Review: Underworld Awakening
PLOT: The battle between Vampire and Lycan has gone on for an eternity behind the shield of anonymity. Yet when the human race discovers the feuding beasties, they do what they always do… wipe them out. After being captured, Vampire/Death Dealer Selene and her hybrid paramour Michael are cryogenically frozen for research purposes. Years later somebody thaws out Selene, leaving her naked (yes, Kate Beckinsale is nude with items strategically placed) and alone. Luckily she is ready to destroy anybody that gets in her way as she searches for Michael and faces another hybrid, and super-sized Lycan ready to rumble.
REVIEW: If there was ever a movie franchise that was “critic proof” it would be UNDERWORLD. In this continuing saga, Selene (Kate Beckinsale) - Death Dealer and Vamp - spends her immortal years fighting off Lycans in a long and bloody war. That is until she acquires the knowledge that her own race of undead was troublesome too. In the first film she discovers a hybrid – part Lycan, part Vampire - in the form of Michael (Scott Speedman) whom she develops a thing for. In order to save him, she must protect him from both sides of the supernatural war. This is all recapped in the beginning of AWAKENING, where we find Selene has been cryogenically froze. Years after the humans took her hostage, she is freed by a hybrid… Could it be Michael (nearly non-existent except in flashbacks)? When she awakens she finds a brand new enemy as humans have discovered and destroyed most of the things that go bump in the night.
There is something inherently entertaining about the UNDERWORLD saga for me. The effects are decent, the kills are bloody enough, and most of all Kate Beckinsale is terrific as Selene. Brutal, beautiful and collected, she is a sight for sore eyes after taking a break for the previous installment, RISE OF THE LYCANS. While her performance in AWAKENING is mostly shooting up the enemies and making narrow escapes, she absolutely owns this role. I believe wholeheartedly that she is a huge reason why audiences come back to this franchise. And plus she is absolutely stunning.
For the fourth installment Len Wiseman once again steps back from the director’s chair to bring in some fresh blood. The Swedish directing duo Måns Mårlind and Björn Stein (STORM, SHELTER) remain true to the visual style Wiseman created. Don’t expect a whole new world, even with the human hunter element. Mårlind and Stein present the visual aesthetics without sacrificing the look of which fans of the films – as well as its detractors – take notice of. Much like RISE director, Patrick Tatopoulos, their UNDERWORLD is filled with shadows and characters drenched in cobalt hues.
The look and feel of AWAKENING is pure unadulterated Vamp/Lycan fun. Yet the script this time around in essentially a chase film with heavy emphasis on the action, fighting and bloodshed, suitably displayed in 3D and IMAX. The 3D is better than some, but the 2D release will suffice nicely.
One change is that the melodrama is lessened here (aside from an entertaining turn by Stephen Rea) as the story revolves around Selene searching for Michael and finding Eve (India Eisley), another hybrid. Once she and Eve join forces, the two of them - along with another Vampire named David (Theo James) - go hunting for Michael while fighting off monstrously large Lycans. Michael Ealy is also in the mix as a Detective who could be friend or foe to Selene. And let us not forget the super baddie Kris Holden-Ried who does a good enough job of being creepy.
UNDERWORLD: AWAKENING is a fast paced action flick running just over eighty minutes. More liken (pun intended) to an ultra-violent television episodic as opposed to a feature film the latest chapter gives fans basically what they want. Some may be disappointed by the downplayed theatrics that Bill Nighy and Michael Sheen offered in the earlier films. Nevertheless part four remains faithful enough to the franchise and it most assuredly promises another chapter. In the end, I appreciated the simplicity of it all and was ready for the chase. It may not be great filmmaking, and it won’t attract new fans, but those already invested will be able to satiate their bloodlust with the return of Beckinsale’s sleek and sexy Selene.