Underworld promises to answer a question that has weighed heavily on the minds of Fangoria subscribers for some time: Who would win in an epic battle, werewolves or vampires? It's tempting to imagine what Sam Raimi or Joe Dante would have done with a premise like that, but Underworld director Len Wiseman uses it largely as an excuse for churning out yet another lifeless clone of The Matrix. Set in one of those eternally dark, constantly rainy dystopias, Underworld stars Kate Beckinsale as a scowling, leather-clad bloodsucker too violent and aggressive even for her job as a "Death Dealer." Maybe she should consider a less peaceful line of work? Beckinsale derives her only pleasure from killing Lycans, disreputable cretins who've learned how to turn into werewolves at will. While hunting down said creatures, she stumbles upon an elaborate conspiracy that has something to do with Scott Speedman, a token human used as a pawn in the eternal struggle between two of the horror genre's most enduring creations. Underworld devotes much of its run time to unspooling an endlessly convoluted mythology, which makes it feel like a prequel to a movie not worth seeing in the first place. The rest is occupied by punishingly derivative action sequences that operate under the false assumption that The Matrix, its sequel, and their small army of imitators haven't adequately satiated the public's need for effects-laden shootouts. Besides, what's the point of having vampires and werewolves in a movie if they're just going to fire a small war's worth of ammunition at each other? But Wiseman hasn't just stolen stylistic tricks: Underworld also shares The Matrix Reloaded's portentous air and lack of humor and brevity. Yes, he seems intent on making a somber movie about werewolves fighting vampires, which should at least be good for some unintentional laughs. But it isn't. Not since Battlefield Earth pitted overacting, nine-foot-tall Psychlos against puny man-animals has there been an interspecies match-up this perversely uninteresting.
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