‘Underworld’: Limited Edition 5-Movie Collection 4K UHD Blu-Ray Review – A Knockout Set Of Bloody Supernatural Action

Underworld (2003)

Under cover of night, vampires engage in an age-old battle with their sworn enemies, the Lycans, a clan of violent werewolves. Selene (Kate Beckinsale), a vampire orphaned in the wake of a bloody Lycan attack, works for the vampire clan as a trained killer. When the Lycans take a mysterious interest in Michael Corvin (Scott Speedman), an exceptional mortal doctor, Selene struggles to save him from Lucian (Michael Sheen), a ruthless Lycan leader hellbent on ending the vampire bloodline.

While never rising to the level of high art, Underworld is an incredibly fun movie that deserves more recognition than it typically receives. While it has gotten somewhat more commonplace in the nearly two decades since it was released, the fact that this gothic horror action film is led by a woman is a refreshing change of pace for this genre. Kate Beckinsale does not just lead this movie, she commands it. We are dealing with supernatural beings, but she is able to bring some English gravitas to this role that makes you perk up. She is a “death dealer”, and she carries out her job with an icy precision that you have to admire. Some of the bloody and inventive action beats are seared in our mind forever; if you do not cheer when Selene shoots a hole through the floor around her, we do not want to be friends. Yet, the film is more than this with the Shakespearean forbidden love aspect that the movie does not overplay in a cheesy way. Not all audiences are predisposed to digging a story about deep vampire and werewolf mythology, but that does not mean that the history that is unveiled is not substantial and impressive. Judged against similar movies, this original is nearer to the top of the genre. 

Underworld: Evolution (2006)

 

Seductive vampire Selene (Kate Beckinsale) and renegade werewolf Michael (Scott Speedman) love one another, but find themselves abhorred by the members of their own clans. Seeking clues that might provide a key to healing the rift between their species, they are hounded by Marcus (Tony Curran), an ancient creature obsessed with perpetuating the war between them. Continually beset by enemies from both sides, the lovers explore their pasts as they seek their destiny.

The follow-up to Underworld makes a valiant attempt to expand the mythology in substantial ways, but in trying to do so it becomes a bit too convoluted and somewhat overwhelming. While the film cannot quite top the effortless style of the first film, Evolution continues to deliver top-notch visuals with the production design and the steely blue filter that bathes the entire film. While many critics apparently pounced on this aesthetic choice, it substantially ratchets up the sense of dread emanating off this entry to allow for a more sinister affair. The first film was wonderfully violent, but the follow-up aims to top the bloodshed dealt by Selene and company. When you are dealing with vampires, buckets of blood are par for the course, but the way it is realized here makes an impact. If there is a criticism to this aspect, it is that the action can be so unrelenting at times that you begin to feel desensitized. This film does not surprise in the same way as the initial entry, but it functions as a solid enough follow-up to this escalating story. Beckinsale once again is the reason to tune in, but Speedman handles himself well enough as her other half. 

Underworld: Rise Of The Lycans (2009)

Viktor (Bill Nighy), the cruel king of the vampires, has persecuted the Lycans for centuries. Young Lycan Lucian (Michael Sheen) rallies his people against Viktor and his Death Dealer warriors. With his secret lover Sonja (Rhona Mitra), a vampire, at his side, Lucian leads the werewolves in a final battle to break free of enslavement — or die trying.

A Underworld film without Kate Beckinsale (mostly)? Yes, it happened, and it was not actually as bad as it sounds. We take a break from our regularly scheduled vampire-lycan war to go back a spell and unveil the backstory of how we got to the conflict of today. Rhona Mitra is far from just a Beckinsale substitute, as the character of Sonja makes a decent impression of her own despite not reaching the highs of Selene. It is actually Michael Sheen as Lucian who proves to be the biggest asset this movie has. You know where this story eventually needs to lead, but by tackling this story the entire mythos of Underworld has to be viewed from a slightly different perspective than what we knew previously. Rather than a strictly malevolent force who has been causing problems since the initial film, his character is given more complexity which makes you want to go back and watch those films with fresh eyes. Some may criticize the slower, more deliberate pace of this entry, but after the assault of the sense delivered by Evolution it is a nice reprieve. Plus, when we do get to the epic finale, the carnage is real and the story feels more emotionally impactful. 

