When human forces discover the existence of the Vampire and Lycan clans, a war to eradicate both species commences. The vampire warrioress Selene leads the battle against humankind.
I never expected the “Underworld” franchise to get this far. After the 2nd one I truly expected any further entries in the series to go straight to video, despite the success of the series. But much like the “Resident Evil” franchise (Which I thought would never get past the 2nd entry), those Vampires & Lycans just keep coming back for more. But as with the “Resident Evil” films the “Underworld” franchise has focused more on action & less on horror. Is this a good or bad thing? That’s for another column on another day. Right now I’m pretty amped to say that “Underworld: Awakening” proves that there’s some life left to this saga after all.
The story begins with mankind discovering that Vampires & Werewolves (Lycans) actually exist & have been waging a centuries old war against each other. This discovery proves to be the downfall of both species as humanity begins a campaign to eradicate the creatures. In a thrilling opening, the war against the Vamps/Lycans is shown to us through newsreel footage as humanity systematically smokes out & purges the Earth of the offending species. But there are respectable citizens who are also living double lives as either Lycans or Vampires who are also summarily dispatched by specially armed soldiers as well. We are witness to scenes that smack of the holocaust as soldiers flush out the two species from their hiding places & although they put up a fight, in the end it’s really no contest as humanity does it’s best to wipe them out. It’s a action packed opening sequence that does a very good job of piquing the audience’s interest.
Selene (Kate Beckinsdale, returning to the franchise 6 years after “Underworld: Evolution”) & her true love Michael (An uncredited Scott Speedman) who if you remember is the first hybrid of Vampire/Lycan, are on the lam about to escape the purging of their species by getting to a waiting freighter ship when they are ambushed by specially armed forces who were waiting for them. Michael, to defend Selene, immediately transforms & as Selene is rushing towards him he is shot & plunges into the ocean. Selene dives in after him & reaches him just as a grenade gets there as well, the resulting explosion separates both of them. Selene wakes up 12 years later hanging upside down & nude in some sort of cryogenic freezing chamber. She is being held captive by a pharmaceutical company known as Antigen that is using her DNA in an attempt to create some sort of vaccine to protect humanity from the effects of a Vampire/Lycan bite.
One of the results of Antigen’s efforts has resulted in a child. Selene awakens to find herself a mother, a mother to the only existing Vampire/Lycan on Earth. The same type of creature that both species tried to eradicate earlier. But how did she get pregnant? And why is the child a hybrid? Is Michael still alive after the explosion 12 years earlier? Well before we find that out Selene has to escape & find out what’s been going on for the last 12 years and rescue her daughter, Eve (India Eisley) from Antigen’s grasp.
Here is where the film slows down a bit. I suppose it would’ve been too much to expect the action of the first 15-20 minutes to continue but the resulting storyline is fairly shopworn & offers nothing new to fans of the franchise or to lovers of action films either. Selene escapes with Eve, Selene finds out that there are still small covens of Vampires existing on the fringes of society, Selene also finds that there are still Lycans grumbling about & they’re still pissed at the Vampires, etc…etc. It’s all very bland & rather disappointing as well. I was telling myself what would happen minutes before it actually occurred which is never a good sign for any film but the performances are so earnest that it sorta makes up for the “By the numbers” script. Beckinsdale is still ravishing to look at & her Selene is a character that draws empathy from the audience even as she’s decapitating both Humans & Lycans in her pursuit of freedom. It doesn’t hurt that she still looks amazing in that skintight suit as well. The story chugs along despite the sameness of it because Beckinsdale is so convincing as Selene.
Of course there’s a plot twist that doesn’t really surprise & an unexpected partnership with a human detective (Michael Ealy) that has a score to settle for his deceased wife that does. An allegiance from the son of a Vampire king & his followers also adds a bit of spice to the mix as the story reaches it’s climax in another action packed setpiece involving Selene’s efforts to rescue Eve from Antigen once more after they capture her again. It echoes “The Matrix” as Selene blasts her way into Antigen HQ & lets nothing stop her as she leaves scores of armed security men in her wake. It’s non stop action from here on in with the blood flying all over the screen (In 3D)! Suffice it to say that Selene is back & she’s bringing hell along with her!I saw the film in the 3D/IMAX format & while it wasn’t shot with that type of screening intended the conversion to IMAX is successful although the enormity of the image helped to highlight some effect work that didn’t look so good. There is a downside to having a film projected on a screen two stories high sometimes. The 3D is well represented & you will flinch a few times from someone’s organs being tossed at the screen. But in hindsight the film probably plays a lot better on a standard theater screen.
The film ends with the promise of (Of course) another sequel & although I hate to admit it, I’m looking forward to it. Even though it slows down in the middle “Underworld: Awakening” still has enough going for it for me to heartily recommend you seeing it. It’s not the least bit scary (Although Eve is profoundly creepy looking when she transforms) but it has more than enough action sequences to make up for the slow parts. A bit of originality wouldn’t hurt next time out though. Seeing as the next entry will be the 5th one I think the producers had better spice it up some. It’s hard to keep a franchise like this interesting over five films & they barely succeeded this time. Next time out…I expect a lot more. Three shrouds for “Underworld: Awakening” See it before you make Selene mad…You don’t wanna get her mad.
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