Saturday, January 21, 2012

Underworld: Awakening: Review of the Latest Chapter in the Underworld Franchise

Underworld Awakening: Starring Kate Beckinsale | A Constantly Racing Mind
"Never back a mother protecting her child into a corner!"

T he first two "Underworld" films created a world that horror audiences could fall easily in love with. A beautiful vampire heroine, a dark legend, a history and mythology that falls in line with folklore and our cultural memory of what scares the hell out of us. "Underworld: Rise of the Lycans" gave us a backstory that shed light on our main characters Selene, and Michael. The story was both romantic and horrifying at the same time. A lot of emotion flowed between the characters Lucien and Sonja. We see how they related to the relationship between Michael and Selene and how Viktor played his evil role. 

In "Underworld: Awakening" there is none of that. Instead, creator and writer Len Wiseman who serves as writer and producer, allows directors Måns Mårlind & Björn Stein speed through the exposition with fast cuts of previous films trying to catch us up on where we are at the beginning of this new chapter. As usual, as in the other "Underworld" films, we find Selene, in her slick black, skin-tight leather suit perched on a ledge. Gone are terms like curse and all sense of folklore, but instead terms like epidemic, virus, cleansing (as in ethnic cleansing), and genocide. We are in a modern world where both Lycans and Vampire are no longer at war with each other, but with humans. 

Kate Beckinsale ("Pearl Harbor", "Van Helsing") is back as Selene and like Alice in the "Resident Evil" franchise, she too has been in a coma while a species purge has been taking place. Like a pandemic, mankind has battled this non-human viral strains not with crosses, wooden stakes and silver bullets, but with science. Held in cryogenic suspension for twelve years after her capture while she and Michael tried to escape the pogrom, she awakens in the laboratory of a largest biomedical corporation; Antigen. Stephen Rea ("V for Vendetta") Dr. Jacob Lane runs antigen. Antigen is run like the Halliburton of the Bio-medical industry, with uniformed guards who walk around with plenty of firepower. Selene escapes the facility in a hail of an endless supply of bullets. Her modified Beretta 92FS Inox has a magic magazine that never seems to empty. I noticed she didn't even reload as she has in other films. The photography has the signature blue tint gives the audience the familiar cold, wet feeling of previous films. 


Underworld Awakening:  India Eisley as Eve | A Constantly Racing Mind

No other characters from the previous films grace the screen in this offering; instead, Wiseman gives us a few new characters. Apparently, not only have the humans been wiping out the non-human species, (I am surprised that they didn't try to lock them up in zoos or ghettos as in times past) but that Selene gave birth during her coma to a girl by the name of Eve. Played by Olivia Hussy's ("Romeo and Juliet" - 1968) daughter, India Eisley, Eve is a seemingly innocent and pretty girl who turns out to be, like her father, a hybrid. Another newcomer to the mix is David (Theo James), another surviving vampire, who shelters the reunited mother and daughter team while they are on the run from both the humans, and as we find out, the lycans. Michael Ealy ("Miracle at St. Anna," "Seven Pounds") plays Detective Sebastian. For some reason Wiseman thinks we needed the "human" element. I am not sure as to why he thinks this. Is this is a set up for another sequel? I actually pictured Chiwetel Ejiofor ("Serenity," "Salt," "2012") as a more suitable actor for this role as Ealy doesn't have the presence that Ejiofor has. 

This is a fast-paced, high action, bloody gore-fest of a film. "Underworld" fans will not be let down, however, the newcomer may walk away shaking their heads in bewilderment. The film boils down to a mother vampire, protecting her child. Never go up against a mother (of any species) who is backed up against the wall and will fight to the death for her offspring whether she may be Lycans, vampire, or human. Not understanding the rules or the how deep the backstory, and emotions go between the Lycans and Vampires. In a scene where a giant werewolf attacks the coven where Selene and Eve are hiding out, the uninitiated viewer doesn't have a clue that werewolves are big but not that big. 

Underworld Awakening:  Michael Ealy | A Constantly Racing Mind
Another issue I have with "Underworld: Awakening" is the flatness of the characters. I mentioned Det. Sebastian's character/performance, but I also have an issue with Quint (Kris Holden-Ried), Dr. Lane's (Rea) son. He too, like his father, is after Eve for her hybrid genes. His character seems robotic that, if it weren't for the special effects I wouldn't have noticed him. I don't know if it is the lack of dialog or that there is just so much action that the film rushes before your eyes you don't really feel like you saw a story, but a series of flash-cut gunfights, explosions, and close quarter combat scenes instead. 

I guarantee that fans of the franchise will love this film as it furthers the storyline and promulgates the franchise and the Lycans and vampire mythos. If you are new to the franchise, I recommend going down to your local video store, Netflix, or even Redbox, grab the first three films, and watch those first.

Movie Data

Genre: Action, Fantasy, Horror
Year:  2012
Staring: Kate Beckinsale, Stephen Rea, Michael Ealy, Theo James, India Eisley, Charles Dance, Kris Holden-Ried
Director: Måns Mårlind, Björn Stein 
Producer(s): Len Wiseman, Gary Lucchesi, Tom Rosenberg
Writer: John Hlavin, J. Michael Straczynski, Allison Burnett, Len Wiseman, John Hlavin
Rating: R
Running Time: 88 minutes
Release Date: 1/20/2012
Published originally by Robert Barbere on Associated Content on 1/21/2012