Underworld: Awakening (2012)

In the years since she and her human-lycan lover, Michael, defeated Elder Marcus, vampire warrior Selene (Kate Beckinsale) has been taken captive by humans, while they wage an all-out war against both lycans and vampires. Awakening after more than a decade, Selene discovers that Michael is dead, but that she has given birth to his daughter, Eve. Shunned by nearly all surviving vampires, save one (Theo James), even Selene seems powerless against her latest opponent: a genetically enhanced lycan.

The fourth installment in the series is where the franchise starts to really feel on the wrong path. While far from a terrible film, it is unable to carry on the story that was established in Evolution in a meaningful way. Awakening is the type of film where you are expected to forgive deficiencies in the plot because the visuals are so hypnotizing. It does work to a point; those who are in this for the action and gore are going to feel as if they reached nirvana. This entry is by far the goriest up until this point, and the action once again pounds you over the head until you are numb. The film takes some creative liberties with the mythology and makes many quick decisions that do not seem to flow with the natural course of things. Of course, there is only so much that can be done when one of your main performers, Scott Speedman, refuses to return to the series after a multi-year break. The most damning thing you can say about Awakening is that it feels inconsequential in the long run. You may be filled with adrenaline in the moment, but there is very little that will stick with you once the credits have finished rolling. Some segments of the audience may enjoy the series going in a more mindless direction, but I personally prefer a bit more effort. 

Underworld: Blood Wars (2016)

 

Death dealer Selene (Kate Beckinsale) must fend off brutal attacks from both the Lycan clan and the vampire faction that betrayed her. Joining forces with allies David (Theo James) and Thomas (Peter Andersson), she embarks on a quest to end the eternal war between the two races, even if it means making the ultimate sacrifice.

If this is indeed the final Underworld film ever released, and by all accounts it should be, it is a shame for it to go out on such a weak note. Much like Awakening, the series feels as if it is going through the motions of what a supernatural action film should be rather than trying to do anything truly creative with the material. As always, Kate Beckinsale provides a solid reason for anyone to give this material their precious time, and Charles Dance continues to delight in playing a menacing role to perfection. While the franchise has clearly lost all of its creative drive up until this point, it fares even worse by doubling down on expository material that even the most avid fans will have trouble piecing together. The bloodshed that made the previous entry a bit of gnarly fun has been lessened significantly in a way that will leave casual fans disappointed. Every entry seems to lose a few more performers which leads to replacement actors for certain characters, but the franchise just chugs along to diminishing returns. The change of scenery this outing offers at least a small amount of excitement to the journey. 

Video Quality

All the films in the Underworld: Limited Edition 5-Movie Collection are given a 2160p 4K UHD upgrade that serve as a significant step up from their Blu-Ray counterparts. The set also includes Blu-Ray versions of each film which mirror the previous versions that were available separately. The previous releases were presented to varying degrees of success on Blu-Ray, but Sony completely obliterates any previous releases with these new 4K UHD Blu-Ray discs. In an effort to not duplicate descriptions, I will group most of these films together while pointing out noticeable differences. The main takeaway for this collection is that all transfers allow these films to look the best they ever have on home entertainment, and they should be considered the best way to enjoy these films. A magnificent effort all around. The first two Underworld films were shot on film, rendered from 2K DI’s and upconverted to 4K, which if you read my Inglourious Basterds review you know does not mean that these discs are lesser in any form. The last three were shot digitally and rendered from a mixture of 2K and 4K DI’s. 

The 4K UHD Blu-Ray set offers a pleasing uptick in quality, most notably in its gains in fine detail and well-defined textures. The new discs offer some strong improvements in the black levels so that some of the darker scenes on the Blu-Ray present more clearly in 4K. The first and last film were previously released on 4K UHD, but the disc included in this set is new for the original Underworld. Not only does it now include the Extended Version, but the transfer has a slightly stronger encode with a bit of a different color timing. The new presentations for the remaining format debuts feel like you are seeing things perfectly for the first time on home entertainment. Considering that a majority of these films take place in the cover of darkness, it is a joy to see the scenes are more vivid and finely delineated. The black levels are especially strong in these presentations, staying deep and inky with great detail. The highlights in the film are more defined with whites more pure and balanced with no instances of blooming to be found. 

