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Underworld Trilogy: The Essential Collection (a J!-ENT Blu-ray Disc Review)

December 18, 2011 by  

For those who are interested in all-out action and fighting between vampires vs. werewolves…this “Underworld Trilogy” Blu-ray set is for you!  With “Underworld: Awakening”, the fourth film in the “Underworld” film series, planned for released in theaters in Jan. 2011, what better way to know the storyline about the war between the vampires vs. the Lycans (werewolves) and the dark Romeo & Juliet storylines between a vampire and Lycan in “Underworld Trilogy: The Essential Collection”.

Images courtesy of © 2011 Layout and Design Sony Pictures Home Entertainment. All Rights Reserved.

TITLE: Underworld Trilogy: The Essential Collection

FILM RELEASE: Underworld (Unrated) – 2003, Underworld: Evolution – 2006, Underworld: The Rise of the Lycans – 2009, Underworld: Endless War – 2011

DURATION: Underworld (Unrated) – 134 Minutes, Underworld: Evolution – 106 Minutes, Underworld: The Rise of the Lycans – 92 Minutes, Underworld: Endless War – 17:28 Minutes

COMPANY: Sony Pictures Home Entertainment

RATED: UNRATED

Release Date: December 20, 2011

Starring:

Kate Beckinsale as Selene

Scott Speedman as Michael Corvin

Michael Sheen as Lucian

Shane Brolly as Kraven

Bill Nighy as Viktor

Erwin Leder as Singe

Sophia Myles as Erika

Robbie Gee as Kahn

Wentworth Miller as Dr. Adam Lockwood

Kevin Grevioux as Raze

Zita Gorog as Amelia

Tony Curran as Marcus

Derek Jacobi as Corvinus

Steven Mackintosh as Tanis

Rhona Mitra as Sonja

Underworld: In the Underworld, Vampires are a secret clan of modern aristocratic sophisticates whose mortal enemies are the Lycans (werewolves), a shrewd gang of street thugs who prowl the city’s underbelly. Noone knows the origin of their bitter blood feud, but the balance of power between them turns even bloodier when a beautiful young Vampire warrior and a newly-turned Lycan with a mysterious past fall in love. Kate Beckinsale and Scott Speedman star in this modern-day, action-packed tale of ruthless intrigue and forbidden passion ­ all set against the dazzling backdrop of a timeless, Gothic metropolis.

Underworld: Evolution - Kate Beckinsale is back as vampire heroine Selene in the highly anticipated sequel to Underworld. Underworld Evolution continues the saga of war between the aristocratic Death Dealers and the barbaric Lycans (werewolves). The film traces the beginnings of the ancient feud between the two tribes as Selene (Kate Beckinsale), the vampire heroine, and her love Michael (Scott Speedman), the lycan hybrid, try to unlock the secrets of their bloodlines. The tale of action, intrigue and forbidden love takes them into the battle to end all wars as the immortals must finally face their retribution.

Underworld: Rise of the Lycans - The prequel story traces the origins of the centuries-old blood feud between the aristocratic vampires known as Death Dealers and their onetime slaves, the Lycans. In the Dark Ages, a young Lycan named Lucian (Michael Sheen) emerges as a powerful leader who rallies the werewolves to rise up against Viktor (Bill Nighy), the cruel vampire king who has enslaved them. Lucian is joined by his secret lover, Sonja (Rhona Mitra), in his battle against the Death Dealer army and his struggle for Lycan freedom.

In 2003, the action/horror film “Underworld” was released in theaters.  The film would be well-received by audiences and it would lead to a 2006 sequel titled “Underworld: Evolution”, both did well in the box office and a prequel titled “Underworld: Rise of the Lycans” was released in 2009.

The film would star actress Kate Beckinsale (“Aviator”, “Pearl Harbor”), Scott Speedman (“Felicity”, “The Strangers”), Shane Brolly (“Spread”, “Devils Highway”), Michael Sheen (“Kingdom of Heaven”, “Alice in Wonderland”, “Frost/Nixon”) and Billy Nighy (“Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part 1″, “Love Actually”, “Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest”).

Directed by Len Wiseman (“Live Free and Die Hard”, “Underworld: Evolution”) and written by Danny McBride, the two had planned for a “Underworld” trilogy, but with the third film being a prequel, many wondered if there will be a continuation where “Underworld: Evolution” left off.

