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Like fellow action/horror film franchise Resident Evil, the Underworld series likes to pop out a new entry every couple of years like clockwork. However, unlike its Rise Of The Lycans had to make do without Kate Beckinsale’s sultry, lethal Selene… and her skintight leather suit that kick started roughly a million wet dreams.-infested counterpart, which has consistently starred Milla Jovovich’s Alice, Underworld has been without its central character since 2009’s
While Rise Of The Lycans, starring Beckinsale’s ex-husband Michael Sheen in the lead role, was a decent if middling box office performer, Selene’s presence was sorely missed. Fast forward to 2012 and Underworld: Awakening is now in theaters, featuring the return of our beloved heroine, a bevy of special effects and the dreaded conversion to 3-D, which is never a good thing for movies as darkly lit as Underworld. Can Awakening, the second movie in the franchise out of the hands of original series helmer Len Wiseman, live up to the potential of the first two movies? Or will it be a forgettable entry, left to linger in video store bargain bins alongside the mediocre Rise Of The Lycans?
Join me, your ever faithful and so categorically hairy he might just be a Lycan reviewer, as Yell! Magazine unleashes its review of Underworld: Awakening! For this review, I equipped myself with silver bullets, wooden stakes, and a box of tissues.
Sadly, Awakening fails to pick up on many of the plot threads left hanging at the conclusion of Underworld Evolution. For those of you coming late to the, Selene had seemingly grown powerful enough to stand in direct sunlight without fear of exploding like a sexy Roman candle and her erstwhile paramour, the lycan/vampire hybrid Michael (Scott Speedman) was at her side and growing exponentially more powerful. Awakening skips ahead 12 years and makes the mistake of ditching Speedman’s character entirely.
While never the most animated of actors, Speedman is as important to the franchise as Beckinsale. The interesting romance between Selene and Michael made up much of the series’ story and his exclusion sticks out like sore thumb. A poorly chosen body double stands in for Speedman during flashback sequences, but this makes the audience miss him even more. Selene wakes up in cryogenic suspension, having given birth to a daughter sometime in the interim. Awakening’s central plotline involves Selene’s quest for her missing family. Cue akimbo firearms, black leather so tight you’d have to be poured in, and sexy crawling through air ducts.
I’d follow her anywhere.
Awakening won’t win any awards for screenwriting, but even so, the story is a notch below that of the first two movies. The familiar war between wolves and vamps is mostly abandoned, instead Awakening focuses mostly on human antagonists, led by Stephen Rea’s Dr. Jacob. Rea, normally a strong performer, doesn’t dial it in so much as leave a text message. That’s how bored he appears with the project.
Faring incredibly better is young newcomer Indie Easley as Eve, Selene and Michael’s hybrid daughter. The young actress shows up Rea by several levels of acting ability, displaying a convincing grasp of what it means to star in a vampire movie. Replacing the irreplaceable Bill Nighy as head vampire honcho is Game Of Thrones’ Charles Dance, who doesn’t quite chew the scenery with the same voracity as Nighy but makes for a decent vampire elder nonetheless.
Instead of further exploring the Underworld mythos, Awakening mostly struggles to fill its running time with increasingly preposterous action sequences. While stunning, slow motion set pieces have been a part of the series since the beginning, it’s painfully obvious here that Awakening is substituting bullets for storytelling. Whatever gravitas the series once had is replaced by a ludicrous amount of spent shell casings. It’s inarguable that Beckinsale looks stunning wielding a pair of firearms, but that only takes the viewer so far, there’s simply no meat on Awakening’s bone.
Special effects are decent if unspectacular. A late-game appearance by a pumped-up, gigantic lycan on steroids easily steals the show, but the movie definitely shows its middle-of-the-road budget limitations. As far as the 3-D is concerned, Awakening takes place mostly at night in darkened areas, thus lending a muddy, hazy quality to the 3-D effects.
All in all, Awakening is a boon to action fans looking for something to sate their appetite during the slow movie season of January. In a month filled with mostly nothing except Oscar-bait movies, you could do a hell of a lot worse than Underworld: Awakening to soothe your craving for guilt-free thrills. Still, if the series is to continue, a better script is recommended for the next installment.
Your faithful reviewer,