Underworld (2003 film)

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Underworld (2003 film) poster.jpg
Theatrical release poster
Directed byLen Wiseman
Screenplay byDanny McBride
Story by
Produced by
CinematographyTony Pierce-Roberts
Edited byMartin Hunter
Music byPaul Haslinger
Distributed byScreen Gems (through Sony Pictures Releasing[2])
Release date
  • September 19, 2003 (2003-09-19)
Running time
121 minutes[3]
Budget$22 million[4]
Box office$95.7 million[4]

Underworld is a 2003 action horror film directed by Len Wiseman and written by Danny McBride, based on a story by Kevin Grevioux, Wiseman and McBride. Kevin Grevioux wrote the original screenplay. The film centers on the secret history of vampires and lycans (an abbreviated form of lycanthrope, which means werewolf). It is the first (chronologically, the second) installment in the Underworld franchise. The main plot revolves around Selene (Kate Beckinsale), a vampire Death Dealer hunting Lycans. She finds herself attracted to a human, Michael Corvin (Scott Speedman), who is being targeted by the Lycans. After Michael is bitten by a Lycan, Selene must decide whether to do her duty and kill him or go against her clan and save him. Alongside Beckinsale and Speedman, the film stars Michael Sheen, Shane Brolly, and Bill Nighy.

An international co-production between companies from the United Kingdom, Germany, Hungary, and the United States, the film was released on September 19, 2003. Upon its release, the film received generally negative reviews from critics, but a smaller number of reviewers praised elements such as the film's stylish Gothic visuals, the "icy English composure" in Kate Beckinsale's performance, and the extensively worked-out vampire–werewolf mythology that serves as the film's backstory. A surprise hit, the film grossed $95 million against a production budget of $22 million. The film was followed by Underworld: Evolution, released three years later, and by three other films.


For generations, a secret war has raged between vampires and Lycans, an ancient species of werewolf. The vampires gain the upper hand when Lycan leader Lucian seemingly dies at the hands of vampire Kraven, who becomes the second-in-command to the vampires' leading elders. Selene, a member of an elite group of vampire assassins known as "Death Dealers", longs for revenge against the Lycans, who murdered her parents when she was a child.

During a clash with the Lycans, Selene discovers that they are looking for Michael Corvin, a seemingly ordinary medical student. After she rescues Michael and takes him under her wing, the pair find themselves pursued by a group of Lycans led by Lucian, who is still alive after all. During their escape, Michael is bitten by Lucian. Since Kraven was the only witness to Lucian's supposed death, Selene comes to suspect that he lied about killing him, and may be working with the Lycans.

She returns to her coven's mansion and prematurely awakens Viktor, a hibernating elder vampire. Furious, Viktor refuses to believe Selene's warnings about Kraven's treachery, and reminds her that his fellow elder Marcus was supposed to be awakened before him.

While awaiting Kraven's judgment for defying him, Selene binds Michael, fearing that the Lycans' bite will transform him into a werewolf when the full moon rises. As the two of them bond, she gradually tells him more about her past, revealing that Viktor adopted her and turned her into a vampire after her parents' death. Selene later manages to capture and abduct the Lycan scientist Singe, while the Lycans manage to abduct and capture Michael.

While held captive in the Lycans' lair, Michael soon learns that Lucian was once in love with Viktor's daughter Sonja, and that Viktor murdered her after he discovered their forbidden love affair. Kraven claims that Lycans were once slaves of vampires, and the war began when they rose up against them and fought for their freedom. Meanwhile, at the vampires' mansion, a captive Singe reveals that Selene was telling the truth about Kraven's betrayal, and he reveals why the Lycans want Michael: vampires and Lycans actually have a common ancestor, and Michael is a direct descendant of that ancestor. As an heir to the legendary "Corvinus" bloodline, he carries a unique genetic strain that could allow him to become a vampire-werewolf hybrid.

