Back in black rubber: we review all the Underworld movies

Commander's log, Stardate 12092012.2:

Defrosting my cryogenically frozen body with a hair dryer in order to finally get my brain back out of its froggy prison last week, I took to thinking about Kate Beckinsale. Obviously, for the usual reasons, but also because of Underworld.

This pre-Twilight, goth version of Romeo and Juliet pulls off the same trick as The Matrix in taking all the facets of the entire genre of Universal vampires and werewolves and crystalising it into one definitive story. In addition, you get a fantastic cast, including breakout performances from beloved thesps Michael Sheen and Bill Nighy, stylish action sequences and Beckinsale in rubber.

Somehow, just a few years after all that, vampires became limp-wristed, sparkly, fluffy-haired posers, and you even cast them in blockbuster movies. We got sick of the space vampires decades ago and blew up their planet with a Death Star. I mean, they nearly depleted galactic reserves of hair gel and the less said about those earthquakes on Rigel 3, caused by the hypersonic screams of young Rigellian girls, the better. Anyway, all of this prompted a marathon rewatch of all the Underworld movies, but were they as good as we remembered?


The secret war between vampires and werewolves, which has gone on behind the scenes throughout history, is dying down. The werewolves, however, have a final trick up their sleaves that somehow involves student doctor, Scott Speedman. Thankfully, Bond-meets-dominatrix-style vampire supercop Kate Beckinsale is on to them, but is she really on the right side; particularly as she has the hots for Speedman?

"You've got a hair on your collar, let me get it... Oh, it's attached..."

There is so much mythology and back story crammed into this movie that there's no time for character development, leaving it a pretty flimsy narrative. Still, the mythology is great fun and it's packed with oodles of style and a fantastic cast. The fight scenes are solid and the film even invented the infamous 'cut and slide' death. The effects may be ropey in places, due to the modest budget, but this is still well worth your time.

Verdict: Classic


Taking up the story just hours after the end of the last film, Beckinsale and vampire-werewolf hybrid Speedman are now on the run from vampires, werewolves and humans alike. As if they weren't in enough trouble, the original vampire has got a dose of werewolf DNA too and they've got a super-hybrid on their respectively wolfy and rubberised tails.

With the story and mythology firmly established by the first film, you'd think the second outing could put on the brakes and work on developing its characters; but, hey, sod that, let's throw a whole heap more ideas at the screen at and keep the pace breakneck! Yep, this is more of the same exposition and action-heavy mix of style and sexy. We wouldn't have it any other way. There's loads more back story, more great monster designs and some fun new characters, plus a more than doubled budget, which really shows.

Verdict: Classic

Rise of The Lycans

We take a step back in time with this prequel to expand on Sheen's flashback from the first movie. We find out how Beckinsale stand-in Rhona Mitra and this unlikely werewolf Spartacus came to make the werewolf with two backs and royally irritate head vampire Bill Nighy.

Of course, it makes no sense, whatsoever, retcons the first movie and is filled with plot holes; and the less said about how exactly the timeline of these movies works, the better (Beckinsale would be at least two hundred years old before she became a vampire...). Still, despite the decline in quality from Len Wiseman to first-time director Patrick Tatopoulos, this is still a solid slice of fun and we love Mitra; even if the film never escapes us knowing the ending before it even starts.

Verdict: Better than you remember


Captured by a Resident Evil-style corporation who put her in cryogenic suspension, Beckinsale wakes up to find herself in a V For Vendetta-style fascist future where vampires and werewolves are persecuted, X-Men-style. She dons a Torchwood-style military coat and heads off to find Speedman. There's some stuff with a child and sewer-werewolfs, but, bloody hell, who cares? This is awful.

With the lukewarm reception Rise of The Lycans received and the world having screaming fits over Robert Pattinson, you'd think Underworld would have called it a day. Then, all of a sudden, this fourth outing appeared out of nowhere with relatively little fanfare. This is Underworld, but not as we know it: Nighy's out, Sheen's out, Speedman's out, the Underworld back story and mythology (the saga's saving grace) is out, character is out and sense is out. Despite script credits for creator Wiseman and the legendary J M Straczynski, this plot is so generic, a quick keyword find and replace could turn it into Blade 4, Resident Evil 6 or even bleeding Twilight 5! It's just fanfic, with the most original idea being a slightly larger werewolf and the biggest surprise that Beckinsale even bothered to turn up.

Verdict: Best forgotten