Image Courtesy of Amazon.com
Scott Speedman……….Michael Corvin
There are two ways to style a sequel to a moderate hit. Go for a bigger appeal than the first, straying away from the roots of the first film to try and draw in a larger audience this time around. The second is to stay true to form and make a film to bring back the same fans that paid to see the original. Underworld: Evolution is definitely the latter in this scenario.
Following the events of the first film, Underworld, Underworld: Evolution follows Selene and her hybrid lover Michael (Scott Speedman) through yet another hyper-stylized action film. Since her slaying of Viktor (Bill Nighy) at the conclusion of the first, the duo has been on the lamb from the revenge-seeking vampire clan. Vampire king Marcus (Tony Curran) has been woken up from his centuries long slumber is on their trail and thirsting for revenge as well; the inherent problem with all of this is that this film tries to be conclusive while leaving room for another story, all the while having the same inherent flaws and advantages of the original.
There’s a sense of conclusion throughout the film, as many of the events left unresolved from the first are ended decisively. Wiseman is focused on tying up all the loose ends from the first while weaving in a relatively unorthodox back-story that sheds a much different light on the events of the first. Wiseman seems to think that this is the third film of the trilogy as opposed to the second, as this film has the feel of the third act as opposed to being a second one to which is alluded to in the finale. Wiseman has also learned a bit from his first film as Evolution has a steadier pace, albeit still inconsistent at points.
There’s a lot of good in the film that has been translated from the original as well; there’s a lot of crisp cinematography to match some action sequences that have been improved upon from the original. There are a lot of deft action scenes that have been improved form the time of the original. Wiseman knows that the bar has been raised this time around and improves upon what he did the first time around. This is also a well-edited film; everything about the film’s post-production is sharp and top notch. While this may be a story for an almost niche audience, as the film is designed for a certain cult audience, everything about it is done on a top notch level.
His direction is also crisp, too. The story is stream-lined and smooth, moving quickly and aggressively towards its violent finale. Wiseman doesn’t try and get fancy with his story, nor does he try to merely duplicate the first. This is definitely more story as opposed to more of the same. While he struggles with trying to either finish the franchise or leave room for another film, his story-telling ability is still solid.
Underworld: Evolution has the same trappings as the original as well in terms of scenery and look. It’s a dark yet beautiful world that’s distinctive and pleasant. The same could be said of its star. Beckinsale is her usual solid self as well as she is almost criminally underrated as an actress. Perhaps the one woman working in Hollywood who has the sort of credibility to helm any sort of franchise this would a film that show that a woman saving the day can be believable as well as an enjoyable film. In a six month period that would feature Milla Jovovich and Charlize Theron in similar movies and roles, Beckinsale outshined them because of her “action” persona.
Overall it’s an enjoyable, if flawed, action film definitely worth a peek.
Score : 6 / 10
Presented in a widescreen format with a 2.40:1 aspect ratio, the film has a gorgeous transfer to DVD. The colors are crisp and solid despite the darkness of the film, with a great clarity and crispness to it.
Presented in a Dolby Digital 5.1 format, the film’s surround is top notch as well. With a great separation of sound to go with clear effect noise and dialogue, the DVD release takes full advantage of the format provided.
Bloodlines: From Script to Screen focuses on the film’s story and how they developed it as a sequel. Wiseman’s premise was that he felt there was a lot of story to tell and decided to emphasize the things that he felt were enjoyable from the first in the sequel. This featurette, which runs around 13 minutes, focuses as on trying to explain the hows and whys they designed a film to try and serve equals parts prequel and sequel. It’s also interesting to hear Wiseman talk about what he wanted to accomplish character wise, as he relates the arcs from the first film to this one and how he wanted to take it in a set direction.
The Hybrid Theory is a look at the film’s visual effects. With much bigger and more advanced effects than the first film, this is a look at how they were able to use CGI in minimal ways while trying to do as much with practical materials and prosthetics as humanly possible. The key to the first was that much of the work done wasn’t computer generated and that was something the production crew and Wiseman wanted to maintain with this picture. They go through several of the action sequences, in particular one where Marcus is attacking Selene and Michael in a truck, and how they balanced out green screen technology, CGI and as well as prosthetics and practical materials. There are also a lot of miniature model work scenes as well in this film as trying to do many of the big shots with real size materials wasn’t attainable.
Making Monsters Roar is a featurette that focuses on the creature effects of the film. With a great design base to follow from the original, the sequel’s key was to be able to make it more streamlined. Wiseman wanted the Lycans to have a bit more movement in their neck this time around as he wanted them to be less like an action figure in terms of their upper torso movement. Sticking close to the original designs, they discuss in detail in how they experimented with different materials to keep the look of the monsters while making them a bit easier for the stuntmen to be able to function in. It’s interesting to see how they how much further along the technology has come for this film in terms of realism, as this 11 minute feature shows how they redesigned some of the prosthetics for a much better platform to encourage a much higher level of movement from the Lycans.
The War Rages On focuses on the film’s stunt work. With much more action comes much more stunt work to pull off and the film’s attempts at going for a realistic feel came with a lot of specialized wire-work. For several scenes they had to create a specialty rig to pull off the stunt work, particularly during the boat sequences. The attention to detail and Wiseman’s wanting to improve upon his first film’s action is evident throughout as he and the production crew talk about how they were more comfortable this time around as well as they knew they had to more.
Building a Saga is a 12 minute feature that focuses on the film’s design. Opting for a much larger set and production due to the increased budget, Wiseman explains how he wanted to change up for the sequel as he didn’t want to just repeat what he did for Underworld for the sequel. The goal was to go more for a period piece as opposed to more of an action film except with automatic weapons; it’s interesting to hear the production staff talking about how they wanted to pull this off while trying to stay true to the franchise’s roots, as the conversation over budget as well as creativity lent to some of the film’s more interesting scenery choices. It’s also interesting to see
Music and Mayhem runs around 12 minutes and focuses on the film’s sound design and score with the people who know it best. With music supervisor Scott Gershin and the production staff on board, it’s an interesting and candid discussion about how the film’s sound and score influenced the film’s dramatic effects. Wiseman’s goal with the sound effects was to develop a distinct sound for each of the creature so that they wouldn’t sound like modulated animal noises; the Lycans should roar and not sound like lions. The film’s score is also an interesting part of this feature as well, as all involved talk about how they wanted the film to be powerful but not overwhelming to the film.
Music video: “Her Portrait in Black” by Atreyu
Score : 7.5 / 10