing slaves and silver to Viktor in exchange for his protection. They are attacked by a swarm of Lycans, and things are looking bad until Lucian turns up, who has escaped from the castle. He transforms into Lycan form, and warns off the Lycans, saving Sonja’s life. The Vampires, however, throw Lucian in jail for transforming, despite saving Sonja’s life, and against her protests.
Sonja bribes a senior Vampire with her seat on the Vampire Council (getting a position is difficult as there are only 12 seats and Vampires just don’t die), and sets Lucian free. He escapes to the forest, but returns within a few days with an army of humans and Lycans to attack the castle. As Lucian and Sonja make their escape, they are stopped by Viktor. After a rather epic fight, Viktor has Sonja at his mercy and Lucien is subdued. Sonja reveals to her father that she is pregnant with Lucien’s child. Viktor sees this child as “an abomination” and sentences her to death. He burns her with sunlight while forcing Lucien to look on.
Overall, these films were fantastically enjoyable. I think I preferred the first two to the third, but all provided the fast-paced action, excellent acting, gory visuals and enough storyline to keep me interested - just what I’m looking for in a vampire film.