Kate Beckinsale is back as the death dealing vampire Selene in Underworld: Awakening. The film manages to be entertaining, but fails to capture the magic of the first Underworld or the monster-mash fun of the second entry in the franchise.
Directed by Måns Mårlind and Björn Stein (the directors behind the 2010 thriller Shelter) and written by Len Wiseman(who brought us the first Underworld in 2003 and has had a hand in all the sequels), John Hlavin, J. Michael Straczynski, and Allison Burnett, the film stars Beckinsale, Stephen Rea, Michael Ealy, Theo James, India Eisley, Sandrine Holt, Wes Bentley, Charles Dance, and Kris Holden-Ried.
The film kicks off by reminding the audience of the events of the first two films and the war between the Vampires and Lycans. It then brings us up to date with the new threat facing vampires – humans. It appears humans now know about the existence of the Lycans and Vampires, and the two races are quickly being wiped off the planet – an event the vampires call The Purge.
Selene is on her way to meet up with her Lycan/Vampire hybrid lover Michael, but the two are ambushed by a human force before they can make their escape. Selene awakes from cryogenic sleep roughly twelve years later and finds herself disoriented, naked and in a lab.
Luckily, the lab scientist kept her boots and skintight Death Dealer outfit in a closet. A vicious Selene quickly makes her escape out of the lab while getting visions from what she believes is Michael.
As Selene is escaping, Dr. Jacob Lane (Rea), the head scientist at the lab, is trying to stop her while locating “Subject 2.” His main focus is to get Subject 2 back, and he even instructs his men to use Selene (also known as “Subject 1”) as bait. Selene easily makes her way through the lab, and discovers that “Subject 2” is actually her and Michael’s daughter – Eve (India Eisley).
Eve has been genetically engineered by Lane (who sees her as a way to develop the “cure”) and is also being hunted by the remaining Lycans – who are once again not as extinct as everyone thought. Selene hooks up with the vampire David (James) and clashes with his father Thomas (Dance) about whether the coven should stay hidden or take the fight to the Lycans and humans.
The argument doesn’t last long as the coven is attacked by a group of Lycans that are led by some kind of new “super” Lycan (with CGI that borders on a cheap Syfy Network film). Selene does her best to defeat the new breed of Lycan, but soon finds Eve missing again. She also learns a dark truth about the Lycans.
In a race to save Eve, Selene teams with a human cop (Ealy) for a final showdown with the super Lycan, and to get her daughter back.
While Underworld: Awakening isn’t the worst film in the franchise (That honor still goes to Underworld: Rise of the Lycans), the film suffers from a weak story and less than stellar effects.
Shooting Selene ahead in time and putting the vampires on the run from the humans was a good starting point for the new film, but the filmmakers fail to really capitalize on the idea.
Instead, the plot is very familiar to the original film. The addition of Eve could become a good addition in the next film, but the character isn’t used enough in this film to really help.
The franchise has never been known for incredible werewolves, but the Lycans in this film look clunky and cheaply done. Throw in a “super” Lycan that looks like leftover dated CGI, and the action sequences between Selene and the wolves become almost laughable.
Regardless of its faults, Underworld: Awakening does manage to give fans of the franchise what they want – Beckinsale in a tight outfit killing Lycans in a variety of ways. Selene also seems a tad more vicious in this film – especially in the opening minutes of the film as she escapes the lab.
Beckinsale doesn’t seem to be putting much effort into developing the Selene character, but the writers don’t give her much story to work with for development.
The film looks and sounds solid on Blu-ray, and comes loaded with bonus material for franchise fans. I enjoyed the gag reel the most. There is also commentary and several “behind the scenes” features.
Beckinsale might be back as Selene, but she isn’t enough to save the franchise. The movie has all the elements that made the first two films enjoyable, but it seems stale and easily forgettable.
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