It was announced that the fourth “Underworld” film titled “Underworld: Awakening” would be released in theaters on January 20, 2012 and will feature a screenplay by Len Wiseman, John Hlavin and Allison Burnett and will be directed by Swedish filmmaker Mans Marlind and Bjorn Stein (both co-directed the 2005 film “Storm”).  A film in which actress Kate Beckinsale reprises her role as Selene and has escaped imprisonment and finds out the world has discovered the existence of both vampires and Lycans and are now in a war to eradicate both immortal species.  The film is the first to be shot using Sony’s RED EPIC digital cameras in 3D.

In preparation for the fourth film’s release on Blu-ray, Sony Pictures Home Entertainment will be releasing “Underworld Trilogy: The Essential Collection” which features the three previous released Blu-rays and also the inclusion of three animated shorts (created by South Korean animation company Dong Woo Animation) titled “Underworld: Endless War”.  It is important to note that there are no changes or revisions when it comes to the 2011 Blu-ray release of the three previously-released films, aside from the fact that the animated short is included and all three Blu-rays come with a slipcase cover.

“Underworld” is a film that begins with a world where vampires and werewolves (known as Lycans) are at war with each other.  The war was supposedly ended centuries ago when the Lycan leader Lucian was killed, but when vampire and Lycan hunter Selene (played by Kate Beckinsale) learns that Lucian is very much alive and that he is working with the current vampire leader, Kraven in some unknown deal, needless to say Selene does her own investigation.

She manages to find a human named Michael Korvis, a man that both sides are looking for.  But for what reasons is Michael important for both vampire and Lycans?  And what happens when Selen, a vampire begins to fall for the human Michael, who has been bitten by a Lycan (and will turn into one).  Naturally, things become a bit more complicated in this Romeo & Juliet, action/horror film.

You can read our previous three reviews by clicking on the three links below:

Underworld (Unrated)

Underworld: Evolution

Underworld: Rise of the Lycans

As for “Underworld: Endless War”, the animated shorts explain the duties that Selene did back in 1890, in 1967 and 2012.  The animated short is a bridge from what happened in “Underworld: Evolution” and what has led to the change in the world as featured in the 2012 film “Underworld: Awakening”.  All three animated shorts can be watched all at once or individually (each short lasts around six minutes long).

Part One features Selene, a Death Dealer tracking down three Lycan brothers in Paris ala 1890 who are wealthy aristocrats and she must eliminate them.

Part Two features Kraven now becoming the leader of the vampires in 1961 while Viktor is in slumber.  Selene continues to search and hunt for the three Lycan brothers in Paris.

Part Three features a story taking place in 2012 as the world has become a police state as humans now know about the war between the vampires and Lycans and now both immortal species are being hunted down by police forces with brute force.  Both Selene and Michael continue to look for the Lycan brothers which have alluded her since 1890.

Note: Please read our individual reviews for each film for more information picture quality and audio quality including special features.

EXTRAS:

“Underworld Trilogy: The Essential Collection” comes in an embossed slipcase and the inclusion of the animated shorts “Underworld: Endless War” Blu-ray inside a paper envelope. Also, owners will be provided a code to watch all three films via UltraViolet.

“Underworld: Unrated” is your vampire vs. werewolf popcorn action film. Where there is a story that features why the Lycans and vampires are at war, it also plays out somewhat of a Romeo and Juliet story in a monstrous kind of way. What happens if a vampire and a Lycan were to merge? The first film of the trilogy goes into answering that question of why these two are at war but also what would result if they were to combine?

To be truthful, before watching this film, based on the trailer alone, I pretty much realized this was more of an action film rather than horror. Granted, you’re going to see werewolves mauling on vampires and vampires attacking the Lycans but there is more reliance in these films towards weapon usage. I understand the mythology of silver bullets to kill a vampire but would a bullet really be needed to kill vampires? I suppose that it goes against the banality of the typical film using garlic, crosses and stakes but I found it rather intriguing to see these vampires utilizing powerful weaponry.

But what “Underworld: Unrated” does have going for it is its action. It’s strictly a popcorn action film and with actress Kate Beckinsale wearing a tight leather uniform, it also has this stylish presentation, especially with its use of blues and blacks and saturated colors.

I also felt that the makeup and creature design were fantastic for this film as with the visual effects.

