Underworld Unrated DVD Review

The term "double dip" will certainly instill fear in any DVD collector. For those who are unsure of what the term refers to, let me briefly explain. Underworld was released on DVD in January in a single disc edition. Now, a mere five months have passed and we are now "treated" to a two disc unrated edition. Tri-Star has "double dipped" the disc and can now possibly sucker in fans of the film to buy this new edition. Sometimes a double dip can be a good thing, especially when an outdated disc is improved greatly. Sadly, that's not the case with Underworld. There is a war brewing that humans have been unaware of for hundreds of years. Beneath the city streets, werewolves (called Lycans) and vampires have been fighting, but with the possible resurrection of the werewolf leader Lucian at hand, things begin to pick up. Kate Beckinsale stars as Selene, a vampire who has the simple mission of destroying every last werewolf still alive. But, when the war begins and she falls for a human who was recently bitten by a Lycan, things get even more out of control. The war escalates into a spectacle of action, fight sequences, and gun fights.
This is far from a bad movie, but the light plot only serves to give purpose to the action. Oh, and forget what you used to know about vampires. Might as well forget everything you ever knew about werewolves too. Though there are some of the classic myths to the characters, but now vampires are sophisticated creatures living a lavish life. The werewolves are thugs; simply trying to survive and one day become the dominant species of the two. It's a nice take on the mythological creatures and gives the movie its own sense of style. Of course, with some of the insane camera movements, dark colors, and over the top action, it has plenty of style before you even know all of this. The movie runs over two hours long, made even longer thanks to this new unrated edition. It drags in quite a few places and now with an extra 13 minutes of footage, it's even worse. The special effects are spotty as well occasionally using some painfully obvious CG. Still, there is some great action here, all filmed in a superb style this movie can call its own. (*** out of *****) This extended edition is only available in 2.35:1 widescreen. The transfer here is actually worse than the previous edition. Featuring excessive grain and more noticeable compression issues, this one is a major disappointment. The movie features various shades of two different colors, red and blue. This is a nightmare for a DVD transfer and this disc is the example. It's not terrible, but the first disc was simply a lot better. The reason for this is most likely the space used to cram a nearly hour long documentary onto disc one along with some other features. It's a stupid decision that cost the viewers in the long run. (***) Likewise, the sound has taken a hit as well. Presented only in Dolby 5.1 surround, the LFE channel will no longer get the workout it did on the original release. The rears are still used extensively (and effectively), but everything sounded just a bit clearer on the previous disc. This is still a great sounding movie, but if you have the ability to compare the two, give it a shot and you'll immediately notice the difference. (***) This new two-disc set is presented in a really nice see-through outer slipcase that houses the standard DVD case. Stuffed inside the case is a 48 page comic and a 15 page storyboard comparison. It's a struggle to get this case closed and even harder to get it out of the slip case. I fear what may eventually happen to the two DVDs inside. Anyway, disc one houses a new commentary track with Kate Beckinsale, director Len Wiseman, and Scott Speedman. While new, the first release had two separate commentary tracks. Next up is an AMC documentary entitled Fang vs. Fiction, which looks at the history of werewolves and vampires. It has interviews with many people including one guy who believes he is a werewolf! It runs 47 minutes. Also tossed on the first disc are some brief outtakes, TV spots, and trailers for other movies. Disc two holds some basic features, none of them particularly interesting. First up is a generic making of that gives little real insight into the film during the 13 minute running time. Visual Effects of Underworld looks at, well, the visual effects. It's nothing more than simple overview of how some of the CG was composed for ten minutes. Creature Effects looks at how some of the "on set" effects were done including the design of the monster suits. This is probably the best 13 minutes you'll find on the disc. The next documentary, Stunts of Underworld, looks at how some of the more unbelievable tasks were accomplished and lasts for about 12 minutes. Designing Underworld looks at the storyboards and finished sets. You'll spend 11 minutes on this one. The Look of Underworld feature describes how they make the film look so dark, the importance of color, and the rain. This is a long one coming in at nearly 20 minutes. Finally, you have a feature called Sights and Sounds which is simply 9 minutes of behind the scenes footage and a music video. (**) Some of the features have been carried over the first release. Five of the features on disc 2 you have probably seen already. The only real worthy feature is the AMC documentary on disc 1 and it really doesn't belong there. This is a disc hard to recommend unless you are a true die-hard fan of the movie. This is the worst kind of double dip, one that I can only hope give Columbia Tri-Star a ton of flack. They deserve it for this one.


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