- Visual Effects
Directors: Måns Mårlind, Björn Stein
Screenwriters: Len Wiseman, John Hlavin, J. Micheal Straczynski, Allison Burnett
Actors: Kate Beckinsale, Stephen Rea, Michael Ealy, Theo James, India Eisley, Charles Dance
Cinematography: Scott Kevan
Being the fourth movie in the franchise carries with it certain stigmas. Statistically, being so far down the line of sequels means that everything is mediocre. Some of the original talent is gone after a while – you don’t have the same writers, directors, or actors that made a hit the first time around. The story that was fresh and unique may have been stretched too thin and overused by others (see: Twilight vampires). Now this may seem harsh but you have to admit that it is true for most movie franchises (Harry Potter is not included).
Underworld was released in 2003 and it was a very cool look at a war beneath the surface of what could be our own backyard – a war between vampires and werewolves (called lycans in the film). It featured a kick ass female lead, Kate Beckinsale, rocking tight leather and the ability to beat the shit out of giant lycans. She falls for a man (Scott Speedman) who is the last human that is capable of becoming both a vampire and a lycan. He becomes a very powerful hybrid of both supernatural species. Subsequent sequels explore more of the why someone would want to mix vampire and werewolf – and more history of the war between the creatures of the night. Each of the movies features cool fight scenes and lots of blood. They are interesting action films that revisit the idea of vampires and werewolves as killing machines – while leaving out the sparkling crap.
When I saw they were making another Underworld I was a little bit surprised. I thought that after you attempt a prequel that means the series is pretty much dead and devoid of ideas. But it seems that Kate Beckinsale was willing to don the figure hugging leather for another round of vampire on werewolf action. The trailer sort of confused me because it was missing one of my favorite parts of the movies – Scott Speedman. It looks cool anyway, but a girl’s got to have a hot guy to look at while she’s watching explosions and ass-kicking. So does Underworld: Awakening succumb to the four sequel curse or rise above the rest to reinvigorate the franchise?
After many years in the dark, the human race has finally figured out that vampires and werewolves are real. Those who are not ”infected” suddenly start to fight back by seeking out the supernatural and killing them. With most of the vampire and werewolf community already out to get them, Selene (Kate Beckinsale) and Michael (Scott Speedman) try to find a safe place to hide with no success. Selene wakes up hanging upside down in a freezer with no idea how she got there or where she is. She soon discovers that she has been kept alive by a bunch of scientists experimenting on her for over 12 years. Selene must find out what has happened to the people she cares about and to the vampire community while she was held captive.
The 3D Fight Scenes
As always, Underworld is an action movie that delivers. There are lots of huge animals running around that can rip people to shreds. And the vampires run around like much hotter versions of gun happy rednecks. There’s blood and guts, epic looking stunts, and death defying slow-mo shots. I paid the extra few bucks to see it in 3D, and it was totally worth it. I’ve seen several 3D movies at this point and not one of them made me flinch. Most of the time it is something CG being thrown at you from the screen, or the 3rd dimension is primarily used in order to enhance the world surrounding the actors. So having shattered glass blasting at my face while I’m sitting in a darkened theater certainly shocked me. This was just one of many times where I jumped in surprise during a fight scene. It’s a lot of fun to watch.
Underworld has some very cool monsters. To that end they also have some incredibly involved CGI. This time around there was a gigantic lycan that does some major ass-kicking. There was also an awesome looking demon child that morphs into a crazy looking killing machine. Underworld gives you the dark creatures and does them with style.
Admittedly you never go to an action movie for the storyline. Most of the time it’s inane and pointless, really just a medium for massive explosions and fight scenes. There are very few action movies that can combine the two – the narrative and the violence. Unfortunately Underworld: Awakening is not an exception to the general action movie rule. There are several plot points introduced but none of them are fully explored. The movie also suffers from the dreaded plot fatigue after four movies. After introducing all the hybrids and the human element the story eventually goes back to the original concept of vampire vs. lycan. Another mistake was taking out one of the main characters to switch things up. Scott Speedman’s Michael is not really in the movie (in fact he’s not even credited on the IMDB.com page), and his presence is definitely missed. The audience really only ends up caring about Selene because none of the other characters have enough background to make us really attached to their well-being. This makes the movie fall a little flat emotionally.
Selene’s Hair and Wardrobe
I’m not normally one to nit pick on make-up and stuff, but some things are just distracting. And Kate Beckinsale’s hair throughout the entire film was incredibly annoying. Her hair doesn’t have a part in it because it’s extra poofy. That’s why I’m sincerely hoping that it’s just a bad wig, as opposed to the alternative – Selene getting style tips from the Jersey Shore. Speaking of style, even 12 years into the future Selene is still sticking to her old-school outfit. Why would the evil scientists keep her tight leather suit right next to her frozen body? So that when she escapes she can don her old costume? While Kate Beckinsale looks amazing in that body hugging fabric, I would have liked to see some sort of change. Did they think we wouldn’t recognize her wearing something else? I suppose with that hair it might have been hard….
Overall: 2.5 stars out of 5
Underworld: Awakening is a good action movie that keeps you in awe of the special effects. And you definitely don’t have to do any thinking while sitting in your soda stained theater seat. While I enjoyed it, I also expected more. With all the Twilight crap going around, what I really wanted was not just a good movie that featured vampires and werewolves as cold hard killers. I wanted a great story to go along with the ass-kicking creatures. I really liked the first Underworld movies because it was something a little different in the genre and because of the love story. Now it seems more about the fight scenes and continuing to make money instead of a focus on the characters. If you don’t care at all about plot then this is the film for you, because it certainly looks very cool. But if you like a little more with your popcorn then just rent the first movie for a dollar.