In my first piece about my visit to the set of UNDERWORLD: AWAKENING, I described the basic plot, but here’s a quick refreshers Selene (Kate Beckinsale) wakes up from a 15-year cryogenic sleep, only to find herself on the wrong side of a global behemoth called Antigen, who led the charge in systematically eradicating both vampires and werewolves from the face of the planet. She then has to find out exactly what happened, and how to extricate herself from the situation with the help of detective (Michael Ealy) and a mysterious young girl (India Eisley, Olivia Hussey's daughter).
Whenever a new franchise film comes out, the first thing that pops into my mind is always, how hardcore is it going to be? The worst thing in the world is when a horror films goes for the shoulder instead of the throat. (Okay, the worst thing in the world is probably child abuse, or ethnic cleansing, but you know what I mean.) When I visited the set of UNDERWORLD 4, the working subtitle at that time was NEW MOON. This was naturally a bit distressing to me, as it had clear leanings towards the TWILIGHT Franchise. When I asked producer Richard Wright about this, his response was:
“There have been so many subtitles thrown out with this film that we finally figured, to hell with it, just call it NEW MOON for now, and we’ll figure out what it’s going to be. There’s nothing to do with the moon at all. This film is not going to be a PG-13 movie, it’s going to be an R, Underworld films have always been R. That’s what people expect. There was a time, well, there is a time, now, when people think a PG-13 action film or even a horror film will do more business…that’s not this one. There’s plenty of hardcore blood and guts in this one. No one will be disappointed.”
Hopefully this puts your fears on this matter to rest; it certainly did mine. And I’m not saying that my question was the sole reason for changing the subtitle. I’m just putting the facts out there. Do with them what you will.
The next natural question when dealing with a franchise is: Will there be more?
“Once you’re doing 4, you can’t stop yourself from thinking there will be a 5. As of now 5 has not been greenlit, there’s no script, there’s no approved story. I think if we were to do it, we’d have a pretty good idea of who the characters will be, and what the basic timeline would be. I think it would take place after 4, but there would have to be a lot of different variables that would have to be worked out. Kate would have to agree to come back.”
So, would Kate do Selene a fourth time? Here is what she said about coming back for her third go-round:
“I really wasn’t intending to do another one. I kind of always heard that it was a trilogy and that was that. I didn’t like the idea of rehashing the same whole thing too much. I think also have played the part twice. I’ve never played the same part even twice before. So I thought that doing it for the third time was like, ‘Where would you take it where it is worth doing?’ Len [Wiseman] is a really great husband and has learned to just ignore his wife going, ‘No.’ and just quietly write a script for a couple of years and then say, ‘Actually, I have had this pretty good idea.’ [It] was such a different take that I was sort of going, ‘Okay. That is interesting.’ It is nice. It’s like our family business. How many actors get to have that? It’s like everybody is wearing rubber.”
So that’s two big questions (sort of) out of the way. The next, and maybe biggest for the average moviegoer, is the 3D issue. I talked a bit in my first piece about how seriously they were taking the format, and here is an experience Michael Ealy had early on in the production:
“And the first day…one of the directors, Bjorn, comes out and he comes out of one of the mini-tents that are on this production, and he has on these white glasses, like these white-rimmed glasses. And he looks like he's going hiking or something, you know what I mean? And I was just like, 'why is he wearing those ridiculous-looking glasses on set?' I didn't – you know, I thought maybe it was a Swedish thing, I didn't understand – and I realized that they watch everything in 3D. They watch all of the…every take, they watch it in actual 3D. So everybody in that tent, from all of the producers to the director, they all have these glasses on. And that was jarring to me. And then on top of that, when you actually go in there and see the footage…I've never seen anything like it. I just haven't. It's…and I haven't even done some of the creature stuff yet, so…it's just, it's special. You know what I mean? It's a slower process, it's a much slower process, but I think at this point they've got the hang of it.”
This probably leads you directly to: Is this going to be some gross, nonsense CGI-fest. Here’s SFX man Todd Masters on that issue:
“People frequently come to us saying, ‘Digital has evolved into this incredible thing!’ Well, practical has evolved as well. You have to be careful where you use each. There’s a huge debate going on in the FX world right now, over digital versus practical effects. There are still some people who believe there is a magical button and you just press it to get werewolves in your movie, but there isn’t. There is a lot of work that goes into digital creations as well as practical. We build a lot of stuff practically, but we still enhance digitally. We believe there is nothing scarier than something that really gets in your face. Digital has evolved into this amazing thing, but practical has as well. You’ve got to be very smart about where you use each. In the last ten years we have done things that I could never imagine we could do - and I have a weird imagination.”
And I totally did not include a quote from Masters because he complimented my THEY LIVE! t-shirt. That would be unethical.
All in all, I think co-director Mans Marlind summed up what I sincerely hope is the true essence of the movie here:
“It all derives from of course story. I think this is a more emotional journey than what we’ve seen Selene go through before. I think one of the strengths we [he and co-director Bjorn Stein] have is that we really, really love the hardcore action and all of the blood and all of the guts, but we also love the emotional things and the things that touch you, and makes you care. Not just go, “Wow!” but you want to cry. So, I think we’re going to see a new side of Selene in this film, a much softer and a much more emotional Selene. I think we’re going to be touched… we’ve always been touched otherwise we wouldn’t be here, but I think we’re really going to be touched by her journey in this one.”
My experience with the cast of crew of UNDERWORLD: AWAKENING has definitely made me eager to see the film. The cast is into what they’re doing, and the crew are all taking their jobs seriously. I got the impression that this is not just a knock-off fourth film in a franchise, but a serious, real-deal horror film. And that’s always a good thing.