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After being captured and put into cryostasis, Selene (Kate Beckinsale) wakes up to find out that humans have been doing that genocide boogie with vampires and lycans, leaving both races decimated in the process. Selene breaks out of the facility holding her captive and sets her sights on trying to find her hybrid lover, Michael. In doing so, Selene ends up discovering that she has a daughter, who is the target of more than a few unlikeable types.
The UNDERWORLD series has always been so-so for me. While I've liked the Gothic style of the film mixed in with the gunplay and action, there's something about the story that just bugged me for some reason. Heck, maybe it all comes down to the fact that Shane Brolly always looked and sounded like a tool in the first two films. I don't know. With the latest film in the series, UNDERWORLD: AWAKENING, it seems that we get more of what made me dig the series, and more of what has me on the fence.
The good news is that the action that more people other than myself found to be such a blast from the previous entries is back in this film. The directing duo of Måns Mårlind and Björn Stein make it seem like the action is a priority in this one, as Selene and company dole out their fair share of plasma-producing moments. This is far gorier than the previous films (most notably the first), and it's more than welcome.
As for the acting, since much of the film is focused on Kate Beckinsale, it's probably a good thing that she carried the film and owned the character. India Eisley, who plays Selene's daughter, is also quite good. The rest of the actors do an adequate job, with Stephen Rea hamming it up as Dr. Jacob Lane, the scientist who was holding Selene in the freezer. Being that Beckinsale and Scott Speedman's characters are the only holdovers from the previous films, it kind of had me wanting to see more familiar faces, which leads me into one of the problems with AWAKENING...
AWAKENING's story not only took a backseat to the rest of the film, it was almost left on the corner hailing a taxi. The film's almost constant stream of action, coupled with the fact that the film is just over the 80 minute mark, leaves the story almost an afterthought. Yeah, I know that I had said that the series' story kind of bugged me, but at least it was consistently there. Here, it's just Selene mowing down lycans with quick breathers for interactions with characters that I have no attachment to. Even the moments involving Selene and her daughter seemed kind of off. It's made even worse when Michael isn't really a factor in the film. Heck, Speedman doesn't even appear in the film: it's a body double with a CG mask of Speedman plastered on his head. Wouldn't it have cost less to have Speedman in there rather than going through the trouble of replicating his face on someone else?
At the end of it all, UNDERWORLD: AWAKENING is more of what fans of the series enjoy: tons of action and gore with Kate Beckinsale in tight leather. Those action junkies will be peeing their pants over this one, as it seems the action meter is stuck at eleven and it's knob torn off. Unfortunately, the story suffers because of it, and won't exactly be kind to those folks who are newcomers to the series. It's still a fun time, but for the next one, here's hoping the story gets more attention.
Video: Presented in 2.40:1 anamorphic widescreen, a film that was shot on the RED EPIC camera will undoubtedly look sharp. And it was: fine detail was nice, contrast was strong, black levels were appropriately dark, and the series' trademark blue and gray color palette was replicated perfectly.
Audio: The 5.1 Dolby Digital Surround Sound track was an energetic affair, showing off all the sounds of chaotic action while also taking care to make sure dialogue wasn't drowned out amidst all the bullets.
The only extra that we get on the DVD is audio commentary by directors Måns Mårlind and Björn Stein, and producers James McQuaide, Richard S. Wright and Gary Lucchesi. Unsurprisingly, this is a pretty busy track. Everyone seems happy to be there and happy with the film. Lame jokes aside, the crew acknowledge the film's limitations while also dishing out behind the scenes stuff. Informative and fun.
Other than that, there's also a digital copy download of the Milla Jovovich film ULTRAVIOLET. It seems the DVD got the shaft this time around, as the Blu-Ray version has exclusives like picture-in-picture trivia, a couple of featurettes and a blooper reel. You can pick that one up, if you're so inclined.
Action and gore galore, UNDERWORLD: AWAKENING has the series continuing it's vampire-on-werewolf affair to the delight of many. The DVD looks and sounds sharp, but the lack of extras other than a commentary hurt the overall package, especially when the Blu-Ray has stocked up in that department.