The other body of influence that Underworld draws from is the number of recent films that comes inspired by the modern Gothic graphic novel films like Batman (1989), The Matrix (1999), Road to Perdition (2002) and in particular The Crow (1994) and sequels, with their glistening black PVC/leather fetishism; moodily Gothic/industrial sets; streets covered in ever-present rain; the stylised slow-motion action moves and grimly unsentimentalised violence. In keeping with the new Goth look, director Len Wiseman has bled virtually all colour out of the frame, focusing on gaunt faces and with everybody dressed in lace, black leather and PVC as though on their way to a Goth nightclub so much so that Underworld seems to be taking place almost entirely in black-and-white.
Underworld connects all of this up into a slickly packaged and fast-moving vampire/action film. The generic elements fall together into a reasonably absorbing plot, even if it at the end one is left wanting to find out more about the world these characters live in (which is, one supposes, a mark of imagination). On the minus side, the characters are not well rounded and we learn little about them. The diminutive and shy personaed British actress Kate Beckinsale is not exactly the first name that comes to mind as a tough action heroine (although Underworld did considerably change her career path in this respect). However, Len Wiseman seems unconcerned and instead turns Kate Beckinsales performance into a series of poses, with she decked out in bustiers and skintight PVC, always strutting about kicking doors open and with her long black coat flapping up around her in slow motion indeed, her face is rarely seen not hidden behind an artfully bedraggled forelock of curls.
Underworld represents the big-budget feature directorial debut of Len Wiseman. Giving hope to all fannish wannabes out there with a script for their dream project under their arm, Len Wisemans only previous industry experience was working as a props assistant and general dogsbody for Roland Emmerichs Centropolis Effects on films such as Stargate (1994), Independence Day (1996) and Godzilla (1998). Emmerich took a shine to Wiseman and personally financed Wisemans initial effort to direct a music video. Wiseman went onto make a handful of videos for artists such as En Vogue, Megadeth and Vega, before being granted the opportunity to direct Underworld.
Operating on only a $20 million budget, Len Wiseman succeeds in making a film that looks much more expensive than that. He does the slick, rain-glistening, cod-Matrix look well, although not quite with the enthralling dynamism that Guillermo Del Toro employed the same look in Blade II (2002). In the end, Underworld is not quite groundbreaking it is reasonably slick and stylish but not as substantial a bite on the neck as one wishes it would have been.
Underworld: Evolution (2006) was a sequel with most of the personnel here aboard. Underworld: Rise of the Lycans (2009) was a prequel, although Len Wiseman only co-writes the script and co-produces rather than directs, and Underworld: Awakening (2012) and Underworld: Blood Wars (2016) were subsequent sequels. Len Wiseman subsequently went onto direct the action film Live Free or Die Hard/Die Hard 4.0 (2007) and the remake of Total Recall (2012), as well as created/produced the tv series Sleepy Hollow (2013-7) and Lucifer (2015-8).
(Nominee for Best Makeup Effects at this sites Best of 2003 Awards).