Underworld: Awakening

13 Feb

Title: Underworld: Awakening
Year: 2012
Directors: Måns Mårlind and Björn Stein
Writers: Len Wiseman, John Hlavin, J. Michael Straczynski and Allison Burnett, with story by Mr. Wiseman, based on characters by Kevin Grevioux, Mr. Wiseman and Kevin McBride
Starring: Kate Beckinsale, Sandrine Holt, Theo James, Michael Ealy, India Eisley, Stephen Rea, Charles Dance
MPAA Rating: R, strong violence and gore, and for some language
Runtime: 88 min
IMDb Rating: 7.1
Rotten Tomatoes: 29%
Metacritic: 39

The Underworld franchise has spanned nine years now, four films, and over $400 million grossed worldwide. The films have been pretty bad generally, the second one, Underworld: Evolution, being especially horrible, and this fourth entry into the franchise is no different. If anything, it kind of seems like the filmmakers of Underworld: Awakening have realized that they don’t need to keep expanding the mythology because fans of these films just want to see Kate Beckinsale in lycra kicking some ass, so this film is light in story and heavy on unsubstantial action set pieces. Which means both that this will remain as bad as the rest of these films, but also means that the whole entire film is more inconsequential and hollow. Not to mention that the film acknowledges that you don’t need to know a thing about the mythology, choosing to fast-forward a dozen years and introducing a whole new storyline.

Ms. Beckinsale, who’s already appeared in this year’s Contraband (to which I gave a B-), comes back to this film after skipping the third film which worked as a prequel (she did narrate that one, though). And this time we see vampire kick-ass chick, Selene, escaping from the prison she was in and now finding out when reentering the world that people have found out about the existence of both her own vampire species and about the lycans too, and are now engaging in a full-on war in order to eradicate both of them from the planet. And I didn’t really like it one bit; the whole schtick of the films, including it’s gritty and dirty, blue-black look that’s become the aesthetic trademark of the films, has gotten really old to me, not only because the texture and look of the film stays the same through the entire eighty-eight minutes, but because the same can be said about everything else in this film, there’s nothing that seems fresh in any kind of way here.

If you like these films I guess you’ll like this new one too, even though I just can’t see what’s there to like. Even the action scenes seem repetitive from past films and look like cheap imitations from ones that came out of The Matrix, a film that came out over a decade ago. Plus, there’s the fact that I never really know who I’m supposed to like here, I don’t know if I should vote for the lycans or the vampires, and the film never once does much to give us insight into them and figure out who to root for, it just gets them to fight non-sensically from opening to end credits. At least the first three films tried to develop some really intricate mythology and stuff, and while it wasn’t necessarily good, at least they tried, here they ignore that and make the humans the enemy for about half of the film, after which we get vampire-v.s.-lycan action because that’s supposedly what people pay for. Hey, at least Ms. Beckinsale still looks ridiculously hot doing all that shooting.

The thing that supposedly drives Selene’s inner journey here is that, as she awakens in the laboraty she had been unconscious in for over a decade (her hybrid lover who was played by Scott Speedsman is also there, but the actor skipped out on this film so his face is digitally rendered on an unconscious body), she finds out that she has a daughter, whom the werewolves are after. How the daughter came to be and all of that isn’t really explained, nor does Selene or any character seem all that curious to get any answers around that, much like all of the many other plot holes of this film. But yeah, the film then goes into high gear as we see Selene fight her way around the world in order to protect this girl.

Every single plot point in this film seems that it’s been devised in order for Selene to kick some ass and not to move the narrative forward and, like I said, even the fighting is kind of mediocre, one scene not changing all that much from the one before or the one after it, just consisting of her jumping and shooting and some trench coats getting inflated by wind. Not to mention that I didn’t like what they did with Mr. Speedsman’s character since he’s there, unconscious, and he’s talked about a lot in the film; if you’re lead actor doesn’t want to show up, or if  you don’t want to pay him the money he’s asking for, you might as well kill him and move on, and not leave him on a table for a possible fifth film and just proceed to talk about him through the whole fourth, that’s just cheap.

I didn’t like Underworld: Awakening at all. Yes, Kate Beckinsale in tight suits kicking some werewolf and human ass is indeed a rather sexy sight to behold, but we have two films worth of that already, so that’s no excuse to make this one. Oh, and in case you were wondering, the film does indeed end on a cliff-hangerish note, setting up a very unnecessary fifth installment in which Scott Speedman may or may not be found and wake up. Whatever.

Grade: C-

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