As for the Blu-ray release, the picture quality is fantastic and the lossless soundtrack was absolutely amazing! And to top things off, there are a good number of special features included especially a wild and crazy audio commentary and the “Fang vs. Fiction” documentary.

When I first reviewed “Underworld”, I used “Romeo & Juliet” to describe the storyline.  The character of Seline as the vampire and Michael, a human bitten by a Lycan.  While the film didn’t end with tragedy for these two protagonists (as Michael bit into Michael and making him into a vampire/werewolf hybrid), it was a given that these two will become a major target in the second film, hated by both sides.

In the first film, we know that Kraven was up to no good and Erika (played by Sophia Miles) had plans for her own. Somehow this storyline must have gotten ditched because on the opening sequence, Kraven is literally ripped apart and Erika, I don’t even recall her being in the film.

But the first film did leave us with a tidbit that the elder vampire Marcus would be awakened and thus, because Lycan blood has been dripped into his tomb, he now has become a vampire on the rampage because of how his werewolf twin brother William was treated.

Unfortunately, what I enjoyed about the original film…the focus on the war between the vampire and Lycans was not focused on so much in “Underworld: Evolution”.  If anything, the focus was more on this bond between the two lovers, Selene and Michael.  Two people who have joined together and now must face incredible odds.  And at first, I was a bit unsure about how I felt about this movie until I saw the third film, “Underworld: The Rise of the Lycans” and realized that what these two are facing, a similar situation happened centuries ago to Lycan Lucian and vampire Sonja.

And in a way, years before “Twilight” became so popular and years after Buffy and Angel, there is something about a romance between a vampire and human (or in this case, human turned Lycan) and both trying to survive while in love, is rather romantic, despite this film being a bit violent.

In “Underworld: Evolution”, you do get to see more of Selene kicking ass, but also see her more emotional side and knowing that she does love Michael.  As for the character of Michael, I suppose what many people want to see is if this hybrid of vampire and Lycan can kick butt!  And because of this hybrid union, what other special abilities does he have?

If anything, the “popcorn action” continues with “Underworld: Evolution” and I think that is what fans will most likely tune into… and it’s what the film does quite well, providing the audience with a lot of action.  The first film was never about a deep storyline, nor was this film like “Twilight” and focused about emotions and love.  While we know these two individuals are in love, they are also being hunted down constantly, so no weepy emotional scenes in this film.

And for the Blu-ray release, fans who loved the first film will definitely enjoy the picture and audio quality of this sequel, despite it being released on Blu-ray first and is an earlier Blu-ray release.  Once again, the film looks stylish with its reliance on blues and blacks, audio is immersive and also, you get a good amount of special features.

As for “Underworld: Rise of the Lycans”, the one thing that I enjoy about the “Underworld” films is the sense of its dark, goth style in conjunction with its brooding storyline of the vampires and the werewolves feuding against each other.   “Underworld: Rise of the Lycans” is the dark “Romeo & Juliet” storyline of two lovers from two sides that despite and hate each other.

If there is one thing that people are familiar about the “Underworld” films, there is not much time for thorough character development.  These characters may have a brief time of happiness but immediately they are trying to survive or somehow ripped away from any happiness that they seek.  By no means is “Underworld: Rise of the Lycans” a happy everlasting storyline.  It’s a tragic story about Lucian and Sonja and what intensified the feud between the vampires (Death Dealers) and the Lycans (werewolves/human hybrids).

Lucian’s story of being used by Viktor against humans and against his own kind is established but much is not said about Sonja, all the writers want you to know is that aside from being Viktor’s daughter, she’s madly in love with Lucian.  And that is all you should know.

But I enjoyed this film because it kept things simple.   No convoluted or ridiculous storyline that would go astray or become incomprehensible.   The storyline features characters that are quite interesting.  The Lycan Lucian and his lover, the vampire Sonja and Viktor, the father who will try to deny his daughter or the Lycan baby he raised to become a man any form of pleasure.

Michael Sheen (“Frost/Nixon”, “Blood Diamond”, “Underworld: Evolution”, etc.) did a great job as a Lycan who will not let any side tell him that being in love with a vampire is wrong.  It will be interesting as the actor will be part of another popular vampire film “The Twilight Saga: New Moon”.   Sheen plays that passionate but tortured person effectively, especially as his character has undergone so much, but is strong because of his love for Sonja.

