Underworld; the OTHER Sony franchise that pops out sequels faster than most women have children, is back, but this time in 3D. Kate Beckinsale dawns the super-tight black leather attire and the bad-ass vampire persona as the fearless Selene, but this time her enemies aren’t just the dirty old Lycans. This time it’s an extermination of all non-humans, led by powerful human forces. Fans of the original two films will be happy to know that Awakening returns to its gory, slow-mo roots with tons of Lycan slaying, explosions and little room for story improvement. It’s a step in the right direction after the Beckinsale-less prequel; Rise of the Lycans, but Awakening won’t be changing the minds of people that have passed the series off as just another popcorn inducing bloodbath.
Selene (Kate Beckinsale) has woken up from a 12 year deep sleep. As she was nestled in an ice block, the humans eradicated any and all vamps and werewolves. An experimental company has preserved Selene’s body, along with Michael, the half vamp, half wolf mix. The plot thickens when a child is thrown into the mix, said to be the offspring of Selene and Michael. This child has incredible strength and possibly holds the key to a cure from these two “diseased” races of non-humans.
While the doctors continue to run experiments and tests, Selene and a few chosen friends must rescue her daughter in hopes of replenishing their population. Underworld: Awakening is another worthy sequel in the series that doesn’t necessarily offer anything new to the series, other than more gory kills and chances to see Beckinsale bend in all sorts of ways with that oh so tight leather.
And the lack of anything new or original for the series really doesn’t bother me. I’ve never actually cared for the series, because it just felt too much like Sony’s other popular series, Resident Evil. Each series consists of a woman warrior, who kills the “bad guys”, whether it’s vampires, werewolves, humans or zombies. This woman protagonist does the killing via cool little sharp gadgets, hand-to-hand combat and slow-mo, running up the wall gunfire. One series isn’t exactly better than the other, but the usual gist is if you watch one film you’ve watched them all.
The only thing going in Awakening‘s favor is that it follows a horrible prequel that didn’t even feature the main star; Kate Beckinsale. Her mere presence alone boosts the film up a couple notches, and the increased budget sure allows for even more explosions and bloodshed. The 3D actually caters to this particular film very well. Awakening is loaded full of in-your-face gimmick 3D shots, but it also has something that most dying franchises that make the 3D jump don’t; added depth. Each scene is carefully scoped out to cater to the third dimension, with lots of stuff noticeably sticking out from the screen, like rain, cars, posts and obviously explosions.
Kate Beckinsale is the only actress worth noting. Her performance is trademark Selene. She doesn’t say much and that doesn’t really matter because her whole existence is to slay hundreds and look damn fine doing it. The rest of the cast only has two purposes, to either help her slay hundreds or to be one of the hundreds slain, nothing more and nothing less.
But what did you expect? This is an Underworld film after all and at number four in the series you’re either going to like the films or not even bother with them. I’m glad I bothered with Awakening, because it actually makes me want to see yet another one of these. The kills are bloody, sometimes creative and balanced between CG and practical effects. The acting isn’t really bad, it’s just nonexistent. Awakening does its best to keep the focus on Selene and her ability to rarely get severely injured or weakened. Not one moment do you actually doubt if she’s going to lose a fight or die because it’s an Underworld film and at the end of the day Selene will emerge victorious.
I think the Underworld series works better than the Resident Evil series because it caters to a specific audience, whereas the Resident Evil series seems to only be growing and growing, thus increasing its budget and lowering the time spent on the actual story and development of the series. Underworld on the other hand brings in decent money to warrant more sequels, but still has to answer to the fans at the end of the day. Rise of the Lycans was a slap in the face and fans might be hesitant to return to their favorite female vampire heroin, but I encourage them to make the trip and do it in 3D.
Underworld: Awakening doesn’t reinvent the wheel, but it covers it in buckets of blood and proves that the series still has a lot of spin left in it.
Underworld: Awakening – 7.5/10