Skin tones appear more natural with healthy doses of crisp detail apparent on faces such as pores. These films are known for their cool monochromatic aesthetic which does not make for an immensely vibrant picture, but there are specific pops in color in the production design that appear with greater intensity than ever before. The increased range of the color spectrum is best utilized in the contrast between the intense dark and output of light. Oddly enough, the most recent film Blood Wars is the one that feels least effective when it comes to HDR. In general, important details like the deep blue of Selene’s eyes look incredible and quite vivid here. The transfer reveals an increase in the depth of field in the varied locations that we visit from film to film. In the wake of the various scenes of destruction, you can more clearly make out textures within the carnage and similar such elements. There does not appear any noise reduction or black crush that we detected at any point. These Blu-Rays have done their job until now, but Sony has made those discs obsolete with this wonderful new 4K release.

Audio Quality

The upgrade in the video department is substantial, but the audio upgrade is where this set will really get you. The 4K UHD Blu-Ray set comes with an extremely lively Dolby Atmos presentation that handles the consistent action of the story incredibly well. These tracks offer expert level immersion into the environment so that even the subtlest elements are represented. The Atmos presentation takes full advantage of the expanded channel allotment. Some of the violent confrontations really utilize the soundscape to put you right into the fray. Similarly, there are certain moments with characters on a rooftop when it is raining that sound unreal with the height channels. All of the sounds are balanced well during the more kinetic sequences, of which there are many. The constant gunfire and all-out brawls provide a fantastic amount of activity in the low end. Directionality of sound is never an issue with this track, and dialogue is reproduced with supreme clarity. Speakers remain remarkably engaged throughout the film, even during the few quieter moments. The film is an audio heavy-hitter in the best sense with a well rendered sonic assault. The audio presentation throughout this set is a wonderful experience from start to finish. 

Special Features

Sony has provided this franchise with a sleek, sturdy gift set which features all five films in their own case with a dedicated slipcover that differs from the artwork underneath.  The cases sit upright in the box with a two-piece design where the top of the slides off for easy access to the cases. It is a prime example of treating a franchise with respect through aesthetically wondrous packaging. 

Underworld

4K UHD

  • Theatrical and Extended Version: Unlike the previous 4K UHD Blu-Ray disc, this new one offers both cuts of the film in 4K UHD. 
  • Alternate Flashbacks: Two-and-a-half minutes of “alternate” footage is provided here of flashbacks to Sonja getting killed in front of Lucian. This is only one of the major flaws with this disc is this “alternate” footage is what was originally included in the original theatrical version, but the only version available to watch on this disc is a tweaked version with Rhona Mitra from Rise Of The Lycans inserted for a “cleaner” continuity between films. This footage is presented in 4K HDR, so providing an option for seamless branching between the two versions would have been the preferred option. 
  • Trailers: This disc provides a Teaser Trailer (1:37) and Theatrical Trailer (2:30)

 

Blu-Ray

  • Audio Commentary: Director Len Wiseman and Actors Kate Beckinsale and Scott Speedman provide a fun and informative commentary track over the Extended Edition of the film. In this track, the trio discuss the additions to the film, the times when stunt doubles were needed, the unique traits of some of the performers in the smaller roles (one is a potato farmer!), experiences shooting on set versus on location and much more that provides insight into the production. 
  • Outtakes: Four minutes of flubbed lines, malfunctioning props, laughing fits and more are included here which amounts to a fun time. 
  • Featurettes
    • Fang Vs. Fiction: A 47-minute documentary that attempts to posit that some of the supernatural tales found in fiction are closer to fact than we might want to believe. While unlikely to shake up your understanding of how the world works, it makes for an entertaining exploration. 
    • The Making Of Underworld: A 13-minute featurette in which the cast and crew discuss what makes this story unique, the characters in the film, the makeup and stunt work, the power of Kate Beckinsale in this role and more that gives a decent overview without much substance. 
    • The Visual Effects Of Underworld: A ten-minute featurette which delves a bit more into specifics as it unveils the visual effects work employed in this film including CGI, miniature work and more. It is amazing to see how seamless some of these processes can be. 
    • Creature Effects: A nearly 13-minute look at how the creatures were brought to life on screen. While obviously a lot of digital effects were employed, it is heartening to see how much practical work went into bringing these creatures to the screen which makes a world of difference. 
    • Stunts: A 12-minute featurette which goes behind the scenes to showcase how the cast safely pulled off the amazing stunts that are so integral to this particular story. There is some great footage of Kate Beckinsale training for the film included. 
    • Designing Underworld: An 11-minute look at the production design, vehicles, locations, props are more that come together to create this world. There is some really neat conceptual art sprinkled throughout which provides extra insights into what they wanted to accomplish. 
    • The Look Of Underworld: A nine-minute look at how the creative team landed on the unique aesthetic of the film including makeup along with how they created the really impactful soundscape through onset preparation. 
    • Sights And Sounds: A ten-minute look at how the creative team captured and created all of the sounds of the film, along with the specifics of achieving the cinematic look. 
  • Music Video By Finch – “Worms Of The Earth”: The nearly three-minute Underworld-themed video is included here. 
  • Storyboard Comparison: A nearly seven-minute look at early artist renderings compared to the final version we see on screen. 

