The last time I saw Kate Beckinsale in skintight black leather was… in my dreams… but before that, it was in Underworld: Evolution, the second film in the stylized franchise about vampires, werewolves and soft core porn. After merely a cameo appearance in the third, nearly series-slaying Underworld: Rise of the Lycans, Beckinsale, having not been in a better movie since, is back as Selene, and everything else is back to the way they were.
Well, not really. Humans have since discovered that vampires and werewolves exist and have proceeded to wipe most of them from the face of the planet. As for Selene, she's been captured and frozen in carbonite - or ice or something - in a lab, and her boy toy vampwolf is allegedly dead, because humans are apparently much deadlier than winged beasts of the night. When Selene breaks free, she discovers nearly a decade has passed and sets out to find other survivors.
The rest of Underworld: Awakening proceeds just as expected, with plenty of slow motion shots, dark, flashy graphics and Kate Beckinsale looking all pissed off and shit. For fans of Underworld, that's good news. For everyone else, it's just more of the same.
The original Underworld was a hyper-stylized action-horror flick that didn't break any new ground but presented a fun, action-packed and leather-filled story to audiences. Since then, the franchise has delivered nothing new, relying on the same old tricks. Despite the film's promising premise, directing duo Måns Mårlind and Björn Stein simply stay the course, while taking a step backwards when it comes to visual effects. There's a bigger werewolf and the humans are more of a threat, but the action scenes have been done before, and better. Perhaps the visuals looked good in 3D, but flattened to 2D high definition on Blu-ray, they are glaringly CGI. And not good CGI.
Underworld: Awakening had potential to expand on its roots, pitting not only vampire against werewolf (sorry, lycan) but also against humans. There are endless possibilities to develop complex plot twists, shifting alliances and exciting action scenes, but the filmmakers don't take advantage, opting to go the easy route. In the end, Underworld: Awakening is yet another movie where vampires and werewolves battle.
If that's your cup of blood, there are worse movies than Underworld: Awakening. It definitely doesn't leave me thirsting for more, however.
The Underworld: Awakening Blu-ray comes with filmmakers' commentary, blooper reel, a music video and five behind-the-scenes featurettes.
Review by Erik Samdahl unless otherwise indicated.
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