Runtime: 1 HR, 28 MIN
Director: Måns Mårlind, Björn Stein
Starring: Kate Beckinsale, Stephan Rea, Theo Jones, Michael Ealy, India Eisley, Kris Holden-Ried, and Charles Dance
Film Rating: 2 out of 5
After the events of Underworld: Evolution where “Death Dealer” Selene and the Vampire/Lycan hybrid Michael have again defeated the evil Vampires and Lycans (fancy word for Werewolf) and are getting ready to start their new life together. Unexpectedly the human population learns of the existence of Vampires and Lycans. Suddenly the hunters become the hunted and the both races are faced against the potential genocide at the hands of the humans. Selene and Michael attempt to flee but are captured. Jump ahead twelve years and Selene suddenly awakes after seeing a vision though someone else’s eyes. Finding herself hanging upside down in a human sized freezer pisses her off and she escapes looking for Michael who she assumes is sending her the telepathic visions. As she’s hot on the trail of the source of her mysterious visions she encounters both Vampire and Lycans who have fallen on rough times as they hide from humans to prevent their own extinction. Eventually Selene catches up to the source of her visions to only find a little girl in her pajamas. As expected, not everything is at it seems to be and the little girl turns out to be the key of a large Lycan conspiracy that has ramifications for the survival of both non-human species. Selene must protect her at all costs with the help of her new found Vampire friend and a human cop sympathetic to her cause.
If you’re a fan of the other Underworld films then you’re going probably going to find something here to enjoy. Conversely if you think the series is shit then this film is not going to persuade you otherwise and unfortunately I fall into the latter category. Just like the previous Underworld films there’s a lot style and very little substance beneath the gun battles and the leather catsuits. One of the more interesting aspects of the original film was the fun gun play and interesting weaponry used in the war fought between the Vampires and Lycans. Most of that is absent here as this entry feels more like a generic action film with very little setting it apart from any other action movie. The writers go to the well a few too many times with the first person telepathic visions. It’s a lazy plot device that allows the writers to bypass storytelling to get one character from point A to point B, etc more quickly without any real explanation. Along that same vein the plot is surprisingly convoluted at times for a film that should be pretty easy to follow. Equally frustrating is the fact that as usual the film never really pays off; the action earns the film’s R-rating but there’s very little blood and when there is it’s usually quite black, there’s almost no naughty language, and no sex of any kind. There is some suggested nakedness but due to some of the most covenant (or un-covenant depending on your point of view) use of broken glass and mist Underwold: Awakening continues the trend of being cock tease franchise.
After four appearances in the franchise I should feel something for the Selene character but I don’t, I just don’t care one bit what happens to her or anyone around her. My only concern for her character is that she won’t crouch down again to show off her nice leather butt outline… I know, I’m a pig. Several new characters are introduced in this film including two by fine character actors; Stephen Rea (Interview with the Vampire) and Charles Dance (Alien3, Last Action Hero). Charles Dance is essentially wasted in a small and boring role as the scared leader of a small Vampire group which is a damn shame considering how diabolical he can be when presented the opportunity. Thankfully Stephen Rea is given more to do as the film’s chief villain Dr. Jacob Lane. Unlike Charles Dance, Rea is given the opportunity to let his proverbial claws out and at least provide the film with a semi-interesting villain. Selene’s sidekicks are David, son of the Charles Dance Vampire played by Theo James (BBC’s Bedlam) and local cop Detective Sebastian played by Michael Ealy (For Colored Girls). They’re both about as interesting as a bag of rice cakes are delicious. Rounding out the cast is the little girl named Eve played by India Eisley (The Secret Life of the American Teenager) and Quint the man who eventually turns into the ‘Super’ Lycan played by Kris Holden-Ried (The Tudors). You might feel a sense of déjà vu watching Eve throughout the film, that might be because her (digital) makeup makes her resemble Regan from The Exorcist. She’s actually pretty good but I never bought her as a twelve year old child especially since she’s 18 years old. The secondary villain, Quint doesn’t speak much and doesn’t seem terribly intimidating unless he’s turning into the giant Lycan but once he’s transformed he resembles the steroid injecting Stewie from Family Guy.
Noticeably absent from Underworld: Awakening is Scott Speedman who played Michael in the first two films. I haven’t heard why he passed on reprising his role but that didn’t stop filmmakers from re-casting him. His replacement only appears briefly in his human form and even then I think some heavy digital manipulation was put to use because something just doesn’t look right. I have to wonder if it would have been easier and possibly better looking if they would have just recast the role without trying to match up the physical characteristics so much and just pretending nothing ever happened.
This marks the first film in the Underworld franchise to be released in 3D and in IMAX 3D. The film was not filmed with IMAX cameras but it was shot in native 3D with the Epic Red camera from Red Digital Cinema. Since Underworld: Awakening was not shot in IMAX it will appear to be letterboxed at the theater. Other than the large screen there’s not a lot of benefits to paying the IMAX up charge over seeing it in Real D 3D. The results, as with many 3D films are a mixed bag. The best news is that Underworld: Awakening is not overly gimmicky so don’t expect a lot of flying objects coming at you constantly. On the rare occasion there is a gimmicky effect it does look good and probably wouldn’t look terribly out of place if presented in 2D. Most of the 3D effects add ambiance and depth in the form of airborne silver particles, floating fire amber, and rain. Those effects work well but it doesn’t improve the film that much if at all. The biggest problem with the 3D used in Underworld: Awakening relates to how dark the film is. Darkness is 3D’s biggest enemy and can cause the 3D effect to be less pronounced and this film is draped in darkness for almost it entire runtime.
In the end it’s more of the same in Underworld: Awakening. There’s really nothing new here and in some way there’s actually less. If you’re a fan of the earlier films then you’ll probably continue to enjoy where the franchise is going but otherwise you might find yourself checking your watch regularly. The 3D is decent but there’s not a lot benefits to seeing it in IMAX aside from paying more to possibly be in a less crowded auditorium. There are worst ways to spend a hour and half but I’d suggest holding onto your cash for a better option.
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