The vampire elder Amelia—the ruler of the coven—is later ambushed and killed by Lycans while traveling to the mansion to awaken Marcus. In the ensuing showdown between vampires and Lycans, Selene breaks into the Lycans' lair to rescue Michael, Kraven and Lucian turn on each other, Kraven tells Selene that Viktor was the one who really murdered her parents, and Michael allows Selene to bite him - believing that her bite will make him an immortal vampire-werewolf hybrid - while Kraven shoots Lucian, killing him.

When Viktor arrives at the Lycans' lair in the aftermath of the battle, he admits to murdering Selene's parents and killing his daughter. He also insists that he killed Sonja for the good of his people and reveals she was pregnant with Lucian's child, an abomination in the eyes of the two species. Lastly, he claims that he made Selene immortal out of love for her. Viktor and Michael fight, but with Michael overpowered and nearly strangled, Selene turns on Viktor and kills him. Now enemies of both the vampires and the Lycans, Selene and Michael flee the Lycans' lair together.

Back at the vampires' mansion, Marcus—now the sole surviving vampire elder—awakens after Singe's blood seeps into his sarcophagus.


Legal controversy[edit]

The film was the subject of a copyright infringement lawsuit filed by White Wolf, Inc. and Nancy A. Collins, claiming the setting was too similar to the Vampire: The Masquerade and Werewolf: The Apocalypse games, both set in the World of Darkness setting, and to the Sonja Blue vampire novels. White Wolf filed 17 counts of copyright infringement, and claimed over 80 points of unique similarity between White Wolf's gaming systems and the film. One of those points being that the vampires in Underworld "drink blood". White Wolf, Inc. also said the script was very similar to a story entitled The Love of Monsters (1994), which they published, written by Nancy A. Collins.[5][6] In September 2003, a judge granted White Wolf an expedited hearing. The lawsuit ended in a confidential settlement.[7]

Box office[edit]

The film grossed $51,970,690 in the US and $95,708,457 worldwide.[4] Underworld was released on DVD and VHS from Columbia TriStar Home Entertainment.


Underworld has a 31% overall approval rating on film-critics' aggregate site Rotten Tomatoes, based on 161 reviews. The site's consensus reads, "Though stylish to look at, Underworld is tedious and derivative."[citation needed] Audiences polled by CinemaScore gave the film an average grade of "B+" on an A+ to F scale.[8]

Roger Ebert said, "This is a movie so paltry in its characters and shallow in its story that the war seems to exist primarily to provide graphic visuals".[9] However, some critics were more favorable: the New York Daily News praised it as being "stylish and cruel, and mightily entertaining for certain covens out there".[10]

Salon reviewer Andrew O'Hehir gave a mixed review, stating, "by any reasonable standard, this dark vampire epic — all massive overacting, cologne-commercial design and sexy cat suits — sucks," but that "at least it gives a crap", conceding that despite the movie's flaws, the complex vampire-werewolf mythology backstory "has been meticulously worked out".[11]



Underworld Soundtrack
Soundtrack album
ProducerDanny Lohner
Underworld film series soundtrack chronology
Underworld Soundtrack
Underworld: Evolution
Professional ratings
Review scores

The film's soundtrack was produced by Danny Lohner and distributed via Roadrunner Records. Lohner (born 1970), a bass guitarist, guitarist, and keyboardist who has recorded with Nine Inch Nails and Marilyn Manson, contributed several songs to the soundtrack under the pseudonym Renholdër. Lohner included a song by Skinny Puppy, a Canadian industrial band; a song by The Dillinger Escape Plan, a US band which performs an aggressive, technical style of hardcore punk called mathcore; a song by US alternative rock/post-hardcore band Finch entitled "Worms of the Earth"; a song by The Icarus Line, a band known for its abrasive form of rock music; and Lisa Germano, an American singer/songwriter and multi-instrumentalist who specializes in alternative rock and dream pop.[citation needed]

