Listen up. I can admit when I am wrong (most times…) and I can accept that one of my downfalls (in life) has been relying too much on first impressions (occasionally). I don’t mind admitting, I was totally wrong about Underworld. When it came out, I really hated it and for many years I waged a one woman crusade against it, but then a friend of mine twisted my arm and made me go back and give it another try… and I am so very thankful that he did. A few years sure can make a difference when it comes to changing your opinion.
Despite a complete attitudinal shift in my feelings towards Underworld as a film/franchise, I must confess that these are the only movies I have really, thoroughly enjoyed both Kate Beckinsale or Scott Speedman in. Anything else (ahem, Felicity) I could take or leave (usually leave), but I thought they were both excellent in this and the follow up, Underworld: Evolution, which I will discuss later… don’t get me started on Underworld: Awakening though, because that is like a stake through the heart of the whole universe. I didn’t mind Underworld: Rise of the Lycans, but that has neither Scott Speedman or Kate Beckinsale, so maybe we will discuss that down the line, I feel like it’s the odd one out.
Anyway – let’s look at the trailer and refresh all of our memories (you know, for those who don’t watch this one on high rotation):
SPOILER ALERT: I will probably give away significant plot details as I rant about my favourite bits of this film, so if you’ve not seen it, treat yourself, I’ll just put my feet up and wait for you.
The best thing about Underworld is undoubtedly Selene, who is a totally bad-ass female heroine (and let’s be real – who looks better than most of us could ever hope to look in a skin tight leather body suit). From minute one, this vampire ‘death dealer’ is jumping off tall buildings, packing guns, punching dudes and throwing silver disks at werewolves. She is totally fearless and a cold, focused bitch, which I guess you’d have to be if you were going to have to face the idea that you’re going to live forever. Until Michael shows up, Selene has been kicking ass and taking names as a solo hit-lady for hundreds of years. She don’t need no man to make her feel good (looking at you, Craven, and your unending infatuation) and she doesn’t really get too wrapped up in anything other than thinking about killing Lycans or Viktor, who is like a father figure to her. I know it isn’t totally unheard of to have an ass-kicking female heroine, but it is unusual for her to be a lone wolf. What I love about Selene is that, while she does rely to a point on Viktor to back her up, she still needs to get through the 200 years he is asleep (while Amelia and Marcus are reigning) where she needs to rely on her own fine self in order to get things done – and that is pretty much what she does do.
Enter Michael. It’s evident from that second that this pair lock eyes that things are about to get real for Selene, but the writers do their best to drag out the attraction and the tension between these two star crossed lovers for as long as possible. To their credit, we have to wait until the sequel before they finally get naked, which is uncommon in these modern times of gratuitous sex and banging on the first date. In many ways, Michael almost takes on the traditionally feminine role in this film. It’s him that needs saving from the lycans, him that needs to be cared for as he transitions from mortal to immortal and ultimately him that needs to be rescued from Lucian’s den. And you know who comes to bail him out? Selene. Without fail. She also isn’t afraid to be hard on him (look at those abs though, he can handle it), like when she locks him up at the blood bank and leaves him with the handgun and a single bullet. Selene might be developing warm squishy feels, but she surely isn’t going to let that stop her achieving her ultimate goal – which is PROVING THAT SHE IS RIGHT and that Craven is an epic douche.
Along the way, Selene also has to face some hard truths about her own heritage and confront some difficult realisations about having been lied to for several hundred years. But does she cry about it? Hell no, she just goes about systematically getting revenge. It is so refreshing to see a heroine that never sits down and gives up and has that (seemingly unavoidable moment of weakness), she just gets on with it and gets the job done. Selene, you’re a woman after my own heart.
I respect that Scott Speedman does such a superb job of playing the role of Michael as well. As a mortal, he is at the disadvantage, not just because of the transitioning from one state to another, but because he has no idea of the back story of the war, or the lycans or the vampires, or being immortal, and he is about 600 years younger than Selene, so… Anyway, Speedman really carries it off well. He’s a bit vulnerable, a bit like a lost puppy, but still sexy as hell. Actually, in that final scene, where he has transitioned into the vampire/lycan hybrid and Selene has killed Viktor, he falls into step behind her, (like a loyal puppy!) like he is symbolically saying: okay, I’ve helped you out in battle, but you won the day on your own and I’m in service to you, m’lady.
You may have also noticed that I have a bit of a hang up (it’s tiny, really) about teeth. I’m all about the real life, so when actors don’t have a mouth full of pearly white caps, that impresses me. Scott Speedman has odd teeth. Good for you Scott Speedman, I like that a lot about you.
Notable mention to Wentworth Miller, who has a cameo as Michael’s co-worker in two forgettable scenes. This was pre-Prison Break (the first season of which was totally f*cking amazing in case you’re curious about my thoughts) and he is making some interesting hair choices. Thank goodness for We Belong Together (2005). I like to think Mariah Carey played a large role in fashioning Wentworth Miller into that butterflies in the stomach inducing mass of goodness that we all know and remember from Fox River.
I also want to take a moment here to talk about Michael Sheen. This is a man who has an almost unparalleled ability to transform from utterly forgettable nerdy prime minister into smokin’ hot creature of the underworld. Lucian lives on in my fantasy world as probably the only werewolf that could sway me away from joining a vampire coven (possibly Connal Maccon might get in there, from The Parasol Protectorate novel series, but we will get to him at another time).
Bill Nighy… Look, I’ve been a fan of yours since Still Crazy (which I would talk about AT LENGTH if this was a music film blog). To my mind there is nothing you can do wrong. Even though you’re playing Viktor and you’re a complete dick and you killed your own vampire daughter by burning her alive, I still can’t hate you.
So, that’s my thoughts on Underworld. Ladies and Gents, if you’re in the mood to watch a totally awesome female kicking ass, then I’d recommend this to you. And look, even if you’re not, go and see it anyway, because it is invaluable (but admittedly not necessary) for contextualising Underworld: Evolution… which we’re going to discuss really soon.
(For the record, I also hate Van Helsing… and no, a re-watch didn’t improve that one little bit, I still think it’s shit).