The popular vampire vs werewolf movies Underworld (2003) and Underworld: Evolution (2006) that take us on the adventures of the ‘death dealer‘ known as Selene, who had exposed a conspiracy within her own coven and was ultimately doomed to fall in love with the vampire-werewolf hybrid, Michael. Uncovering the secrets of this conspiracy pits Selene against her own elders and eventually has her fighting against the very first vampire and werewolf known to exist… and even crossing paths with the ‘father’ of both species, Corvinus. The storyline, overall gothic feel and hyper violence of these films has remained comfortably consistent all the way through the pre-quel of the series, Underworld: Rise of the Lycans, which tells the story of how the war started in dark ages between vampires and werewolves known as Lycans.
Underworld: Awakening starts off in the same fashion as Resident Evil: Apocalypse. Much like Alice’s awakening as a test subject in an unfamiliar Raccoon City laboratory, Selene (Kate Beckinsale) finds herself being freed from her frozen state and thrown into world she no longer recognizes – one where humans have declared martial law and purged the cities of nearly all vampires and Lycans alike over the last twelve years. Confused and on the run from just about anything that breaths, she is befriended by fellow vampire David (Theo James) who does his part to help protect the one that freed her from the laboratory… a young girl named Eve (India Eisly) – who is more than what she seems to be.
A number of secrets are revealed in this game of ‘cat and mouse’ as the Lycans pursue Eve, homicide Detective Sebastion (Michael Ealy) pursues Selene and Dr. Lane of Antigen Labs (Stephen Rea) ponders a way to get his test subjects back into the lab. When the truth is revealed about Eve, Selene will stop at nothing to make sure she’s safe… and that everyone involved with the twelve years she spent suspended in time pays the price.
Compared to the first two films of the series, Awakening contains an almost total lack of character and plot development. All new characters introduced are two two-dimensional clichés whose fates are predictable; which makes for an unimpressive number of surprise moments throughout the film. The addition of a super-sized Lycan is about as exciting and mysterious as one might expect – just barely enough to hold your attention for the duration of its screen time. To top things off, one of the major climactic action sequences starts off in a manner nearly identical to the famed ‘elevator scene’ in the first Matrix film. Everything here has been done and seen before.
Putting the lack of originality aside for a moment, this is still an enjoyable action movie filled with monsters, blood, explosions and some good old-fashioned ass kicking… and Beckinsale just looks amazing doing it. Understanding that I don’t expect a production executive to cast real-life Lycan, the film often felt ‘over-saturated’ with the amount of CG effects which sometimes took away from the overall believability.
If you’re a fan of the series, see the movie. I’d be interested to know how others feel about how this installment compares to the others… and whether or not you feel another should be produced. If you aren’t a fan of the series, maybe Twilight is more your speed? : )