2003 saw an unlikely milestone emerge in the form of the supernatural horror/action genre-blend franchise, Underworld. The vampires vs. werewolves flick featured an untested creative team (Len Wiseman and Kevin Grevioux) shepherding a collection of unlikely action stars, which included theatrically trained actors like Michael Sheen (Masters of Sex) and Bill Nighy (Harry Potter); a pretty-boy leading man in Scott Speedman (Felicity); and Kate Beckinsale, who - at that point - seemed as far from an action star as one could be.
Despite the unlikely players in the mix, Underworld's genre-blend premise sold with audiences, thus launching a 2006 sequel (Underworld: Evolution), a 2009 prequel (Rise of the Lycans) and a 3D soft reboot in 2012 (Underworld: Awakening); not to mention sister films like the 2014 release I, Frankenstein, which was also penned by Grevioux. Awakening's earnings were admittedly modest (low domestically, high overseas) but good enough that the Underworld franchise could conceivably continue on to part 5; but like so many properties these days, a decade seems to be too much age for the franchise, because Underworld is getting a reboot.
THR has the exclusive report about Lakshore Entertainment's plans to reboot the Underworld franchise. Writer Cory Goodman (Priest, The Last Witch Hunter) has been attached to write the script for the reboot - but other than that, details are sketchy about what exactly "reboot" means in this case.
As stated, Underworld 4 was positioned as a soft reboot for the franchise; the film took Vampire heroine Selene (Beckinsale) and transported her into the near future via cryogenic freeze. When she awoke, Selene (read: the franchise) found a new and much different world in which vampires and lycans (werewolves) had been hunted to the brink of extinction by humanity. During her journey, Selene also discovered that she had a powerful vamp/wolf hybrid daughter named Eve, born of her union with Michael Corvin (Speedman), another powerful hybrid. By the end, Selene and Eve set out to find a resurrected Michael and take back the world from their enemies.
That's a pretty solid place for Underworld 5 to continue to build from - especially if the producers had Speedman actually return to the franchise (he was noticeably absent from Awakening). As of now, though, we have no idea if that story will truly get closure - or if we're headed for a traditional "fresh start" reboot.
Things have come a long way in the eleven years since we first saw Underworld's high concept premise executed with low-budget zeal ($22 million!). Personally speaking, the first film remains my favorite because of how Len Wiseman and Co. worked around their budgetary limitations with shadowy lighting for hard-to-glimpse CGI werewolves, and a simple selection of modest set pieces to work from. Each subsequent chapter that has tried to go "bigger and better" has been less exciting, as far as I see it.
Point being: A reboot that attempts to blow the vampire/werewolf war out into something much more epic - with much more intricate action choreography, stunts and F/X work - could end up spending a lot of money for a product that doesn't have the heart, soul or depth of the original film and its mythos. Of course, done right, a rebooted Underworld could offer fans - both fresh and veteran - a new entryway into a world that holds marketable appeal by its very nature (monster fights!). The real question here is what is the plan? And for many fans: how does Kate Beckinsale fit into all of this?
Underworld was a big step forward for female action heroines, and Beckinsale's attachment to the franchise has proven effect on the box office (see: how Rise of the Lycans suffered without Beckinsale in it). Unless they recast someone with equally good appeal, it could be hard to keep the momentum of the franchise going - especially if there are hopes for much bigger returns from a bigger budget. Geeks are incredibly loyal to their headlining stars.
We'll keep you updated on the plans and casting for the Underworld reboot as things develop. No word yet on a planned release date.