Underworld (Ultra HD 4K Blu-ray)

January 6, 2017 10 Min Read

Review by: Matt Brighton and Fusion3600

Plot: What’s it about?

Selene (Kate Beckinsale) is a beautiful woman, one often clad in black leather and armed with two custom handguns. She needs the firepower too, as she is involved in a war with a clan of Lycans, also known as werewolves. She is a Death Dealer, a hunter who guns down his enemies without a hint of remorse. That seems like a dangerous profession, but she is able to stay intact, thanks to her vampiric traits. The rift between vampires and werewolves is deep, one that has been entrenched since anyone can remember. The vampires are sleek, refined beings, while the Lycans are often brutal, common thugs. The battle has raged for centuries, but now a new threat looms that could end the vampiric race. Selene has learned of a Lycan plot, one which targets a human and has the potential to be lethal for her people. She follows the human, a man named Michael (Scott Speedman), to find out more about the Lycans’ plan and why this human is such an important part of the crucial situation. As she tracks him, she finds herself attracted to him more and more, even when he is infected with the lupine virus. Just when it seems as though one side is certain to be erased, a new threat emerges that could doom both sects. Can Selene somehow neutralize this threat, or will both races be eliminated forever?

This movie has vampires, werewolves, and tight leather outfits, not to mention ultra hottie Kate Beckinsale. In other words, Underworld has a lot of potential right from the start, but does it live up to that potential? I knew it wouldn’t be the case, but I had hoped for more of a horror slant in this flick, given the nature of the premise. But Underworld is more of an action movie with romance elements, as the horror side is just the background. In other words, don’t expect graphic violence or bloodshed, as neither is present. That aside, it is a solid picture and a blast to watch, even if the story is thin at best. The premise allows just enough development to be credible, but this movie is all about style, no doubt about it. The visuals shine here, with dark landscapes that teem with shadows, the perfect backdrop for this kind of material. As far as action, you can tell some cues were taken from other films, but that’s not unusual. The action is frequent and well executed, though more of it would have been welcome, to be sure. The real power behind Underworld is Kate Beckinsale, who seems to be an odd choice at first, but she more than proves herself. In the end, I found this to be a more than solid movie, one that should please most interested viewers.

As I said before, she seems like an unlikely choice to be a cold blooded, ass kicking femme fatale, but Kate Beckinsale is awesome here. She handles guns like she’s a charter member of the National Rifle Association, even though she’d never fired one before this production. She must have had a great teacher or been a real natural, as she wields her weapons with skill and ease, which adds a lot to her role. All too often, actors seem awkward when handling guns and that lessens the realism, but Beckinsale has no such problems. So she pulls off the action scenes without flaw, but does her beauty still shine through. Of course and more than ever before, to be honest, as she is on her top game in Underworld. Even when she’s in the heat of battle, she looks incredible and it should be obvious, but tight black leather is always a plus. So while her casting was a surprise, she proves that a versatile performer can deliver in almost any role. I hope to see her in more roles of this kind, as well as more bold roles in general.

Video: How’s it look?

The movie, now 13 years of age, has been new life (pun fully intended) with this Ultra HD/4K transfer. It’s a dark movie and fans of the film will know that. But it’s never really looked bad, to say the least. The print is pristine, with no defects in the least and the image is so refined, you’d think you were seeing real life. I was stunned by how deep and detailed the visuals are here, simply superb work. The colors go across the board in dark, but vivid hues and this transfer never misses a beat. Even with a ton of shadows and almost pitch black scenes, contrast remains spot on and never disappoints. This brand new HEVC encode has certainly upped the ante as far as catalog films are concerned.

Audio: How’s it sound?

This movie not only looks excellent, it has dynamic audio presence as well, thanks to the included (and updated) Dolby Atmos option. This soundtrack has power to burn and in truth, many folks will need to adjust their systems, as this is one loud presentation. The surrounds have ample chances to show off and do so with flying colors, with a lot of intense and well crafted presence that puts you right in the middle of the action. This isn’t just a few novel sound effects in the rear channels either, I am talking about powerful, well designed material. When the bass kicks, it comes in deep and hard, with a ton of force. Even so, the more calm elements such as dialogue and musical score never suffer, as both remain clear and always audible.

Supplements: What are the extras?

It’s no coincidence that this is coming out on 4K. No, Sony didn’t just close their eyes and pick a random catalog title. There’s marketing behind it and it has to do with a new film in the franchise. That being said, we don’t get the extended cut of the film, just the theatrical cut, though the same features from the original disc have been ported over to this release.

  • Audio Commentary – A pair of audio commentary tracks are up first, one with director Len Wiseman and writers Danny McBride & Kevin Grevioux, the other with creature creator Patrick Tatopoulous, visual effects supervisor James McQuade, and sound designer Claude Letessier. I found both tracks to be worth a listen, though the second is the better of the two. The film’s visual style and cool creatures are covered in great detail, as is the complex, effective sound design. The first track has a ton of insight as well, as the trio covers all aspects of the production, from the project’s origin to the financing process to the actual shoot.
  • Outtakes – Shenanigans on the set, vampire style!
  • Featurettes – We’ve covered these in our original review of the film, but nothing has changed, including the way they’re presented.
    • Fang vs. Fiction
    • The Making of Underworld
    • The Visual Effects of Underworld
    • Creature Effects
    • Stunts
    • Designing Underworld
    • The Look of Underworld
    • Sights and Sounds
  • Music Video – “Worms of the Earth” by Finch.
  • Storyboard Comparison

The Bottom Line

I don’t think they knew it at the time, but there will be a fifth installment (four of them featuring Kate Beckinsale). Who could have guessed? As per usual, the original is perhaps the best and this has been given a pretty decent spec upgrade with the new transfer and sound mix. The absence of any new features is a bit disappointing, but they’ll need something to sell us when the next edition comes around, right?

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