8:00 PM, 31st March, 2012
The original Underworld concept, vampires versus werewolves, may have seemed a tad unoriginal but yielded a trilogy with moderate commercial success and an undeniable cult following thanks to the flair of its execution and great production design. Then again, Kate Beckinsale in tight leather would probably get a certain demographic of the audience along even if the movie was about a vampire tea party. The plots grew increasingly faux-Shakespearean as the series wore on, culminating in a glorious Hammer Horror throwback third installment, but eventually the formula grew tired. What next then? Why, Vampires versus Werewolves versus Humans! Humans with futuristic weapons at that!
Undoubtedly the Underworld producers are just trying to find an angle to drag the series on for a few more films yet, but to their credit they have done a decent job attracting talent to keep the franchise alive. “Babylon 5” creator J. Michael Straczynski (though arguably his best work came in writing numerous
episodes of “He-man and She-ra” in the 80s) delivers a fittingly pulpy script and the supporting cast this time around is rounded out by the likes of Charles Dance (OBE), Stephen Rea (the academy award-nominated) and Michael Ealy (I just like him in stuff). Regardless of those efforts, so long as they keep Kate Beckinsale running around in leather, with big guns and big stunts, I suspect most prospective viewers will be happy.
9:43 PM, 31st March, 2012
Do you remember seeing copies of "Heavy Metal" magazine on the shelves anywhere? Its distinctive cover invariably featured a buxom, scantily-clad babe in a science fiction or fantasy setting - but the covers were (doubtless still are) eye-catching not just because of this but because of impeccable artwork of well-realised alternate worlds. Merely seeing the cover of the magazine is enough to tell you what to expect from this feature-length animated tribute: a series of science fantasy stories that won't shy away from darker themes, and won't stint on the nudity, either - male as well as female.
The stories are loosely tied together with a frame device about a glowing green orb of pure evil, which floats around the universe corrupting mortals until it is ultimately defeated. Some stories are intriguing, some hallucinogenic, some frankly ridiculous. Settings include a dystopian future Earth; barbaric planets more or less out of Flash Gordon, only more disturbing; nowhere regions outside space-time as we know it; and (inevitably) Europe at the height of World War II.
The movie was farmed out to several different animation houses (of varying levels of prestige, ranging from the British studio that produced Animal Farm to the Canadian studio responsible for the Care Bears) - keeping just enough stylistic consistency to tie it all together but enough variety so your eyes never get tired of the images. It's the kind of cult classic you know you have to see, if only to tick off your list.