Underworld Extended Edition - Blu-Ray Movie Review
|22/1/2004||23/1/2008||Sony Pictures||Len Wiseman|
|AVC MPEG-4||DD5.1 640kbps|
Directed by Len Wiseman (who you may recall as the director of the rather impressive Die Hard 4.0 for Fox last year), Underworld is a movie that has divided opinion, people tended to either love or hate the movie. Initially I would have put myself in the latter category, and indeed sitting down to watch this movie was something I have put off for a couple of weeks now. But here we are with Underworld Extended Edition ready to review. As the title suggests this is an extended version of the movie that appeared in the theatres.
|Kate Beckinsale is looking pretty hot.|
For centuries, two races have evolved. Hidden deeply within human culture - the aristocratic, sophisticated Vampires, and the brutal, feral Lycans (werewolves). To humanity, their existence is no more than a whisper of a myth. But to each other, they are mortal rivals, sworn to wage a secret war until only one race is left standing. In the midst of this ongoing struggle, a Vampire warrior, Selene (Kate Beckinsale), discovers a Lycan plot, a secret that has terrifying repercussions for both tribes - a plot to awaken a new invincible species of predator that combines the strengths of both creatures and the weaknesses of neither...
As one may have realised from the title this Blu-Ray disc includes the Extended version of the movie and in total that’s about 13 minutes of extra footage which helps flesh out the storyline, and importantly the ending, a little more. While I didn't like this movie when I went to the movie premiere at the cinemas I actually enjoyed it a little more the second time around although I still don't think it's a great movie - it's still too dark (literally) and the action sequences are too 'MTV' quick cut in style for my liking. I can't comment for certain as to the changes in this extended edition (it has been four years since I saw it in cinemas) however some sequences seemed a little longer - including the ending while more dialogue and character driven moments also seem to be littered throughout the movie - or perhaps I was nodding off too much in the premiere! Having said all that this it is a movie that vampire/werewolf fans will enjoy.
|Underworld is impressive artistically.|
Encoded in AVC MPEG-4 the transfer of this 2 hour 13 minute film typically holds a bitrate around 23-27Mbps but occasionally jumps higher or lower in places as required. Our initial concerns were quite high as, yet again, we have an instance where the opening company logos (in this case Screen Gems and Lakesure) exhibit telecine wobble. Why, seeing as these logos are used on all their movies, can't they be converted once and made as stunning as possible to be reused on all their pictures?
When you get into the actual movie though things get a lot better. Much of the movie is very dark with very little light used in the picture (they are vampires and werewolves after all!), and a lot of the picture has a very deep blue tint to it. As a result of the extremely dark picture there is quite a bit of film grain evident in certain scenes. The movie also lacks detail in some of the darker scenes. Still if you own the DVD releases the picture quality between those discs and this Blu-Ray release is like night and day. The sharpness and clarity in many of the scenes on this disc are stunning.
If there is one area where Sony Pictures aren't skimping at all it's with the audio on most of their discs. Yet again we have a 'better then DVD but still not brilliant' Dolby Digital 5.1 audio track encoded in 640kbps which has aggressive use of surround sound but, to me, sounded a little flat at times. Fortunately the other audio option will blow you away - a Uncompressed PCM track encoded at 4.6Mbps. For a movie which relies on direction sound and effects so much this certainly adds another dimension to the experience.
|Kate Beckinsale looking hot...|
The other audio languages on the disc include an Italian PCM track encoded at 4.6Mbps (which retains the same impressive quality as the English track) as well as French and Italian Dolby Digital 5.1 tracks at 640kbps. Subtitles have been provided in English, English SDH, French and Italian which is quite a bit less then other Sony Pictures discs.
Sony Pictures have provided a pretty decent set of extras on this disc with the only real disappointment being that the extras haven't been encoded in High Definition. It must be said though that they really are worth checking out, including the monster featurette which runs for well over 2 hours!
Commentary with director Len Wiseman and actors Kate Beckinsale and Scott Speedman: As an audio commentary this nice to have, but it's certainly not the best we've heard. There are some interesting stories about production and filming. There track is pretty light hearted with quite a bit of humour but can be a little light on the details compared to what I like.
|Someone doesn't quite look human.|
Featurettes (133:38): Despite being presented in Standard Definition this is a kick-ass documentary which is split up into eight parts. The first 47 minutes or so focus on the legend of Vampires and Werewolves while the remaining time is devoted to the production of Underworld including visual effects and the overall visual style. The documentaries contain many interviews and behind the scenes footage, although I did feel that there was still too much final movie footage used throughout the documentary. If you're a fan of Underworld, or indeed any movie production then this is 2 hours you won't want to miss.
Outtakes (3:49): A short series of fluffed lines and mistakes made during the filming of the movie, some of which are actually quite amusing. Sadly these are only presented in Standard Definition with the MPEG-2 codec and stereo sound.
Music Video - 'Worms of the Earth' by Finch (2:45): A pretty average heavy metal music video. Probably ok if you're into that thing, but not something I will watch again and it's not a song I had heard of before.
Storyboard Comparisons (6:42): A split-screen look at the storyboards and final film product. Nice to see, but I would love to see something like this provided on a Blu-Ray disc using Profile 1.1 with Picture-in-Picture. I'm sure they will come along one day though.
Underworld wasn't a movie that I clicked with. To me it's passable, and from what I recall of the original theatrical release I think I prefer this extended edition. The transfer though is pretty impressive, particularly with the audio while the extras are quite superb. If you like Underworld as a movie then this Blu-Ray release is worth checking out. It's out now.
Review By: Dave Warner
Note: All images in this article are Copyright© Sony Pictures. They are only indicative of the movie and not sourced from the vastly superior Blu-Ray disc format.