Wednesday, 16 May 2012
Underworld Awakening (2012): Review
Underworld Awakening is a 2012 horror action film. Directed Mans Marlind and Bjorn Stein (Shelter) and Starring Kate Beckinsale (Underworld Franchise, Van Helsing), Theo James (The Inbetweeners Movie) and Charles Dance (Alien 3, Last Action Hero). The film is a direct sequel to Underworld Evolution (2006) and the fourth film in the series overall.
Underworld Awakening picks up right where Underworld Evolution left off (Rise of the Lycans was a prequel and as such isn't really mentioned). After the events of Evolution there is an ethnic cleansing of vampires and lycans and Selena (Beckinsale), together with her lover Michael Corvin (a vamp/lycan hybrid), attempt to escape the genocide. Unfortunately they end up getting knocked out by a grenade and when Selena awakens she discovers she's been in cryogenic stasis for 12 years (a la Demolition Man) and both immortal species' have been near eradicated. Selena's prime objective is to locate Michael, howeve,r what she ends up with is her (presumably) 12 yr old daughter whom she was hitherto unaware of and has also inherited her fathers unique hybrid genes. This leaves Selena and what's left of the vampire clan to unravel the lycan conspiracy and discover why vampires are near extinction but lycans appear to be re-surging.
Underworld is one of those strange modern horror franchises that actually lends itself to being milked absolutely dry, much like a Resident Evil or a Final Destination, these are the modern-day slashers, the Friday the 13ths or the Nightmare on Elm Streets. The key element that lends itself to this kind of longevity is the effectively simple premise...vampires vs werewolves, these kind of films pitting classic monsters against each other are now sadly a part of b-movie history, and make no mistake Underworld is one big expensive b-movie. Admittedly the Twilight franchise has muscled in on Underworld's clan rivalry concept but I'd like to think that Underworld doesn't take itself nearly as seriously as the afore-mentioned "horror" franchise and comes across as a more enjoyable, action-packed and gory endeavour.
The continued characterisation of the rival clans continues to be the strong point of the franchise although the lycans are some what neglected here with no real villain characters to speak of (presumably they had their screen time in the prequel) and the camp factor of Michael Sheen and Bill Nighy is noticeably absent. However, Dance steps seamlessly into the role of Vampire elder and Beckinsale's usual cold and hard portrayal of Selena is enough to keep you occupied in between the shooting and exploding. There are interesting new additions to the series in the form of a jumbo werewolf (resulting from hybrid genetic modification) and an interesting silver nitrate gas grenade which adds a visually impressive sparkle (a twilight wink perhaps) to the violent action sequences.
Underworld Awakening is a genuinely entertaining and fun popcorn movie, it is a blatant vehicle for action choreography and special effects but the film sticks to what the franchise does best and reminded me how I rather liked the previous films in retrospect. You can definitely check your brain at the door, as the plot is a mere formality, and enjoy watching vampires and werewolves tear each other to bits, after all, how many other films are offering that in 2012?
4 Stars ****
What did you think of the film? Have they made enough Underworld films now?