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Sunday
Jan222012

'Underworld: Awakening' review - Selene, the magnificent invincible vampire

Step right up, folks. On display today is Selene (Kate Beckinsale), the great invincible vampire of the Underworld series. You can throw her off a building, drop an elevator on her, or throw a 15 foot werewolf at her, but nothing can harm her. Like Alice from the Resident Evil movie series (which is going into its fifth installment this year), Selene hardly speaks, is being hunted for no good reason, and is asolutely impossible to kill. Every Underworld film throws more and more vampires, lycans (werewolves), and armed humans at her, but she just keeps shooting and bullet-timing her way from scene to scene. There’s no stopping her.

Much like the Resident Evil movies stories keep getting crazier with time, Underworld: Awakening, the fourth Underworld movie, mixes up the ongoing vampire & lycan war by bringing back Selene, star of the first two films. This time, she awakes inside a lab, well rested and quite cold after being frozen for 13 years. In that time, the humans finally discovered that vampires and lycans existed and systematically eraticated nearly all of them. Seemingly alone, Selene must escape from the lab and protect the little girl who helped her escape (clue: she’s not just a little girl).

Time in the freezer has really dulled Selene’s sense of morality as well. While she’s always been okay doing what she must, after Awakening, she wastes no time killing all humans in sight. In one scene, she runs through a group of half a dozen armed soldiers and kills all of them with what appears to be a butter knife. She, of course, has the power of special effects and bullet-time movie magic at her disposal. In another escape scene, she kills a man who’s firing a flamethrower before he ever sees her by magically running up a wall and doing a backflip (one of her most common moves). I have to wonder why it was necessary to kill him and why exactly he was using a flamethrower in an alley in the first place, but things don’t have to make sense here.

To get through a movie like this, you have to accept that all rules are made to be broken. In one scene, vampires may seem nearly invincible and lycans easily killable, but in the next, vampires will die with a single punch and lycans will rise from the dead. Silver bullets and particles seem to dissintigrate lycans sometimes, but other times have very little effect. Vampires can heal themselves sometimes, but other times they die due to minor wounds. A main character dies? Just bring him back to life by grabbing his heart (Selene is the first vampire to ever think of this). And don’t forget the “hybrid” Michael Corbin. He is a mix between vampire and lycans and in the first movie he’s a super creature that kills an elder vampire. Here, a girl hybrid pops up, but she is only dangerous when the script allows it. The only constant is Selene. She is crushed, shot in the face, shot all over, and tossed around, but she is rarely harmed and always okay. Despite having no resources, she can even manifest silver bombs out of nowhere. We might as well call her Neo. 

Like the previous Underworld movies, this film is shot in urban, concrete areas and every shot is tinted blue. The directors, Mans Marlind and Bjorn Stein, are both new to the series but make sure to incorporate more rain and night shots than any one movie needs. In one scene, two scientists discuss their lab projects out in the rain at night. Why? Why not, I suppose. 

The story starts out interesting with the human purging of all vampires and lycans, but quickly fades back into more familiar territory. Characters other than Selene hardly matter, but allies pop up out of nowhere. A detective named Sebastian (Michael Ealy) instantly sides with her crazy plan without any real reason or motivation. I thought he must have been in an earlier film, but nope. He’s just develops loyalty very quickly. The same goes for David (Theo James), a vampire that looks up to Selene. At least his motivations make a bit of sense. With four separate writers credited for the film, one might expect a better plot with deeper characters, but in Hollywood, it seems that the more writers you have, the worse things get. 

The special effects are on par with the previous films, though there is a 20-foot lycan that is fairly impressive if you’re into that sort of thing. The only thing that’s been truly amped up is the gore. Perhaps I’m forgetting exactly how bloody the previous films were but Awakening is full of people getting eaten, having their heads blown off, slowly cutting themselves, sticking their arms in people’s chests, and a bunch of stuff that doesn’t enhance the movie at all. Do people watch these films to see a person’s face get slowly ripped off, bit by bit? I don’t. Perhaps I’m not the target audience.

What else is there to say about Underworld: Awakening. If you loved the earlier movies, this is a bit different, but mostly a continuation of the same vampires vs lycans story you’re used to seeing. Personally, I’d have taken a film with less gore and slow-mo, bullet-time shots if it had an actual reason for existing. The only reason to see Awakening is Selene’s acrobatics. I’d tell you to watch The Matrix instead, but I’ll admit, Kate Beckinsale is much prettier than Keanu Reeves. 

Rating:  (Bad)

Check out the trailer and poster here

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