Rhona Mitra (“The Practice”, “Boston Legal”, “Nip/Tuck”) as Sonja was good, I felt that she could have been used a bit more in the film.  We know that she is a strong vampire but it was more interesting to see her as a compassionate vampire.  It would have been nice to get a little back story of how her relationship with Lucian had started but nevertheless, the focus was not so much on their evolving relationship.  The film quickly establishes her love for Lucian and like Juliet, her father would deny her any happiness.

Which leads me to Bill Nighy (“Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest”, “The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy”, “Valkyrie”, etc.) as Viktor.  Nighy does a magnificent job of playing the cold, elder vampire and as he was great in the first two “Underworld” films, you do see that compassion that he had felt for his daughter and to see how he changes after he discovers the relationship.

The storyline was well-planned and executed, first time Director Patrick Tatopoulos just had to take that screenplay and make the overall setting believable.  And because of his well-documented experience on special effects and creature designs, he was able to accomplish that gritty, gloomy world of vampires and werewolves, to make sure that the castle of the vampires looked effectively real and the final cut worked for me.

“Underworld” are films that have never been appreciated by the majority of the film critics but one thing that is consistent is that the intended audience who have enjoyed these films since the beginning have been passionate about it and continue to support it.   For me, I have always enjoyed films about vampires and werewolves and I actually dig the overall presentation and characters of the three films.

Which now leaves me to the “Underworld Trilogy: The Essential Collection”.  I know many people who own all three Blu-ray releases and many have asked me if they should ditch their Blu-rays for this “Essential Collection.  My answer is no.

This Blu-ray box set features the same Blu-ray releases that were released previously.  The only difference is that you get a slipcase for all three Blu-ray releases and an extra Blu-ray of “Underworld: Endless War” animated shorts (which is included in a paper envelope – which is a bit disappointing).  Also, the original release of “Underworld: Rise of the Lycans” came with a digital copy (note: which will no longer work if you are using Mac OS 10.7), but with the “Underworld Trilogy: The Essential Collection”, you can enjoy all three movies via UltraViolet.

While the animated shorts tries to be a bridge from Selene’s life tracking down Lycan brothers to what has transpired in 2012 with humanity now hunting down vampires and Lycans, the bridge is nothing significant, nor is the storyline significant in terms of impact to the films.

In fact, the biggest question I am often asked about these animated shorts is which anime director or company made them?  And to be truthful, these shorts should not even be called “anime” (Japanese animation) because it is created by a South Korean company, Dong Woo Animation (who have done some work on Japanese animation productions), it is “manhwa yungah” (Korean animation) and for the most part, animation is decent. The animation is presented in 1080p High Definition and a Dolby Digital 2.0 soundtrack.  You can tell the animation it’s more of a lower budget fare as there is not a lot of in-between animation used but it is well-narrated and the story is intriguing but it is not a reason for previous owners to get rid of their original Blu-rays.

But for those who do love the films or are interested in an action-packed horror film such as these “Underworld” films, then yes…this “Underworld Trilogy: The Essential Collection” is definitely worth checking out!  I tend to watch a lot of vampire films and what I enjoy mostly about the “Underworld” films is the visual style, the intense action and perhaps somewhere included in there is my enjoyment of seeing Kate Beckinsale in her slick black outfit, as it is a pretty awesome costume design for a female action character, since Carrie-Ann Moss’ Trinity in the “Matrix” films.  And unlike “Twilight”, although it does have the romance element, the film is more action-driven and many moments of gore.

And as for the three Blu-ray releases, each of them are fantastic when it comes to picture quality and the lossless audio soundtrack for all three films are equally fantastic.  And for special features fans, that’s another reason what made me enjoy these three films are the plenty of special features included as well!

Overall, while the trilogy box set may not be recommended for those who previously own all three Blu-rays, for those who do want these films or are curious about them will definitely want to check these films out!  Again, these are not films with deep plots and they are pretty much popcorn action films, but still, at least there’s a cool story that goes along with that action and for the most part, I enjoyed these three films a lot.

While I wouldn’t be surprised if we see a new “Underworld” set that includes all four films in the future, if you are wanting to watch all three “Underworld” films before “Underworld: Awakening” comes out in theaters, wanting  to watch vampire and werewolves at war or just in it to see Kate Beckinsale in black leather, then I definitely recommend “Underworld Trilogy: The Essential Collection”.




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