This is part of a series of blogs I'm writing on vampires in literature and film. This is not a review, per se, so SPOILERS may be revealed. Read with caution.
I saw Underworld in the theaters, and I don't remember exactly how it came about. I remember I went alone, and I remember that the movie caught me by surprise. It seemed to have come out of nowhere. And I was amazed by its brilliance and creativity.
It's not often that Hollywood allows an original genre film to get made. Underworld was not a novel or a comic book. It was an original script. And boy was it different than any other vampire movie I'd seen.
For starters, Underworld takes it cues not from teenage angst, like its 1980s precedents, but from fare like Highlander or Forever Knight, where the supernatural is operating beneath the veneer of the regular world, and where it has its own codes and societies. Furthermore, Underworld plays up vampires and werewolves, two creatures that go together well, and creates its own beautifully realized history and mythology.
The movie works, and it works well. Its structure is quite well done. We follow Selene, a vampire assassin, who hunts down and kills werewolves (called Lycans in the movie). She believes that werewolves have killed her family and wants revenge. Then this really hot guy shows up, and Selene falls in love with him, and because of that, she starts asking questions, and her entire world unravels.
It's amazingly awesome. We know nothing about the world in the film, but pieces are revealed, bit by bit, until we are given the full scope of it, from the complex ruling class of the vampires to the rebellious Lycans, to the fact that Selene is really just being used by the vampires.
I think I love this movie so much because it really watches like an early Laurell K. Hamilton novel. There's so much detail put into the world. It's visually stunning. And on top of all of that, it's really a love story, and a love story about forbidden love to boot. (If you haven’t guessed by now—after 230,000 words about Jason and Azazel—forbidden love is my favorite kind.) Plus, did I mention the guys are really hot?
The sequel is nothing to write home about. It's an action movie with very little character development. The prequel, however, Rise of the Lycans, is a tragically beautiful story about doomed forbidden love, which made me cry. (I kid you not.) I hear there's a fourth film in the works. I hope it doesn't suck, but I'm not crossing my fingers.