Underworld: Evolution

4K UHD

  • Theatrical Trailer: The two-and-a-half minute trailer is provided here. 

 

Blu-Ray

  • Audio Commentary: Director Len Wiseman, production designer Patrick Tatopoulos, second unit director Brad Martin, and editor Nick De Toth provide a decent commentary track in which the group delve deep into how this film came to be on a production level with lots of great anecdotes about repurposing footage from the first film, the sets created for the film, finding the performers on screen and much more that fans will appreciate. 
  • Featurettes
    • Bloodlines – From Script To Screen: A 13-minute featurette which recaps a bit of the first film before exploring where the story continues in this installment, the casting, tweaking what they felt didn’t quite work in the first film and more. 
    • The Hybrid Theory: A 13-minute piece which explores the epic visual effects in this installment and how they wanted to improve upon the first film. There are some great behind-the-scenes moments included here. 
    • Making Monsters Roar: A 12-minute featurette which takes a look at the prosthetics and costumes featured in this second chapter and how they improve upon the first. 
    • The War Rages On: A ten-minute piece which focuses more on the stunts in the film and how the action has escalated in terms of difficulty in execution. 
    • Building A Saga: A 13-minute featurette which takes a look at the production design and the grandiose scale of the narrative. 
    • Music And Mayhem: A 12-minute featurette which gives attention to the intense sound design of the feature and the epic score from Marco Beltrami. 
  • Music Video By Atreyu – “Her Portrait In Black”: The four-minute music video is provided here. 

Underworld: Rise Of The Lycans

4K UHD

  • Rise Of The Lycans – Inside The Castle Walls: A 25-minute featurette which takes a look at the direction of Patrick Tatopoulos and the production design featured in the film, among other visual touches. There are some great comparisons between early concept art and the final version we get on screen. 
  • Trailers: This includes the Domestic Trailer (2:19) and the International Trailer (1:55). 

 

Blu-Ray

  • Audio Commentary: French director Patrick Tatopoulos, Underworld series creator Len Wiseman, executive producer James McQuaide, and producers Richard Wright and Gary Lucchesi provide a pretty fun albeit scattershot commentary track in which they discuss the origins of the film, developing the story into a script, finding the right performers, memories from production and more. 
  •  Behind The Castle Walls – Picture-In-Picture: A visual track that accompanies the feature film with insights from the creative team. 
  • Lycanthropes Around The World Interactive Map: An interactive map with factoids about werewolf-related phenomena.
  • Featurettes
    • From Script To Screen: A nine-minute piece which does not offer much depth outside of following the crew to New Zealand, but it does an okay job of providing an overview of the film. 
    • The Origin Of The Feud: A more substantial 20-minute featurette which explores the mythology of the franchise, how the characters connect to the larger story, the complexity of overlapping storylines and more. 
    • Re-creating The Dark Ages – The Look Of Underworld: Rise Of The Lycans: A 13-minute featurette which takes a closer look at the process of constructing a set and the production design in general. 
  • Music Video By William Control Feat. Matt Skiba – “Deathclub (Wes Borland/Renholder Remix)”: The four-minute video is included here. 

