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Max’s Rating: 4/10
Player Affinity Composite Rating: 3.8/10
(2 reviews total)
Well, it’s been three years. Time for another “Underworld” movie as the series has consistently put out a new installment every three years since its debut back in 2003. Although the films took a break from the misadventures of Kate “Does-the-Leather-Have-to-Be-That-Pain-Inducing” Beckinsale as Selene and her vampire/werewolf boyfriend Michael Corvin (Scott Speedman), the leading lady is back in Underworld: Awakening, though I wouldn’t say she is better than ever. Roughly, she is about the same as we remember her. Skin-tight and splaying more often than doctors recommend.
The story (haha) takes place six months after the end 2006’s Underworld: Evolution, in which Selene and Michael finished off Markus (the first vampire) and went on with their vampire/werewolf/hybrid babymaking ways. With Selene’s newly inherited ability to withstand sunlight and no elder vamps trying to kill her, things looked on the upswing for the former Death Dealer untill those pesky humans figured out vampires and werewolves are walking around. With the recent discovery of supernaturals, humans fortify and begin a systematic cleansing to wipe out both species — the producers hoping we’ll believe standard humans could ever do this successfully. But there’s a sequel to make an money to be made, so don’t overthink it.
Selene and Michael decide to hightail out of the warzone when they are attacked by a human strike team that captures Selene and puts her on ice for 12 years. When she comes to, awoken by another escaped prisoner only identified as “Subject 2,” Selene finds herself cut off from vampires, looking for Michael and fending off Lycan pursuers, who seem to have gotten stronger since she has been away. Needless to say, shenanigans ensue.
The short of it is this: “Awakening” isn’t the worst the series has to offer. It helps that it is the shortest of the bunch, clocking in at 88 minutes, so it never feels like it has completely overstayed its welcome. It is definitely the goriest of the lot and being shot in 3D actually works for the action as the film moves forward despite the disappointingly dull execution that ought to be better sheerly because vampires and werewolves are duking it out.
The film needs to have some fun; I am still waiting for my Matrix-fueled immortal fight scenes from this damned series and nearly a decade later fear I will never, ever get them. True to form for this series, most of the action remains unclear, poorly edited and what we can make out isn’t all that engaging. The 3D is not the worst you can do (glass flying and a particular silver whip stand out), but for the price of admission these days, you’re likely better off waiting for a rental.
Although not nearly as convuluted as past installments, there are various threads and characters in “Awakening” introduced nearly halfway through the film that expect you to know who the hell they are and what they’re after. Don’t forget, we’re dealing with a relatively short run time and needless to say, none of the new players leave much of an impression, despite having Stephen Rea (V for Vendetta) and Charles Dance (Tywin Lannister from Game of Thrones) on their roster.
Theo James (Downton Abbey) is introduced as David, a young vampire who wishes vampires kicked more ass rather than run and hide (I feel you, David). He’s nice enough for a vamp, but like anyone else in this series is given nothing to do. So welcome to the series, David. There is a completely forgettable human detective who eventually allies himself with Selene, but his character is so lacking, he doesn’t warrant much of a mention, and if that is the case in an “Underworld” movie, you should scrap said character. The biggest addition to the “Underworld” mythos would be India Eisley as Eve, whose origin is just — bad, implausabily bad. And for the lovely Ms. Beckinsale? She looks like she can’t breath most of the time. Selene has never been an interesting or overly dynamic character since her creation. Why start now?
One thing “Awakening” benefits from that the other “Underworld” titles are wildly guilty of is never dwelling too long on the events that proceeded it. If you’re going to see it, you have already seen the three prior films and don’t need an extensive recap. There was little to remember anyways. The fourth film does a good enough job of hitting the ground running in its own dull way. There is little “reflection” or attempts at “characterization” and in a way, it is a welcome feeling in this series.
With “Awakening”, the folks behind the camera seem to finally realize “Underworld” will always be tongue-in-cheek; its story (haha) never to be taken seriously. So while the series is likely to go on given its ending, perhaps future installments will build on the very slight momentum “Awakening” has brought with its new players and new setting. We’d also like a far more engaging villain, but this is “Underworld” after all. So give ’em some (barely) half-decent set pieces, a leather ass shot of Beckinsale and shut the hell up. Rating: 4/10
Simon thought: “Underworld? More like “blunder-world.” After three strong entries (for what they were) steeped in deeper-than-average lore and boasting great visual style, this fourth entry (despite the return of Kate Beckinsale) is a near travesty, especially for fans of the series. Despite sporting the largest budget of the bunch, the CGI has never looked cheaper, the story has never been clunkier and the action never so lifeless and repetitive. Even those faults that could be dragged out of the original three upon deeper inspection seem to have been put front and center. The most blatant of these is the vampire “super speed” which Beckinsale’s Seline seems to forget she possesses at the most inopportune times. The absence of Scott Speedman as Seline’s love interest is also is dealt with in embarrassing fashion and only serves to pile on the inexplicable choices by new directing duo Måns Mårlind and Björn Stein. Chalk this up as one of the many franchises that should go the way of the vampire: stone-cold dead.” Rating: 3.5/10