Okay, okay.  I’ve not been particularly positive about very many movies, television shows, or music offerings lately.  Time I put myself out there and give an example of what I do like.

I like the Underworld trilogy of movies.  Yeah I said it.

On the surface, these movies are action fantasy junk.  That’s how I went into them.  Vampire: The Masquerade rip-offs with lots of gunfire and p-leather clothing over hot bodies.  Hard to take seriously.

But there’s a message underneath that I think shouldn’t be ignored.  That the old roads are passing away, along with their long standing feuds and grievances, while a new and vital perspective is taking root.  It’s dark realism, with all the horrific 85% death rate violence that implies.  But at the end you have a completely new way of life that demands consideration.

You can ignore all this deeper meaning stuff and enjoy it for what it is.  A lot of phony intrigue surrounded by combat between two sports teams.  Quite frankly, the story doesn’t hold up to a lot of literal and practical considerations.  And I don’t much like stories where the lucky few fight it out for the future of the normal, un-powered people.

You have Underworld, which begins the story, followed by Underworld: Evolution and Underworld: Rise of the Lycans.  The last is a prequel, which closes up loose ends raised in the first two movies.  We go back to the beginning for reflection on what has happened in the first two films.

Spoilers are a-cumin’ in, so ahroo!

In this dark world, unknown to most normal people, a war for supremacy rages between two factions of supernatural creatures in human form.  The vampires, sophisticated aristocrats, fight against werewolves known as Lycans.  The Lycans are street thug barbarians.  So we have a “rich versus poor”, “civilized versus uncivilized” conflict going on.

Selene, the main character, is part of an elite cadre of vampires who hunt the Lycans in the city streets.  She works for Kraven, an arrogant sub-lieutenant acting as the vampire leader while Victor (the big dude vampire leader) is away on sleep vacation in his coffin.

Against her stands Lucian, leader of the Lycans and his sub-lieutenant Raze.  Lucian is looking for a special human who is descended from the original father of the supernatural beings.  His plan is to expose this human to both werewolf and vampire bites, making the human the first hybrid of the two, a being supposedly of immense power.

The Lycans are painted as the bad guys at first (and to be truthful, they aren’t exactly great people), but as the story progresses we learn there is more going on than we presumed.  Victor’s daughter committed the unpardonable sin of falling in love with Lucian, so Victor had her killed.  Lucian is pursuing a grudge against the killer of his lover.  His attempt to locate the special human and create a hybrid is a means to get revenge on Victor and end the war between the two factions.

At first, Selene is the dutiful soldier and faithful surrogate daughter of Victor (who feels some regret at his murder of his daughter, but not enough).  As she discovers more about the feud and her part in it, she starts to side more with the special human and Lucian’s goals.

The special human turns out to be a good-hearted guy named Michael.  He rejects the world of the supernatural creatures, but has little choice but to be a pawn in their game.  I found it refreshing that a guy was the person who needed to be saved and passed around as a plot coupon for once, with Selene as the active agent in the struggle.

Selene and Michael fall in love, of course.  With Lucian’s bite and Selene’s bite, Michael becomes an “abomination”, a hybrid of the two factions with enormous power.  Basically he can whup rear end in a fight.  Together he and Selene kill Victor and send him to blazes.  Meanwhile Kraven flees back to the vampire base.

Next movie.  Selene and Michael are on the run, attempting to find out what is going on in the aftermath.  Presumably with the death of Viktor and maybe because of Lucian’s death there might be reprisals.  Michael is weak from the struggle of the previous movie, and unused to the feeding requirements of his new body.  So even though he is awesome, he’s at half strength for most of the movie–a nice touch to keep things interesting.

The big dude elder vampire with wings (the guy Viktor answered to) awakens from his coffin vacation and chases after them repeatedly, looking for a key that will unlock his brother the ultimate werewolf.  Selene meets up with the father of the supernatural creatures and receives from him his blood power, making her the new mother of all supernatural creatures.

The big dude elder vampire with wings kills father of the supernatural creatures, gets the key, and heads for the tomb of his brother.  With the vampires and Lycans in weakened confusion because of the previous movie, no one will be able to stop the ultimate werewolf from turning most humans into werewolves.

With the support of the father’s network, Michael and Selene take on the ultimate werewolf and the elder vampire in an epic combat.  The two lovers win the fight, and vow to begin a new world of supernatural beings together.  Master vampire and fully awakened hybrid together at last, in love.

Flash back with the final movie.  We learn how the vampires used the Lycans for slave labor as a result of Lucian’s special abilities.  We see how he fell in love with a vampire and how they were betrayed by her father.  The movie sets in motion the actions of Victor that define the past, and lead to the future.

Do I identify with these characters?  Not really.  They’re dark shadows of conscious existence, not something I’d like to be part of.  But I’d be lying if I didn’t feel a strong empathy for them.  Down in the depths of our “Underworld”, our unconscious, supernatural beings struggle for meaning and freedom just as surely as we do.

How did Lucian come about?  Hard to say, but he started the striving for a better world in the dark struggle.  We don’t really know what part the father played in attempting to reconcile the two sides before Selene and Michael came on the scene.  There’s a lot to unravel and unfortunately not all of the movies hold up to scrutiny.

Michael is dragged in and made a part of that world.  There’s something about the conscious world that needs to descend into the underworld to bring light to the depths.  In this world, it appears that once you’re made a supernatural creature you can’t go back to being just mortal.  So there’s no leaving the underworld once you enter.

Perhaps unraveling the vast labyrinth of the underworld isn’t the point exactly, as it’s portrayed in these movies.  What matters is making connections that heal old wounds, start new ways of thinking, and overthrow the closed minds holding back development of thinking.  Violence tends to be the solution here, and as this is dark realism the bodies pile up as the bullets fly.

But I think the definitive moments are when the characters make their choices as to what they will do.  Viktor kills his daughter.  Lucian sacrifices his special place to save the person he loves.  Selene follows her instinct about Michael.  Michael saves Selene from the car crash.

Will the new underworld be different?  Hard to say, but there’s a chance that this time, things will be different.  A change has occurred, something has stirred, and new light dawns in the underworld.