Why do we enjoy the ‘Underworld’ franchise of movies? Why wouldn’t we? Vampires and Lycans laying waste to each other in the most violent ways possible. Then there’s Kate Beckinsdale in skintight vinyl, replaced for a minute by Rhona Mitra who filled out… I mean filled in very nicely, and now Kate’s back. Selene has returned for the fourth installment of the Underworld franchise with ‘Underworld: Awakening’ which is entertaining, as all the Underworld movies tend to be, but this one seemed a little less ambitious than the others. Is that a good thing or bad thing? Personally I think it’s just a thing.
One of the hints of the lack of ambition is this movie has been edited down to the bone so it’s very brief, relatively speaking. Regardless Selene narrates, filling us in on stuff we already know if you’ve seen the other movies, and occupies a good five minutes of an already short movie, then brings us up to speed on the goings on in the present day. Turns out the humans have found out that Vampires and Werewolves are among us and have set about purging this menace by any means necessary. Leading this purge is one Dr. Jacob Lane (Stephen Rae), who has found a way to stomp out these supernaturals even if they don’t know they’re supernaturals. Our death dealing vampire Selene was doing her best to keep them at bay and the body count was high, but eventually she was overcome, and Selene will be put on ice.
Fast forward a dozen or so years and somebody or something breaks Selene out of where she was imprisoned, she deals some death, gets out of that joint and notices she possesses a little something called Remote Vision. She figures she can see through the eyes of her true love Michael, but not so fast. In fact she is seeing through the eyes of some girl who we will know as Subject Two (India Eisley). Hmm… why would that be?
Turns out this girl is a lycan / vampire hybrid, just like Michael was a hybrid and the werewolves, who we thought were on the verge of extinction, wants this girl something fierce. Not only are the Lycan’s not anywhere close to extinction, they are bigger, stronger, meaner and more aggressive than ever. These creatures are so brutal that even a death dealer the level of Selene has major trouble with them.
Still, she has to get this girl because the powers that be have a plan for this girl and it’s not a good plan, at least as far as this kid is concerned. So with the help of a kindly cop (Michael Ealy) and one of the remaining vampires that not a scaredy cat (Theo James), the war between the vampires and the Lycans rages on.
If we were to use one word to describe the storytelling style in this chapter of the Underworld saga, that word would be ‘lean’. Whereas the other Underworld movies were big on spinning yarns and setting up the mythos of the world we would be spending some time in, particularly the third one which I’m thinking is my favorite of the four movies, this one discards the majority of that in favor of action, violence, and lots of Madame Kate striking a pose. Is this bad thing? Not really since I doubt anyone would go see this movie that hasn’t caught at least one of the three previous films so dropping the audience right in to the middle of the bloodletting works here. Unless of course you haven’t seen any of the other movies then you’re kind of just stuck watching some hot chick in tight vinyl shoot people head with not a lot supporting it.
Thus since we have established that depth in story isn’t exactly the order the day in ‘Underworld: Awakening’, directors Mans Marlind and Bjorn Stein did do a fine job in delivering the goods as far as the visceral action was concerned. The movie is unapologetically brutal, just as any film with pissed off vampires and extremely angry werewolves should be, the pace of the film is rapid fire quick leaving very little opportunity for down time, and while the story being told may lack depth and is simple to follow, it is still functional in supporting the action on screen and has just enough meat on it so that we don’t have the feeling that we are actually watching a CGI demo reel as opposed to a three act film.
I think we can all agree that Kate Beckinsdale has completely figured out her character of Selene by now and she has no problem carrying this movie with a mix of feminine badassery that we don’t get to see a lot in movies these days, Bill Nighy and Michael Sheen are missed but Michael Ealy brings his trademark quiet intensity and Stephen Rae made for a solid heavy hiding a little bitty secret.
‘Underworld: Awakening’ isn’t complex and it probably isn’t the most intellectually challenging film out there, like somebody goes to see vampire / lycan cage matches to be intellectually challenged, but it fit in well with the previous movies in look, theme, vibe, and most importantly, entertainment value.