Music critic Bill Aicher noted that the "soundtrack follow[s] in a similar gothic vein" to the visuals, and stated that it "does an excellent job setting the dark mood" by using "a veritable who's who in the genre", with an "impressive array of metal, hard rock, industrial, and otherwise gothic-themed tracks".[13] Aicher noted that since "a majority of the selections [are] written, produced, or featuring Lohner, the album retains a sense of cohesion throughout, making it much more a complete product than has generally been the case with similarly-themed products."[13] In particular, Aicher praised the rearrangement of David Bowie's "Bring Me the Disco King" (previously released in its original form on his studio album Reality earlier that month) as the soundtrack's strongest piece. This version of the song, which features Maynard James Keenan (from Tool and A Perfect Circle) and guitarist John Frusciante (of the Red Hot Chili Peppers), was praised by Aicher as "Dark, brooding, sad, and twitchy".[13]

Track listing
1."Awakening"The Damning Well4:15
2."Rev. 22:20"Puscifer4:39
3."Throwing Punches"Page Hamilton3:42
4."Rocket Collecting"Milla Jovovich & Danny Lohner5:42
5."Now I Know"Renholdër & Amy Lee0:57
6."Bring Me the Disco King" (Danny Lohner Mix)David Bowie (featuring Maynard James Keenan & John Frusciante)6:06
7."Optimissed"Skinny Puppy3:49
8."Down in the Lab"Renholdër & Amy Lee1:46
9."Judith" (Renholdër Mix)A Perfect Circle4:23
10."Suicide Note"Johnette Napolitano5:26
11."Baby's First Coffin"The Dillinger Escape Plan4:01
12."Hover" (Quiet Mix)Trust Company3:10
13."Falling Through the Sky"Renholdër1:01
14."Weak and Powerless" (Tilling My Grave Mix)A Perfect Circle3:02
15."Worms of the Earth"Finch2:35
16."From a Shell"Lisa Germano2:57
17."Death Dealer's Descent"Renholdër0:55
18."On the Lash"The Icarus Line4:04
19."All of This Past"Sarah Bettens4:28
Total length:1:07:07
Underworld (Original Score)
Film score by
ReleasedOctober 14, 2003
LabelLakeshore Records
ProducerPaul Haslinger and Lustmord
Underworld film series score album chronology
Underworld (Original Score)
Underworld: Evolution

Sequels and prequel[edit]

A sequel, titled Underworld: Evolution, in which Marcus fully awakens, was released January 20, 2006. The prequel Underworld: Rise of the Lycans, which gives more detail about the creation of the Lycan species and Lucian's hatred, was released January 23, 2009. A second sequel, Underworld: Awakening, was released on January 20, 2012, and a third sequel, Underworld: Blood Wars, was released on January 6, 2017.[14]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d "Underworld (2003)". British Film Institute. Retrieved November 12, 2016.
  2. ^ "Underworld (2003)". AFI Catalog of Feature Films. Retrieved March 15, 2021.
  3. ^ "Underworld (15)". British Board of Film Classification. September 2, 2003. Retrieved January 2, 2022.
  4. ^ a b c "Underworld (2003)". Box Office Mojo.
  5. ^ "WHITE WOLF, INC. and author NANCY A. COLLINS sue SONY PICTURES, SCREEN GEMS and LAKESHORE ENTERTAINMENT for "Underworld" copyright infringement". Archived from the original on February 12, 2008.
  6. ^ "Court Awards Expedited Injunction Hearing to WHITE WOLF and NANCY A. COLLINS in "Underworld" Suit". Archived from the original on January 20, 2008.
  7. ^ "Collins and White Wolf v. Sony Pictures". Archived from the original on June 8, 2010.
  8. ^ "CinemaScore". cinemascore.com.
  9. ^ Roger Ebert, Underworld Moovie Review & Film Summary (2003) Archived April 4, 2012, at the Wayback Machine
  10. ^ [1][dead link]
  11. ^ "Underworld" - Salon.com. The film has developed a strong cult following over time.[citation needed] Archived June 6, 2011, at the Wayback Machine
  12. ^ "Underworld (Original Soundtrack)". Allmusic.
  13. ^ a b c "Maynard and Borland and Bowie, Oh My!". Music review by Bill Aicher http://www.music-critic.com/sdtrks/underworld.htm
  14. ^ "Rotten Tomatoes". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved July 12, 2016.

External links[edit]