You could argue that Kate Beckinsale's Underworld series was popular before the recent big screen invasion of fashionable vampires wearing leather - indeed, it might have helped kickstart it.
The first movie, which released in 2003, might not have wowed critics, but it did generate a healthy profit AND established a new legion of fans. Since then Selene has had three more outings, ending with 2012's Underworld: Awakening. As is typical with franchise movies, rumors of an Underworld 5 emerged before Awakening had even arrived in theaters. Officially the project is still very much in the speculation stage, with little or no news being announced about the project. Despite that, the internet has already given it an unofficial release date of 2015, based on the fact all the previous Underworld movies have released after intervals of three years.
However, the likelihood of an Underworld 5 could be affected, not by previous Underworld movies, but by the performance of the recently released I, Frankenstein.
Although set in divergent universes and stories, the two properties are intimately linked, both in terms of style and production. Firstly, both films were delivered courtesy of Lakeshore Entertainment and feature many of the same writers and producers. Both stories involved in the input of Underworld actor and writer , while Gary Lucchesi, Tom Rosenberg, Richard Wright and James McQuaide also produced both I, Frankenstein and Underworld: Awakening. Indeed, almost all of I, Frankenstein's marketing featured references to the movie's connection to the Underworld series. Secondly, the two movies also share obvious thematic and stylistic similarities, from their Gothic settings, to their cold protagonists and kinetic action scenes involving all manner of ghouls and beasties.
The biggest difference between the two film franchises has been their reception. Broadly speaking all the Underworld movies have made a good profit, especially on the international market. This is despite none of the four films gaining above 50% on Rotten Tomatoes or Metacritic. Indeed, Underworld: Awakening managed to conjure up $160 million on a budget of $70 million. Meanwhile, I, Frankenstein was a de facto flop, making $58 million (only $18 million domestically) on a budget of $65 million. In reality, the movie would have lost much more money as neither marketing or distribution costs are included in this figure.
Now we come to the crux of the issue. With numbers like this, studios will not exactly be rushing towards Kevin Grevioux et al. to deliver another movie akin to I, Frankenstein - which Underworld 5 would undoubtedly be.
Of course, one could argue the two movies are not the same, and Underworld has already developed a dedicated fanbase which is likely to help at the box office. This is true, but considering Hollywood increasingly only talks in terms of money, it might not be enough to guarantee executives that Underworld 5 isn't a risky gamble.
Furthermore, from the sounds of things isn't too interesed in reviving the character. Shortly after Underworld: Awakening released, she was asked if she would don her tight-fitting leather cat-suit again. She replied:
I think it’s probably unlikely that I’ll do one, but they may do one without me.
The lose of Beckinsale could certainly be the final nail in the coffin for the franchise. In many ways she IS the Underworld series, while I, Frankenstein has proved what can go wrong if you try to introduce a new character into the world.
However, there might be one saving grace for Underworld 5. , the original director of Underworld and Underworld: Evolution, as well a writer and producer for the entire series, was not involved on I, Frankenstein in any capacity. This absence from the box office bomb could help his chances of greenlighting Underworld 5, although I wouldn't place too much faith in him. Wiseman was also responsible for his own recent flop, 2012's Total Recall reboot. That movie did make more than its $125 million budget, although it's eventual income of $198 million probably wasn't enough to actually generate a profit for the studio (once you've factored in additional costs).
All-in-all, I wouldn't get too excited for the prospects of Underworld 5.
What do you think? Are you disappointed? Or do you still think they can do it? Let us know below.