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astonishingly enough, all went as (approximately) planned and we saw Underworld last night. i walked away from the showing with mixed feelings, which seems to be the general consensus among people who didn't charge screaming at the ticket booth post-viewing, demanding their money back and making vivid threats involving "kneecaps" and "malatov cocktails." here then, is my opinion, which you may interpret as pure critical gospel or discard at your leisure.*

The Good
in really real life i know that wearing a suit of vinyl from chin to tarsals is a sure petition for instantaneous heat stroke, but boy does it look cool. that having been said, perhaps i was merely distracted by all the pretty things and therefore my judgement was colored--but from where i was sitting, the storyline wasn't half bad. in some ways it was straightforwardly formulaic (which i have no specific problem with), and therefore it ran toward the predictable; but in other ways it was a genuine attempt to do something new and interesting with the available technology.

The Bad
some damned fool took that perfectly serviceable plotline and unloaded a shotgun into it. to sit here and do a bean-counting of these holes would be dull to me and hyperinformative to you, so i'll spare us all the inconvenience; suffice it to say, there were a dozen places where another line or two of dialogue-provided info could have saved the script. also, the behavior of the primary characters was at best formally stylized, and at worst absolutely baffling. i'm as game for swishy death-dealing doom sequences as the next girl, and those parts were all good--but when it came time for the protagonists to act like believable characters, there was no more pretending that this movie boasted a single writer on its production staff.

it could be argued that these are vampires and they are thereby released of their obligation to behave like realistic people, but i would counter that this is a sad, sad cop-out that does not warrant even five seconds of my contemplation. the only good monster stories are the ones that keep in mind the one constant of the universe: human nature. it never, never, never changes. these vampires were once people, and they clearly still suffer from the neuroses of humanity--therefore i was disappointed with them, and i will not apologize for my reaction.

it's hard for me to illustrate this point effectively without providing elaborate spoilers, so i'll just put my favorite example here, behind this cut tag.

Selene (the vinyl-clad Kate) spends the better part of this movie trying to establish that "Craven" (the unfortunately-named coven leader) is a raving liar with treasonous loyalties. she rebuffs his advances, defies him before the clan, and generally demonstrates with great effectiveness that (a). he lacks all credibility and (b). she would not spit at him if he was on fire. instead she carries an unflickering torch for the slumbering elder (and her sire) Victor, who can do no wrong so far as she is concerned.

when Victor is awakened and joins the story in progress, Craven (in a fit of jealous anger) tells Selene that it was really Victor who killed her family, and not a band of hungry werewolves.

and she INSTANTLY, WITHOUT ANY INITIAL DENIAL, REBUTTAL, OR OBVIOUS INTERNAL CONFLICT, BELIEVES HIM and COMMENCES SOBBING. i flinched--i seriously flinched. two hours into this movie, the intractable Selene with an undying Electra-complex just tosses those centuries of loving pseudo-daughterhood out the window based on a couple of sentences uttered by the man she profoundly distrusts and generally hates with the white-hot intensity of a thousand suns.

side note: Craven is a man who started this flick wearing a sparkly, pointed-collared shirt, which did not do much to bolster his carefully cultivated "bad-assed" reputation. perhaps it was that very shirt that first prompted Selene to question the tales of his valor. this would not be surprising or unreasonable, but if this was the case, then it ought to have been addressed.

The Miscellaneous
* i really enjoyed the music--the soundtrack is worth picking up. i think the selections worked nicely in the film and they sound great on their own; but prepare to be surprised by how mellow most of the tracks are.
* Craven. what the hell? i mean, i get it, but some token effort of subtlety would have been good.
* i liked the running dichotomy (laid on so thick it was very nearly an obvious joke) of the "cats vs. dogs" theme. the vampires are slick, efficient predators who lounge in lazy decadence when not in "hunt" mode; and the werewolves behave like "rabid dogs"--as described by their own leader. this was a nice touch, one that was particularly effective because the vampires are not so decadent that they are weak, and the werewolves are not so wild that they are stupid.

The Conclusion
all in all, i'm glad i saw Underworld and i'm glad that it was made--despite its sometimes glaring flaws.

* choose "gospel." we'll both be happier that way.


Sep. 21st, 2003 09:16 pm (UTC)
I went in thinking I'd see a stylish vampire versus werewolf movie. I wasn't looking for art or an oscar contender; wasn't even looking for the next Lord of the Rings. It filled that expectation and entertained me enough that I managed to partially ignore the woman who's three year old daughter kept insisting that the movie was going to be scarey and she didn't think she should watch it. :\

The plot holes didn't stop me from enjoying it. My suspension of disbelief must have been deep enough to miss some of them. Others, like the sudden belief of Craven, I can sort of follow. It seemed to me, upon reflection, that she was stunned by this explanation. We're not privy to some fo the background and the thoughts of the characters at that moment, so it feels like she just shifts gears too quickly. What if you consider that she threw it back to Viktor as a chance for him to absolve himself of the accusation just as he offered her absolution by killing Michael. But he didn't even defend himself. That's when she turned against him. Something like that is awful subtle in this type of movie though, or I'm being too damn complicated myself.

I agree it felt like a four hour movie made into a two hour one. Woudln't be surprised if they went for the quick intro on a low budget so they could get their film a solid footing and thus purchase enough credibility to do a costlier follow up. Another film could easily answer the questions left behind, while filling in the holes, and still have room for expansion of the film's scope. Certainly would be nice.

Forgive the presumption Mistress Priest, but maybe your just too hot-blooded for the PVC. ;)
Sep. 22nd, 2003 11:08 am (UTC)
thank you for the comment re: hot blooded,
but i think that hot-geography is more the culprit.
the american deep south is not the sort of place one
can wear vinyl with impunity.
Sep. 22nd, 2003 12:17 pm (UTC)
Not just the south, that is for sure. The last time I really remember anyone wearing a full length outfit of vinyl and/or leather in this part of California was on a cool night in Santa Cruz. The breeze was coming in off the bay on a late summer night. It would have been suicide in the daytime. Does a parasol really work as a fashion accessory with PVC?

I'd much rather pay a compliment and make a joke than waste my time cursing the weather and geography, which couldn't be bothered to care about my thoughts.

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