Underworld: Awakening (2012)

Awoken from stasis in a world she barely recognises, Selene (Kate Beckinsale) is forced to adapt to a new age in vampire/lycan conflict: one which now has to contend with humanity as well. Escaping from Antigen laboratories in pursuit of Michael Corvin (stock footage of Scott Speedman), racked with visions she is convinced come from Corvin’s perceptions, Selene tracks her prey to an underground habitat crawling in lycans, only to be confronted not by the love of her lifelessness, but a young hybrid (India Eisley) cowering in the shadows. With both the humans and lycans hot in pursuit, Selene plans an attack on the Antigen facility with the help of a fellow vampire named David (Theo James) and a disillusioned detective (Michael Ealy) out for revenge.

I can still remember the excitement leading up to the first Underworld movie’s release. VAMPIRES! WEREWOLVES! GUNS! Indeed, this unshakeable anticipation proved strong enough to fool me into loving every second of it; heck, I even saw it again the following weekend. The truth is, however, that given how much potential the premise holds, the Underworld films have never really been up to par. For all the slick, billowing flair of trench coats, Gothic stylings and lycra-clad Kate Beckinsale, it is undeniably clear that none of it really adds up. Three films and nine years later, nothing’s really changed.

The truth is that nobody really wants to see vampires and werewolves – two horror mainstays – shooting each other to piece, just like nobody really wants to see vampires and werewolves vying for the affections of Kristen Stewart. The result is hugely undramatic, as two groups of snarling prosthetics take aim, only for one side to jump around in a harness while the other explodes in a shitstorm of special effects, and uninvolving, as the sheer homogeny of the action sequences begin to verge on self-parody. It is a problem that the filmmakers never really managed to solve, with the original trilogy entertaining but never really delivering on anything other than schoolboy fantasies.

With the likes of Die Hard and Indiana Jones returning from retirement for the increasingly mandatory fourth instalment, it really is telling that this trend has now fallen far enough for the substantially less seminal Underworld series to follow suit. With lead actor Scott Speedman declining to return, the filmmakers have been left with an inexplicable hole at the centre of the narrative, and, rather than writing his character out of the script between movies (in all seriousness, it’s not like he would be missed), the decision has been made to relegate him to some awkward limbo while the series is not so much rebooted as brought back as some sort of place holder on the off-chance that Speedman ever comes around.

The result is a storyline that simply repeats that of the orginal film, albeit with Speedman’s hybrid replaced with that of relative newcomer India Eisley, Bill Nighy traded in for Charles Dance and a slightly bigger lycan drawn up to keep everyone knee-deep in things to gurn at. The whole thing is so Aliens-lite that you half expect Selene to don a giant metal exoskeleton in time for the final assault on the lycan queen king’s lair. What could have simply been a bit of gory fun is instead reduced to a derivative retread of the first instalment, unfathomably buried under the weight of needless back story. The whole opening act is wasted bringing an audience – comprised solely of Underworld fans – up to speed with a story which couldn’t be more self explanatory if it tried.

That said, Underworld: Awakening – this time co-directed by Måns Mårlind and Björn Stein – isn’t entirely joyless, neatly side-stepping the position of worst in the series. Just as it has clung unknowingly to the flaws that have permeated the franchise from day one, the filmmakers are as ever well aware of what keeps audiences coming back for more: the fight scenes are characteristically spectacular (if a little repetitive), the transformations are still next to none, and Beckinsale is still absolutely captivating in that leather catsuit. However, there’s only so often you can watch a character jump off of things before the fatigue begins to set in.

With everyone involved apparently unwilling to give up until they finally get it right, this is simply another slight to a masochistically dedicated fan-base. The biggest problem with Underworld: Awakening is that this is still not the movie that the premise deserves, the attraction of vampires vs. werewolves once again dulled by the misguided determination to basically remake The Matrix but without all of the memorable (?!) characters. And that is a big problem.

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About popcornaddiction
I am a psychology graduate, a News Writer for HeyUGuys/BestforFilm and, most importantly, a hopeless popcorn addict.

One Response to Underworld: Awakening (2012)

  1. Pingback: January 2012 – Your Mom Got Chased By A Shark Once « popcornaddict

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