The fourth installment in the franchise—and the proper sequel to the second film Underworld: Evolution—finds our heroine, Selene, awakening from twelve years in stasis to a world where humans have purged Vampires and Werewolves to the point of extinction. This is really the only place the franchise could be taken. This place being the Resident Evil films.
Co-directors Måns Mårlind and Björn Stein borrow more than a few pages from the Paul W.S. Anderson schlock-fests:
Page 1—We see a back-story of where a True Blood-style “Great Revelation” results in lycanthropy and vampirism being treated as like T-virus infections with paramilitary units going on search and destroy missions.
Page 2—Selene breaks out of a glass stasis tube, naked, in an Umbrella Corporation lab (here trading under the name AntiGen) and has to kill her way past endlessly respawning guards who luckily have a bad case of the Stormtroopers as far as their marksmanship goes.
Page 3—Selene has to make sense of the world she’s awoken to while trying to complete a quest against insurmountable odds.
Page 4—Selene fights with rotten looking dogs in a dark, cramped space.
Page 5—Selene teams up with a preternaturally strong and intelligent child sidekick.
Page 6—A genetically enhanced werewolf bears a striking similarities to Nemesis, at least in concept.
Page 7—Selene shoots two guns at the same time. A lot.
But to be fair, Mårlind and Stein borrow pages from other sources as well. Twilight and True Blood get their due in the form of a love triangle between being set up for the unavoidable next film. An Edward-esque vampire named David seems poised to come between Selene and her missing werewold/vampire hybrid boyfriend Michael. Really, this film has everything.
Except zombies. I’m holding out hope for those later in the series. In fact, if the next film doesn’t see a vaccine for vampirism and lycanthropy going horribly awry and turning humans into the walking dead, I’ll be demanding my money back. And I’ll be swearing a lot while I do it.
What the film doesn’t have, besides zombies, are engaging performances by any of the actors—including a sleep-walking Stephen Rea. For a film that is trying so hard to be Resident Evil, they seem to have forgotten Milla Jovovich is interesting to watch even if she’s just eating dry toast. Kate Beckinsale is about as interesting as watching dry toast. The first Underworld film became a cult favourite due mostly to the Adam West-meets-William Shatner camp of Shane Brolly and Bill Nighy‘s terrible (awesome) performances. No one here seems willing to make a fool of themselves and that’s the film’s great loss.
What the film does do well is bulk up on the gore. Finally the violence in Underworld is as dark and visceral as as war between vampires and werewolves should be. Unfortunately you have to endure some terrible 3D at the same time.
Apparently this was one of the first features filmed with the Red Epic cameras being used in The Hobbit. Since Awakening features some of the worst cardboard cut-out 3D I’ve seen since the rebirth of 3D, things don’t bode well for Middle Earth. In several scenes it’s exactly like you’re looking at a diorama with layered planes of paper dolls instead of experiencing an immersive world.
In a lot of ways Awakening is a better film than the previous Underworld films. But that actually makes it a less enjoyable film. And if you’re just going to see Beckinsale’s ass wrapped in vinyl, find a picture on the Internet—it’ll last longer.
Fotoshop by Adobé