Underworld: Awakening

4K UHD

  • Underworld – Endless War: The three-part 18-minute animated film which does a nice job of expanding the series. 
  • Trailers: This includes the Theatrical Trailer 1 (1:51), Theatrical Trailer 2 (2:30) and Theatrical Trailer 3 (1:24). 

 

Blu-Ray

  • Audio Commentary: Producers Richard Wright and Gary Lucchesi, Directors Måns Mårlind and Björn Stein, and Executive Producer and Visual Effects Supervisor James McQuaide provide a solid commentary track in which they discuss the decision to recap the first three films in the opening moments, the visual effects, the decision to work in 3D, working within a specific budget, the performances in the film, decisions to take the plot in certain directions and more. 
  • Cracking The Underworld – Picture-In-Picture Experience: An option to watch the film with a unique trivia and picture-in-picture track which details the ancient struggle between vampires and lycans and allows you to watch scenes from previous films. 
  • Featurettes
    • Selene Rises: A 12-minute featurette which details the return of Kate Beckinsale, the specific traits she brings to the franchise, the new characters and performers who come into the series, themes and plot points of this entry and more. 
    • Casting The Future Of Underworld: A nearly 13-minute piece which takes a closer look at two of the new performers in the film and how the story opens itself up for additional chapters. There are some good discussions about how this film fits into the larger story. 
    • Resuming The Action: A nine-minute featurette which takes a closer look at the stunts in the film, trying to do something interesting with the 3D technology and the issues that arose. 
    • Building A Better Lycan: A ten-minute look at how the crew fought to make the werewolf visual effects more effective than ever on this latest release. 
    • Awakening A Franchise, Building A Brutal New World: A 19-minute piece which delves even further into production anecdotes from the cast and crew. 
  • Blooper Reel: A three-minute collection of flubbed and forgotten lines, missed cues and more  are provided. 
  • Music Video By Lacey Sturm Feat. Geno Lenardo – “Heavy Prey”: The three-and-a-half minute music video is included here. 

Underworld: Blood Wars

4K UHD

  • Franchise Recap: A three-and-a-half minute video which catches you up on what has been happening in the story up until this point. 
  • Trailers: This includes the Theatrical Trailer 1 (1:56) and Theatrical Trailer 2 (2:32)

 

Blu-Ray

  • The Evolution Of Selene: An eight-minute featurette which takes a look at how this iconic character has evolved throughout the series. 
  • Old & New Blood: A six-minute look at some new locations and some of the faces we see in this new entry including Thomas, David, Vidar, and Lena.
  • The Evil Evolved: A six-minute piece which delves a little further into characters such as Cassius, Semira, Varga, Alexia, and Marius, and how they fit into the themes of the film. 
  • Building A Blood War: A twelve-minute featurette which gives a general overview of how this feature fits into the series, how it tries to evolve, the casting and production of the film, the new blood in the director’s chair, the visual effects and more. 
  • Underworld – Blood Wars Graphic Novel: The still-image graphic novel presented two pages per screen with music playing in the background.

 

Final Thoughts

The Underworld franchise is a bit inconsistent when it comes to quality, but all of the films provide some level of enjoyment to different degrees on the “guilty pleasure” scale. The real joy is seeing Kate Beckinsale kick major butt and unleash some carnage, which she pulls off with ease. The mythology is often interesting if not a bit convoluted for its own good by the end. Those who are not in the market for a bloody supernatural action-fest should keep on moving, but fans of the genre will likely have a blast with most of these. Sony has released the Underworld: Limited Edition 5-Movie Collection on 4K UHD Blu-Ray, and the A/V presentation could not be more impressive. Not only this, but there are a host of special features that will keep you very busy. There are a few nitpicks working against this set, but these are minor when compared to the awe-inspiring effort put into everything this set does right. Highly Recommended 

Underworld: Limited Edition 5-Movie Collection is currently available to purchase on 4K UHD Blu-Ray and titles are available individually on Digital. 

Note: Images presented in this review are not reflective of the image quality of the 4K UHD Blu-Ray.

Disclaimer: Sony Pictures Home Entertainment has supplied a copy of this disc free of charge for review purposes. All opinions in this review are the honest reactions of the author.