Jan 25 2012 by Ian Bunting, Airdrie & Coatbridge
UNDERWORLD: Awakening is the fourth installment of the vampire / werewolf franchise and stars Kate Beckinsale as vampire Selene.
Selene wakes up 15 years in the future after being cryogenically frozen by a human biotech company and after escaping, leads the battle against them.
The Underworld series is only really rivalled by Resident Evil in the franchise most critics would like to see die stakes.
But while not for one second claiming any of the previous films are classics, I have a soft spot for the Underworld movies.
The first is the best, and even that one’s too long, but all of them have worked for me as fun-filled, turn-the-brain-off actioners.
After third entry Underworld: Rise of the Lycans went down the prequel route, Underworld: Awakening presses fast forward again in the timeline and sees the return of lead star Beckinsale.
But is it any good? Well, put it this way; if you like the previous Underworld films then you’ll like this one. If not... you can probably guess where I’m going with this.
Swedish directing duo Mans Marlind and Bjorn Stein’s last big-screen effort was 2010’s awful horror Shelter but this all-action affair rates higher on the quality scale.
Don’t go in expecting a dense story, though.
I’m always wary when a film has numerous writers and six contribute to Underworld: Awakening’s screenplay, story and “characters.”
Len Wiseman, director of the first two entries and Mr Kate Beckinsale, is given sole credit for the ‘story’ and while it initially refreshes the franchise with an opening featuring cleansing of the “infected” vampires and Lycans that puts humans in control, the plot quickly gives way to blood, gunfire and hand-to-hand combat.
The movie is a great showcase for the agility of now 38-year-old action heroine Beckinsale.
She’ll never be the best actress but right from an early medical facility escape that sees her take-out a corridor full of guards and rip bones through flesh, she can give many of her male action counterparts a run for their money... even in figure-hugging PVC.
Marlin and Stein use the same desaturated look of the previous films but stutter with some poorly-rendered CGI.
The 3D is decent (blood splatter, sulphur) but not essential and adds little to the viewing experience and too many action scenes feature flickering lights (not a film for epilepsy sufferers).
The script has flaws too. The origins of young Eve (India Eisley) aren’t explained very well and Selene’s lover Michael is poorly dispatched in a bizarre CGI rendering of actor Scott Speedman (obviously not on board for this go-around).
A ‘super werewolf’ is visually OK but smacks of video game ‘final boss’ laziness and the film lacks the villainy of earlier installments.
Brit thesps Stephen Rea (Dr Lane) and Charles Dance (Thomas) don’t register as, respectively, an evil doctor and inferior stand-in for Bill Nighy and Tony Curran’s previous vampire elders.
But, despite these flaws, I still enjoyed Underworld: Awakening.
Maybe it’s one of a few ‘blind spots’ I have but this ferocious battle between humans, vampires and werewolves is quick-paced, action-heavy, dumb fun with an open ending that suggests more is on the way.
What’s that noise I hear? Oh, that’ll be the collective head-slaps of most critics worldwide.
Rating - 6 out of 10.