When director Len Wiseman and (the other) writer Danny McBride created the epic action/horror/vampire/werewolf movie Underworld back in 2003, they couldn't have predicted the colossal success the franchise would go on to achieve. The impressive longevity of the series is due in large part to the Underworld movies having such an iconic, identifiable style — a style that has managed to remain as distinctive in the #SonyPictures latest release Blood Wars as it was 14 years ago at the beginning of the Underworld odyssey.
Following an age-old war between clans of Lycans, covens of Vampires, and a whole host of werewolf-bloodsucker hybrids, #KateBeckinsale leads the Underworld movies as the indomitable Selene, a Vampire Death Dealer with a tragic past. But just what is it that makes these movies so instantaneously recognizable? Let's examine all the elements of the Underworld franchise's tantalizing trademark style.
- Why Is Selene's Blood So Damn Important In 'Underworld: Blood Wars'?
- 7 Things You Might Not Know About The Original 'Underworld' Movie
- 5 Film Franchises Kate Beckinsale Should Join After 'Underworld'
Cyberpunk Super Vamps: Underworld's Style Inspirations
Sinking its teeth deep into the cyberpunk, grunge-tech aesthetics oozing from the likes of The Matrix trilogy, Blade and A.I. Artificial Intelligence — all released prior to the first Underworld movie in 2003 — Wiseman's franchise blended elements of these films while adding its own unique Beckinsale-style twist.
Unafraid to pay homage to its filmic forebear, check out the movie nod in Underworld: Blood Wars to leather-clad vampire flick, 1998's Blade, in the following GIF:
In addition to the Wachowski-esque, CGI-enhanced fight sequences and the vampire-turned-weapons-expert character tropes prevalent in the Blade film series, #Underworld added an extensive and complex vampire vs. werewolf mythology, a strong female protagonist, and a whole lot of moody blue lighting. Speaking of which...
Underworld's Cinematography: Blue Is The Goriest Color
From the slightly greenish tint pervasive in the Matrix movies, which was reflective of the green computer code underwriting the illusory universe, to the bleak grays of Terminator: Salvation and The Road, emphasizing the apocalyptic despondency of their respective worlds, choice of cinematographic color grading plays a huge role in creating a filmic style. And the Underworld franchise is no different.
In a world where everyone is the protagonist and something terrible always seems to befall those who Selene has ever loved, where themes of death, revenge, power and suffering are the essence of the plot, the choice for Underworld's post-production color grading is naturally a deep, melancholic blue.
While many other action-hybrid movies — such as Suicide Squad, Terminator and Twilight — are also given the brooding blue treatment, Underworld's particular shade of high-contrast color grading deepens the shadows and paints its highlights with a luscious shade of vampiric teal that is now synonymous with the series' style.
Crawling The Walls: Underworld's Use Of CGI
With a mix of Vampires, Lycan werewolves, and an ever-expanding assembly of monster hybrids, the Underworld series has implemented some pretty impressive CGI effects to transform its human actors into terrifying specters of the undead.
Speaking to Underworld: Blood Wars director Anna Foerster, ComingSoon.net asked her how she managed to combine some of the memorable computer-aided transformations with more practical effects. With reference to Tobias Menzies' Marius, the Lycan leader in the movie, Anna stated that the CGI team had to create a new kind of digital transformation:
"There’s a new design for him and a new idea on why he looks the way he does.”
But not all of the action was created post-production:
"We have suits which we are using for close-up work like foreground stuff – like people being wrestled out of frame and actual human contact with them."
It's only when the creatures start climbing walls that things get a little high tech:
"For wider shots or with more Lycans, or Lycans on all fours running up a cliff or something, that would be CG."
Fashion Fades, Only Style Remains: Underworld's Trademark Costume Design
Symbolic of its neo-noir, cyberpunk origins, one of the Underworld series' most enduring characteristics is its selection of bountiful skintight leather outfits. Indeed, Beckinsale's Selene would be hardly recognizable if it weren't for her slick, wet-look black catsuits, and how would we be able to distinguish the villains if not for their floor-length trench coats and intimidating collars?
Speaking to Croatia's Gloria magazine, Serbian costume designer Bojana Nikitović, who created the looks for Underworld: Blood Wars, highlighted the overwhelming joy she experienced while working on the project, largely due to the fact that director Foerster and Beckinsale were both very much part of the design process. Referring to the actress as one of the most beautiful and smartest women that she'd ever met, Nikitović also described her awe at how involved Kate was in every aspect of the series, which leads us to our next key point.
Underworld's Biggest Style Trademark? Why, Its Leading Death Dealer, Of Course!
Gloomy blue color grading, next-level CGI effects and elaborate signature wardrobe aside, the real trademark of the Underworld franchise is undoubtedly Beckinsale as the resplendent Selene. Astonishingly brave, able to access an apparent unending well of fearlessness, and admirably compassionate, Selene has become one of the most archetypal leading ladies of a generation.
Across the entire franchise, Selene must strike out as a lone wolf, often finding herself battling against legions of men, with many cinemagoers having interpreted this as the character battling the patriarchy, consequently turning her into somewhat of a feminist symbol. Due to this legendary status, she's been transformed into various action figurines and has also appeared as the protagonist in the third-person shooter game Underworld: The Eternal War. Needless to say, the production of five Underworld movies hinges largely on the franchise's leading character, and no one could play Selene better than the remarkable (and hilarious) Kate Beckinsale.
What do you think is the most iconic stylistic trademark of 'Underworld'?