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Underworld - the Superbit Edition - on DVD

Vampires. Werewolves. Cool weapons. Kate Beckinsale in tight leather.

How could you go wrong?

Underworld has a great idea, and enough potential for ten movies. It delivers pretty much what you expect from it, but for some reason you still feel unsatisfied.

Selene (Beckinsale) is a bad-ass vampire whose job is pretty much to kick the crap out of the rival lycans (werewolves). When she notices they seem to be following a human, Michael (Scott Speedman), she goes deeper into the underworld to figure out why. Most of us can probably figure out that the two begin to fall for each other, but their love is forbidden, not only because she’s a vampire, but also because Michael has been bitten by a werewolf, and will soon become one.

Together, the two have to figure out what started this centuries-old war between the two species, while trying to protect themselves and the ones they care about.

Initially, you can’t imagine how Underworld could possibly not be a phenomenal action movie. But as it progresses, it all becomes unfortunately clear. Not to say that it isn’t still entertaining enough in its own right, but you expect so much more. It tries to be dark, but isn’t as dark as it should be (or tries to be), and most of the action scenes don’t deliver anything new at all.

Kate Beckinsale was an excellent choice to play Selene. She’s equal parts brash, naïve, vulnerable, and strong. She’s not bad to look at, either. Scott Speedman is just handsome enough to pull off his role, but he seems to be more of a way to keep the story together than an actual major character.

Newcomer Len Wiseman has put together an impressive debut. He and screenwriter Danny McBride created a neat little world similar to that in Blade, but original enough to not get sued. Underworld is a fun little action movie that’s worth a rental, but get ready to be perpetually thinking: “This could be so much better!”

Underworld is now available as part of the Superbit series, the third version of the film on DVD this year. This version features 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen and Dolby Digital and dts audio tracks, and the usual lack of extras. It’s pretty much a black movie with minimal color, but the picture quality is flawless. Skin tones are handled well, and detail is perfectly visible down to the finest grain. There are no foreign objects, either, which is important for such a dark film.

Audio is pretty good, but not as good as we’d expect from a Superbit title. It’s mostly front-restricted, which is odd considering how much bang-bang shoot-em-up action there is. Speaker panning is frequent, although bullets (and whatever else happens to be panning) seem to go from side to side, rather than front to back. Much of the dialogue muffling that was present on the first DVD release seems to have been corrected here, which is nice. The tracks are still aggressive, so most of the time you won’t notice the lack of surrounds, but it’s an odd choice regardless.

Not having seen the director’s cut of Underworld, we can’t solidly recommend one version over it. However, as far as the theatrical versions go, this is the version to purchase.

Underworld, from Columbia Tristar Home Entertainment
121 minutes, anamorphic widescreen (2.35:1) 16x9 enhanced, Dolby Digital 5.1 & dts
Starring Kate Beckinsale, Scott Speedman, Michael Sheen, Shane Brolly and Bill Nighy
Produced by Tom Rosenberg, Gary Lucchesi, Richard Wright
Screenplay by Danny McBride, Directed by Len Wiseman


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