Underworld: Awakening – Review


The franchise’s quality crashes quickly

The one thing Underworld used to have going for it was that despite its camp nature and stylized action sequences was a sense of uniqueness. Len Wiseman may have crafted a vampire vs. werewolf film that was kind of campy, despite looking slick and not skimping on the gore, but he at least made it feel unique and different. With Wiseman’s departure from the director’s chair beginning with the third film the uniqueness and quality has suffered with each one. If Rise of the Lycans was bad if only in trying to shed some light on the origins of the first film in the franchise, the fourth film is just bad for having no real story to tell.

When we meet up with Selene (Kate Beckinsale) this time around she’s been frozen as a lab experiment for over a decade. With humanity discovering the existence of both werewolves and vampires, and determined to eradicate both, the nature of the franchise has been changed radically. No longer is it a long standing war between two ancient enemies; now both are struggling to exist against a common enemy. As Selene escapes into a world knowing of her existence and trying to end it, she has a daughter (India Eisley) who may be the key to an evil corporate head (Stephen Rea) finishing off the vampires. But there’s more to the story than it first appears, of course, as a major twist towards the end that changes the viewpoint of everyone involved.

A good corollary for the franchise at this point is that of the Resident Evil franchise, which started out in a similar place. That film was an action film masquerading as a zombie film in the same way as the original film in this franchise was an action film masquerading as a horror film about werewolves and vampires. It may not have been much different than a traditional action film but there was something that felt new and original in its presentation. As the sequels progressed and original directors and writers moved on to other projects something was lost in both.

This is a sequel for the sake of being a sequel, nothing more.

There’s nothing about this story being told that needed to be told after Evolution or even Lycans. This is more Selene because Underworld is profitable and able to be converted into 3D as opposed to having a new story or continuing story to tell. There’s nothing new or unique going on in the film, which is a shame because there could be so much done with the story.

Selene has gone from being the predator in the night that only few know about to being the prey that everyone does; her experiences on the lamb in a world she knows nothing about could yield so many different ways of looking at an interesting character we know fairly well at this point. There’s so much about this new chapter to be explored that isn’t told because the film isn’t directly interested in her per se. It’s about the violence and the gore and it delivers that in spades.

The film is much more interesting in action sequences than it is about anything else. It delivers those in spades and they are entertaining but there’s not a lot of story to get behind them with. As Selene tries to discover what’s going on, and who’s behind it, there’s no reason to care about her success outside of the fact that we’ve seen her in two other films. There’s so much territory to explore that remains a mystery that it leaves the film as an empty and vapid sequel.

Director: Mans Marlind and Bjorn Stein
Notable Cast: Kate Beckinsale, Scott Speedman, Theo James, Michael Ealy, India Eisley, Stephen Rea
Writer(s): Len Wiseman, John Hlavin, J. Michael Straczynski, Allison Burnett based on character created by Danny McBride, Kevin Grevioux and Len Wiseman

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