New directors give edgier vision to “Underworld” franchise

With “Underworld” series stalwart Len Wiseman unavailable to direct the fourth installment “Underworld Awakening,” the filmmakers launched an extensive search for someone to take the helm of the new production. “We considered a number of young filmmakers who had demonstrated an interest in the Underworld franchise,” says producer Gary Lucchesi. “That group included a team of Swedish directors, Måns Mårlind and Björn Stein. They had co-directed a really interesting film called `Storm,' which seemed to us to have been heavily influenced by `Underworld.'”

            “We could see from watching their earlier movie that they understood how the heroine was set up, the way that the film was shot, the camera movements, the color palette, everything,” says co-producer Richard Wright. “Then they gave us a very detailed presentation book that showed us what they thought the movie should look like. It was obvious these guys were going to bring a lot to the party.”

            Mårlind and Stein, who have previously directed separately as well as together, have known each other since they were children. They have developed an uncanny connection that allows them to work most effectively in tandem, with each directing on alternate days. “We flip a coin the day before the shoot, says Stein. “Usually Måns wins, which is not necessarily a win. If you win the coin toss, you have to direct the first day, and first day is always chaos.

            The directors were well aware of all the work that been done to create the series through the previous three installment and had the utmost respect for the franchise. “The films are based in a strong, interesting and well-developed mythology, which is why we’ve always been fans,” says Mårlind. “Here we are dealing with universal themes like love, survival and death. We take that part of it seriously, but there is so much cool stuff going on that it never becomes pretentious. The series is distinguished by a good mix of performances and visual style, which is something we like. We don’t see ourselves as just visual directors or just acting directors. We love both.”

            The pair’s primary concern, says Stein, was being able to bring new, compelling elements to the screen while preserving the best of the past. “We jumped into it because it was such a good script,” says Stein. “The concept of the film itself actually deviates slightly from the earlier movies, so we are walking a fine line. `Underworld Awakening' is not today, it’s not set in our world. That has been challenging because we’ve had to create a new world, while keeping the Underworld stamp on it and staying true to the franchise.

            “We talked a lot with Len Wiseman and he was very helpful in setting up guidelines for what’s cool and what’s not cool in terms of the Underworld mythos,” he continues. “All these new situations are presented in a totally different environment, and we had to make a lot of decisions on the fly as well, which was fun.”

The timeless archetypes of werewolves and Vampires remain. “The Vampire is the sexy, dark side of all of us,” says Mårlind. “But we also have the werewolf side which is the destructive force.”
The biggest difference is in the balance of power, according to Stein. “The Vampires are underdogs for the first time, so they become a minority that you root for,” says the director. “They can kill a man easily, but they can’t kill mankind. I think what’s exciting for fans is that we are taking another step deeper into the mythology that will expand the universe.”

Opening across the Philippines in January 2012, “Underworld Awakening” is distributed by Columbia Pictures, local office of Sony Pictures Releasing International. Visit to see the latest trailers, get free downloads and play free movie games.
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