DVD Review: Underworld: Evolution
By Patrick Luce Jun 6, 2006, 0:26 GMT
The sequel to the $100 million worldwide hit, "Underworld: Evolution" continues the saga of war between the aristocratic Death Dealers and the barbaric Lycans (werewolves). The film traces the beginnings of the ancient feud between the two tribes as Selene (Kate Beckinsale), the beautiful vampire heroine, and Michael (Scott Speedman), the lycan hybrid, try to unlock the secrets of their bloodlines. The fast-paced, modern-day tale of deadly action, ruthless intrigue ...more
With a plot that expands on the history of the Underworld mythos, Underworld: Evolution’s story does get a bit weighed down from time to time, but the film delivers much of what made the first movie good. It manages to be the same fun rollercoaster ride of a movie, but the expanded story may fall a little flat with fans.
Director Len Wiseman’s sequel opens up with flashback to 1202 A.D. and a battle between Lycans and Vampires where William, the “father” of Lycans (his twin brother Markus is the father of the Vampires), is taken and imprisoned.
The movie then speeds up to the present with Selene (the Vampire Death Dealer) and Michael Corvin (the half-breed) still on the run. Wiseman uses the rebirth of Markus and the blood-memories he obtains to have flashback scenes in case anyone in the audience doesn’t remember what happened in the first film.
From there, we follow as Markus embarks on a hunt for Selene, and for the location of his hidden brother (he is pretty sure Selene has it in her blood-memories). Selene and Michael struggle (with the audience) through most of the film trying to discover why Markus is hunting them; what the secret is to their own bloodline’s history; and then finally attempt to stop Markus from freeing William (which could spell the end for humanity).
Although she doesn’t know it, Selene holds the memories to the location of the prison of William, and those memories are naturally unlocked throughout the film bit by bit. Also thrown into the mix is the twin’s immortal father Corvinus (played by Derek Jacobi). He comes into the picture to retrieve the keys that could unlock William’s prison, but his true purpose is slowly revealed. One key is a necklace worn around Michael’s neck, and the other is built into the ribcage of Victor (who is played again by Bill Nighy in the opening moments of the film and flashbacks).
For most of the movie, Corvinus is a bit of a mystery and you are not really sure how he is going to come into the overall plot. As Markus makes his move, and the mysteries become a bit clearer, the film moves into full action mode with Selene taking down Lycan by the dozen and Markus moving against his father in a very bloody showdown. The final battle between Selene, Michael, Markus and William is something that monster movie fans will love (it was one of the best parts of the movie for me).
Underworld: Evolution was a hit and miss with me. I loved the first film, and have been waiting to see the sequel. Parts of it lived up to how great the first film was, and other parts just seemed to bring the whole movie down.
Although this movie had more sex, nudity and gore than the first film, it also had a lighter tone to much of it. At times, it seemed like Wiseman decided to forget about Selene and make a sequel to Van Helsing with monsters flying around left and right (William’s Lycan was less than impressive to me).
Markus is cool the first couple of times you see him flying around all vamped out, but he gets a bit annoying towards the end, and Tony Curran’s performance just doesn’t live up to the evil that Nighy possessed in the first film.
Kate Beckinsale once again delivers a great performance in a skin tight outfit. She dives straight into the action with both guns blazing, and has no problem dispatching Lycan without a single thought. She remains what really makes the movies great, and it is hard to think how the franchise could move on without her (a prequel without Beckinsale has been discussed).
Speedman continues the same “little boy lost” routine that he did in the first film, but uses his new found powers to fight off Markus flight attacks. At times, it is very over-the-top action (the fight between Markus and Michael as the truck speeds down the road is an example), but again over-the-top action is what you expect from this kind of movie. I wasn’t too impressed with his character in the first film, and Speedman doesn’t really do anything to make him stand out more in the sequel. It is clear that Beckinsale is the star of these films and rightfully so.
Again, I did enjoy parts of Underworld: Evolution, but other parts of the film just left me wondering if Wiseman was trying too hard to build a franchise. In the special features, he talks about how they wrote aspects of the second film during the making of the first Underworld, and there were leftover plots from it that they decided to save for the second film. At times, that is exactly how Underworld: Evolution feels – like leftovers.
Parts of the film are really good (Selene taking on a Lycans with just a knife comes to mind), but other parts of the film (mostly the history flashbacks and scenes with Corvinus) feel like they were shoved into the movie to make up for not being part of the first Underworld.
Fans of the Underworld films will love the special edition DVD thanks to the in depth featurettes that take you deep into the making of the movie. The extras also include commentaries by Wiseman, production designer Patrick Tatopoulos, second-unit director and stunt coordinator Brad Martin, and editor Nick De Toth.
The six part “making of” takes you into the movie’s visual effects; the film’s stunts; how the movie went from script to screen; a look at the creatures of the movie; production design; and a look into the film’s music and sound design. There is also a music video by Atreyu for “Her Portrait in Black.”
Underworld: Evolution is available in 2.40:1 widescreen format and 1.33:1 full screen format. Both versions will be presented in Dolby Digital 5.1 sound.
Underworld: Evolution is a sequel that is not as great as the original, but won’t leave fans too disappointed. Parts of the film are truly great, and Wiseman clearly has a plan for what he wants to do with his franchise. Beckinsale delivers a performance on par with Underworld, and knows how to handle the character. The movie is a bit of a monsters mash at times, but horror fans will enjoy ride. I would recommend the movie to Underworld fans or anyone who likes a good battle between monsters.