Underworld: Awakening picks up where 2006’s Underworld: Evolution left off in the vaguely futuristic battle between vampires and lycans, welcoming back the stunning, 39-year-old Kate Beckinsale and her skin-tight black leather suit. Having established the origin story of the Lycan’s in 2009’s Undeworld: Rise of the Lycans, the franchise markets this turn as an “enemies unite against a common foe” story. Humans have discovered the vampire and lycan species and begin a process of “mass cleansing,” thus providing an opportunity for the vamps and lycans to work together. This would in many ways be perfect for our protagonists Selene (Beckensale) and Michael (usually played by Scott Speedman), two star crossed lovers – one vamp, one hybrid.
Thing is…that’s not actually what happens. At all. After having been taken prisoner by humans as she attempts to escape with Micheal (who is distractingly played by an un-credited actor who is definitely not Scott Speedman, yet they show a mug shot of Scott Speedman right next to this other guy’s face), Selene wakes up in a science lab/prison only to discover 12 years have passed. Her cage/cryogenic container says “Subject 1,” she has been freed by “Subject 2” – an entity whose eyes she can see through and whose brainwaves mirror her own. Ahhh, the plot thickens. But, still not exactly in the direction the previews would lead you to think.
There are a few nice little twists and turns to Awakening, and I won’t ruin them for you, but I couldn’t help but feel like I was watching the same movie I watched 9 years ago…and again 6 years ago. Whatever new elements were added, they were in some key ways essentially just more of the same as in previous installments. This includes not only plot points, but visuals as well – the blue on black lighting, slow motion gymnastics, the sleek outfits of the vampires and the ruffian look of the lycans. There’s a sort of “just coming out of the 90s” feel to the Underworld franchise that I like, but even when staying true to their roots, movies should evolve with the times. I didn’t feel that evolution happened here.
Even Charles Dance, who many fans may best know for his current run as Tywin Lannister from HBO’s A Game of Thrones, feels something like a “man, we really shouldn’t have killed off Bill Nighy” replacement as a vampire father bent this time on surrender rather than war, but still working against our protagonist in dangerous ways. He’s good, but sort of wasted in the role.
The same could be said of Stephen Rea. It is a shame how little he has to do in this movie, in spite of being a key antagonist. But, if there is a truly bizarre waste of an actor it is Wes Bentley, whose role isn’t even included in the credits. I’m confident there must be a story there, but I couldn’t find it online.
There are some casting points in favor of Awakening, however. Kris Holden-Ried makes the most of his role as secondary-
antagonist and muscle of the “bad guys” in the film. I was captivated by his performance in spite of the fact that I spent about 20 minute trying to decide if he was the lead singer of Cold Play or that guy from the Heineken commercials that breaks into dance. (He’s neither).
Theo James and Micheal Ealy serve well in their respective roles, each trying to protect Selene and Subject 2, each incredibly handsome, and each pulling off believable performances in a pretty absurd movie. Beckinsale is also good in her role, one I’m sure she’s comfortable in by now.
Perhaps most notably, India Eisley makes a fine impression as the approximately 12-year-old mystery girl Selene will defend with all her strength. The actress is close to 20, but the filmmakers do a nice job of making her look younger, more vulnerable when we first meet her. It’s a nice contrast when we all get to see what she’s capable of…*hint hint*
It is hard for me to decide if I want to recommend this movie or not. Truthfully, in spite of the “been there, done that” feel to it , I did find myself invested enough in the characters by the end that there was some suspense. The fight scenes are predictable, but engaging and certainly well done. Yet, I never had that “man, this is so cool” feeling that I hope for in sci-fi/horrorish movies. If you’re a fan of the franchise, this will likely satisfy you, but I can’t think of any compelling reason to see it on anything other than a rainy day. And you can skip the 3D – it’s fine, but nothing special.
Actually, I think I just discovered my one-sentence review of Underworld: Awakening: It’s fine, but nothing special.
Stuff we geek out about…
- A Little Something for the Fellas (2)
- A Little Something for the Ladies (9)
- Avengers Boot Camp (9)
- Before the Movie – Trailers (13)
- Editorials and Reviews (135)
- Interviews (19)
- Miscellaneous Geekery (48)
- Nostalgia (17)
- Sandman Re-Read (11)
- Three Favorite Things (4)
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- From Gen-X, To Chris Hardwick With Love
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