Directed By: Måns Mårlind, Björn Stein
Written By: Len Wiseman
Starring: Kate Beckinsale, Michael Ealy, India Eisley
The Underworld series is one that just keeps going. While I enjoyed the first Underworld the inevitable sequels have been a case diminishing returns. After the ‘Rise of the Lycans’ prequel I assumed the series was done, but fret not as it returned earlier this year with Underworld: Awakening. This time Kate Beckinsale is back as Selene in an attempt to reenergize the franchise. In the end however this installment reeks of a lack of effort. Almost every facet is uninspired and dull. Even when an interesting idea presents itself the film refuses to explore that territory and is satisfied with just existing. The films only purpose is to prolong a franchise that has gone stale long ago.
In the onset we discover humans have learned of the existence of Vampires and the Lycans. With this discovery the world reacts in a violent manner searching and destroying all the Lycans and vampires they can find. This entire sequence from the discovery to the purge of the Lycans and vampires is shown to us through of news broadcasts. Due to that method we find out little information about the what, where, why, and how. Things just simply happen with no reasoning and little explanation. Somehow humans just stubbed upon their existence even though they have been able to stay hidden for centuries. Somehow the humans are able to discover what kills each species with little to no effort. It is one thing to gloss over minor issues it is a whole other thing to gloss over major plot points. This made it a trend to pass by important factors as quickly and as clumsily as possible. It is during this sequence when we meet up with Selena who has been caught up in this assault of violence against her people. She seems to be one of the few vampires able to fight back against the humans. During an escape attempt she gets tangled up in an explosion that allows her to get captured. When she finally awakens she finds herself in a new world and a new time. Twelve years have gone by and the world is a lot different than the way she left it. Lycans are thought extinct and vampires aren’t far off as well. Humans are constantly tested to prove that are in fact human. Quickly while watching this film a number of things became evident. One of the first was the fact that the writers simply wanted to place Selena into a specific situation and didn’t care how they got her there. I’m not sure if it’s a lack of creativity, effort, or perhaps a combination of both that stops this film from being coherent. It was as if this script wasn’t originally created for the Underworld franchise, but the studios thought it was close enough and awkwardly changed a few things to make it fit into this universe. Not only does Selene wake up in the future she also discovers she has a daughter or clone or maybe just a dedicated Cosplay player as it too is never really explained. With the world searching for her, Selene must not only protect herself but her daughter as well against a never ending onslaught of enemies.
With an action film like this I’m not looking for an epic storyline that is incessantly engaging. However I feel it’s not too much to ask for one that is a tad bit interesting. In this we get one that barely holds things together then continues to crumble as the film progresses. The strange thing is there is an interesting idea at the core of this film. The idea of vampires and humans flipping scripts to create a world where vampires actually fear humans could provide something new and different for this series. The issue is this movie doesn’t come close to exploring that idea at all. The threat of the humans is just used to set up the story. Once everything gets going the story just boils down to a mother trying to save her daughter plotline. The human threat is easily forgotten after the initial prologue. The daughter is a character of no substance, personality, or concern. You never buy that Selena feels any type of emotion towards this person so we never do either. It’s one thing for a plot to create a sense of mystery it’s another thing for a plot to create a lack of reason. The film is full of bland characters that are eternally generic. Most have no personality whatsoever and their motivations are given through an onset of throw away lines that consist of stereotypical cheesy dialogue.
In the end these issues could be forgiven if the action was at least interesting, but instead we are treated with tedious underwhelming set pieces. When Underworld first came out the action genre was still heavily influenced by The Matrix. You had a lot of tight black leather suites, Wirefu, and super slow motion. Action has changed over the years and most directors have fallen suit. While I understand the action wanting to stay true to the franchise it does cause it to feel old an uninteresting. Sure there are some decent moments, but the majority of it feels undistinguishable from other similar action films that were made years ago. I think it is possible for the action to stay same vein as the other films and still remain fresh. They just don’t seem concerned with trying anything new or different. New and trying are two words that I can’t associate with this movie in anyway. Sure there is a better shine to it and the CGI has improved but nothing about it is inspired. There are only so many slow motion back flips off of walls that you can take as a viewer. This boring purposeless action combined with the complete absence of a plot just had me waiting for the movie to end.
There are many things I can forgive a movie for. For example if someone tries something new and it ends up falling flat, or if a movie attempts to take on too much causing it to become a giant mess. While I won’t enjoy the end product I can at least respect the effort. The one thing to me that is unforgivable is laziness. This movie is as lazy as a teenager on a rainy Saturday morning after a late night binge of Vault soda and internet porn. People say it’s better to try and fail then not try at all and I agree. This movie fails without even giving an attempt. It reeks of a movie studio trying to squeeze out as much money as they can get simply based off of name recognition. Movies today are all about establishing future franchise and trying to keep old ones alive no matter what the cost. This thought process leads to failures like this. Personally I believe the Underworld franchise does have some latent potential left in it. The issue is no one really cares enough to challenge themselves to create something of value.