Underworld Trilogy - The Essential Collection
Few will claim that the "Underworld" franchise meets the audacity or creative innovation of its inspirations, most notably "The Crow" and "The Matrix." Those dark worlds replete with mixed-speed action, overproduced visuals and extraordinarily long trench coats informed this series of vampire-versus-werewolf movies, but Len Wiseman’s original 2003 film lacked confidence. It was not a particularly fabulous movie, and were it not for Kate Beckinsale playing conflicted death dealer Selene and Bill Nighy chewing the scenery as elder vampire Viktor, it would never have found an audience; together they created a potent, frenetic mix of camp and violence that made fans out of legions (myself included).
Not so much the second film, "Underworld: Evolution." Although the success of the first film permitted a larger budget, "Evolution" was too high on action and sex, and not dark and brooding enough to keep fans engaged. Beckinsale and co-star Scott Speedman returned, but while Beckinsale managed to eke out a likeable performance, Speedman largely stayed wooden throughout. Moreover, the film’s storytelling was even more fragmented and senseless than that of the original film.
"Underworld: Rise of the Lycans" was a recoup of sorts. An engaging prequel, it focused on the genesis of the hundreds-year-long battle between vampires and lycans (werewolves); filled with effective action sequences leveraging the film’s medieval sensibilities, it was a worthy addition to the franchise; nonetheless, it didn’t star Beckinsale outside two voice-overs, and as such left Underworlders wondering if she would be donning her fangs ever again.
Fortunately for us all, the fourth film in the series is due in theatres this coming January; no doubt the timing of this multipack release followed suit. The Blu-ray transfers, for those who did not purchase the films separately, are quite good; audio is crisp and the pictures are clear. If you’ve bought the series in this format before, you’ll incur more cost to merely get ultraviolet copies of each film and two discs with anime shorts (that are admittedly fun). If not, pick this up - it’s totally worth the price.
Features include behind-the-scenes documentaries, commentary (with picture-in-picture alongside the films, which is fascinating), music videos and more. I particularly enjoyed the making-of docs. It should be noted that while the set includes an "extended cut" of the first film, you’ll only gain a few scenes with marginal exposition - certainly not enough on its own merits to buy the film twice.