I know some people like to compare the Kate Beckinsale Underworld movies with the Wesley Snipes Blade movies, and I get it. Both feature a vampire as the lead protagonist, and both are definitively a series of action movies. If we’re being completely honest, though, I don’t think that’s a fair comparison. In a lot of ways, Underworld started off more as a macabre version of Romeo and Juliet with werewolves and vampires. So, if anything—and I know this might be hard to hear—the best Underworld movies are actually much closer to the Twilight series than Blade.
Yes, I know. You might not like that comparison, but I think it’s apt. At the heart of the Underworld series has always been the war between Lycans (werewolves) and vampires, and I think that there are many parallels, albeit R-rated, between the Underworld and Twilight series. And I’m not necessarily saying that’s a bad thing. Underworld, as a series, has always had unique, mass appeal, and I think it’s because it doesn’t want to be just one thing. I actually have an opinion on all five movies in the series, which I’d like to share with you. And if you don’t like my opinion, then all that I have to say is that you should. That’s because my opinion is a gift. A gift from Alexander Corvinus.
Minor spoilers up ahead.
5. Underworld: Blood Wars (2016)
Directed by Roland Emmerich’s former cinematographer, Anna Foerster, Underworld: Blood Wars is, as of now, the last film in the series and also the worst. In this sequel, Selene (Kate Beckinsale) is again at odds with both the Lycans and the vampires who have sought to kill her, but there’s a twist. They both want her for different reasons. The Lycans, you see, want her for her blood, while the vampires want her to atone for her crimes against their coven. In the end, Selene kicks massive keister. So, why is it so low on this list?
Well, because it’s boring and it looks kind of cheap. Charles Dance (from Game of Thrones), who plays one of the elder vampires and is also in Underworld: Awakening, is pretty good in a BloodRayne, Ben Kingsley, sort of way, i.e. the British actor who classes up the movie. But, otherwise, the gunplay action feels tired by this point, and the plot going on and on about Selene’s blood gets annoying. Granted, the fifth movie in any long running series is likely going to be pretty bad (Ahem, Terminator Genisys, anyone?), but does it also have to be so forgettable?
4. Underworld: Awakening (2012)
Directed by Mans Marlind and Bjorn Stein, I consider the fourth movie in the series, Underworld: Awakening, to be the Resident Evil of the Underworld franchise. What I mean is, it has the same feel with the whole laboratory aspect, and the hybrid storyline. In this sequel, which follows the events of the second movie, Selene and Michael’s daughter, Eve (played by India Eisley) is being hunted by Lycans because they think her DNA will make them bigger, better, faster, stronger, like that one Daft Punk song. But you know Selene’s not having that. So, of course, violence ensues.
I think Underworld: Awakening had its heart in the right place, but unfortunately, a stake was slammed right through that heart. The idea that the world is aware of vampires is a good one, kind of like that underrated gem, Daybreakers. But the action and drama that come off of this plot feel super stale. Yes, it’s pretty violent, but it also looks kind of cartoony in its bloodshed. In the end, it’s fine. It’s just nothing special. Just like Resident Evil.
3. Underworld: Rise of the Lycans (2009)
Yes, I know. The third movie in the series, Underworld: Rise of the Lycans, is likely your favorite. And I wanted it to be mine, too. Directed by Patrick Tatopoulos, Rise of the Lycans is an origin story about how the war between the Lycans and the vampires first started. Fascinating stuff, right?
Well, yes, but not for me. I guess it all boils down to this being more of a slave rebellion film than a werewolf movie. You see, the Lycans, who were always looked down upon by vampires, were especially looked down upon because they were once slaves, and this movie tells the story of a werewolf named Lucien (Michael Sheen) and his love for the head vampire’s daughter, Sonja (Rhona Mitra). So, I guess my dislike for this movie is likely more my fault than the film’s. The plot is right there in the title, so you get what you pay for. But I was really hoping for a badass werewolf movie, and this film is not that. Plus, it’s SO dark that it’s hard to see some of the action. Overall, I do get the love for this prequel. It’s just not for me.
2. Underworld (2003)
Directed by Len Wiseman and the one that started it all, the first Underworld is a fun little mash-up of the vampire/werewolf horror subgenres. In this first movie, we’re introduced to Selene, who is known as a “Death Dealer,” which is just a cool way of saying she’s a vampire assassin. She falls in love with a human named Michael (Scott Speedman) who gets bitten by a werewolf, and there you have it—your vampire/werewolf romance. This is where the Romeo and Juliet aspect comes in, because the vampires hate the werewolves, and vice versa, and they both want Michael for unknown reasons … at first.
Underworld is not a “smart” movie, but it is a fun one. The film has some rich lore, which we learn more about in Rise of the Lycans, and overall, it’s a competent flick that gets more right than wrong. Many people probably call this the best movie in the franchise. But, not me. It’s good, but I have one other film that I prefer in the series.
1. Underworld: Evolution (2006)
You might think Underworld: Evolution sucks, and you’re welcome to that opinion. But, frankly, the second movie in the franchise, which was also directed by Len Wiseman, is definitely my favorite in the series. Taking place directly after the first movie, the plot this time is basically Selene and Michael on the run and trying to learn more about why there is even a war between vampires and werewolves in the first place.
It’s a pretty simple story, but it never stops moving. It opens up with my favorite scene in the entire series with the werewolves transforming in the village (“They’re turning!”) and it just never lets up. It’s super pulpy and it never takes itself seriously like the first or third movies. The action is preposterous, but awesome, and it’s everything I ever wanted in a series that is essentially just vampires vs. werewolves: Fight! I understand why people shrug this one off, but I think Underworld: Evolution is awesome. Out of the five, it’s the only one that I’ve watched multiple, multiple times. It’s just too good.