'Underworld' TV Adaptation Aims for Less Comic-booky Tone

Expect a "pretty big departure from the films."

Kate Beckinsale Underworld Blood Wars

Expect a “pretty big departure from the films.”

It’s hard to believe that the Underworld franchise spans 14 years and five movies. Underworld films show up in theaters every few years to little fanfare, terrible reviews, and almost no impact on pop culture but series veteran Len Wiseman wants to change that. Wiseman, who directed the first two films and produced the next three plans to set the Underworld property on a new course.

Wiseman is banking on the idea that the Underworld brand will translate to TV. According to Deadline, Wiseman’s production company, Sketch Films, are moving ahead with an Underworld TV series with the aim of finding a home on a premium cable or digital space.

The Underworld movies tell the story of a secret war between werewolves and vampires, and explores all the politics, betrayal. and bloodshed that goes with it. On the surface, the Underworld series has all the elements I want from a film; intense action sequences, a dark supernatural world with a deep mythology, and a bad-ass female protagonist. And yet, the movies always disappoint me, routinely coming off as soulless and by the numbers. Call me a sucker, but despite not loving any of the films, each new release has just enough promise to pique my interest whenever the series inevitably returns.

The critical consensus surrounding the Underworld series would have you believe the films are as compelling as a dumpster fire, so they’re not an obvious pick to a small-screen adaptation. Here’s a rundown of the series’ Rotten Tomatoes scores: Underworld (31%), Underworld Evolution (16%), Underworld: The Rise of the Lycans (29%), Underworld Awakening (26%), and Underworld: Blood Wars (19%). So why is Wiseman bent on creating an Underworld series and why would any network listen to his pitches?

The Underworld series has maintained a consistent if unspectacular box office run. According to Box Office Mojo, the Underworld series has brought in $252,766,892 at the domestic box office $539.6 million worldwide. Those are the type of numbers that make network execs return your calls. Wiseman also wants to use the new medium to take the series in a new direction. According to Wiseman, the Underworld films’ action-heavy, melodramatic style is staying put in the theaters. “The series will be a pretty big departure from the films,” Wiseman stated. “I don’t want to say it’s more adult, but it’s definitely less comic book in its tone and character.”

So, is there reason to get excited over an Underworld TV series? It’s still early to say, but despite my disappointment with the five previous installments, I’ll approach the series with an open mind. For one, Wiseman emphasized wanting to take Underworld to a “premium” distribution platform. I’m intrigued by the thought of what an 8 to 13 episode season could deliver. A full TV season would address Underworld’s weaker elements: adding depth to the central characters and fleshing out Underworld’s rich, yet convoluted, mythos. The best case scenario in this situation lifts a page from the Buffy template. The cheese-tastic 1992 Buffy the Vampire Slayer movie made the jump to TV in 1997 and became an all-time classic series. Worst case scenario, the show is an incoherent and overwrought time sink that tarnishes my goodwill towards TV adaptations forever. Here’s to hoping.

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