Underworld Awakening is the fourth installments to the Underworld franchise. Just like Vin Diesel with the Fast and Furious franchise, the lead actress of the first two Underworld movies, Kate Beckinsale returns to the franchise after skipping one installment.
It's been reported that Kate Beckinsale had no intention to return to the Underworld series but was convinced by the quality of the script. Since Kate Beckinsale felt that the script was good enough to wear those tight rubber suits and corsets for another round of supernatural whack fest, the Underworld fans must be rejoicing to have another chance to see her strut her stuff on the big screen.
Personally, I never seen any movies of the Underworld franchise, I had always been curious with the longevity of this series that revolves around the world of vampire vs werewolves. This series had always felt like a hoakey blend of two groups of beloved supernatural creatures with stylist tight clothing and a huge range of noisy weaponry. It isn't something that I would go out of my way to watch but since folks at Incinemas were nice enough to pick me from their facebook contest, Underworld Awakening shall be my entry point to the Underworld series. Let's hope that it would be a good jumping point for a Underworld newbie.
The war between the Vampire and Lycan clans had finally comes to an end. But it's not the ending that either side would have expected. The humans have discovered the existence of both Vampires and Lycans - and were exterminating them like they are merely creatures infected by some form of virus. Vampire Selene (Kate Beckinsale) tried to escape the eradication of her species with her lover Michael Corvin (the first Vampire / Lycan hybrid, portrayed by a stand-in for the missing Scott Speedman) but eventually fell to the overwhelming crusade.
Believing that the vision belongs to Michael, Selene tries to retrace the path that she sees in the vision. Instead of Michael, she found David (Theo James), a fellow vampire, a young girl called "Subject 2" (India Eisley) and a bunch of Lycans on their trail.
After escaping the Lycans, David brought Selene and injured "Subject 2" back to the Vampire coven. With the help of the remaining Vampire elders, they discovered that "Subject 2" share the same Hybrid traits as Michael Corvin. As they tries to uncover the hidden conspiracy behind the relentless hunt for "Subject 2", they face invasion by Lycans and a super big size Lycan.
Underworld Awakening felt like a movie that favours style over substance. There's a lot of stylish posing and plenty noisy gunfights but very little characterization and plotting. It felt like a video game that focus on repetitive action sequences and snitch them together with a thin plot.
During the movie, I can't help but question what did Kate Beckinsale sees in the script that made her return to this series. It just seemed like a cash cow that was needlessly revived to cash in on the 3D technology craze. I have not seen the rest of the series but one Underworld Awakening felt tiresome enough to deter me from revisiting the older installments.
Let's start with the introductory arc of this movie where the Vampires and Lycans get exterminated like unwanted bugs or helpless zombies. It makes me wonder what happened in the first three movies? Were the vampires and lycans a bunch of weaklings? That wouldn't make an interesting series, wouldn't it? Aren't they immortals with extraordinary capabilities? How did the mere mortals push them to the extinction edge so easily?
I get that there's a need and even underlying potential in changing the structure of the Underworld series but this is not one avenue that properly set up or explored. The humans who were set up to be the biggest threat in the never ending wars between the vampires and lycans were subsequently forgotten and discarded. Reverting back to the two groups of supernatural creatures and the lycans seemed to have the upper hand over the vampires. Which once again, wasn't properly explored or set up.
The fearsome super size Lycan gets little establishment or background story. If he is meant to be one of the antagonists in this movie, this is one hell of a weak character. He appears humongous and menacing but compared to Viktor and Lucian (from the earlier series) who had much "richer" background stories, this antagonist is just bland and serve very little function but to chase Selene the protagonist around.
The protagonist of this movie didn't fare much better. I believe that when Kate Beckinsale said that the script drew her in, she mean the changes in certain dynamics for Selene. This time round, besides fretting over Michael Corvin, the focus shifts to the little girl called "Subject 2". It sets up a mother and daughter dynamic that could be a refreshing change to this series. But then again, the forte of the directors / writers weren't on characterization and at the end of it all, I find myself caring very little for Selene, "Subject 2" or Michael Corvin whom we don't really get to see but were strangely included in certain crucial moment of this movie. When it's hard to care for the character and their causes, the movie just feel boring and long even if it's only 88mins runtime.
Last but not least, Underworld Awakening didn't feel like a movie on it's own. It felt like an introductory piece that opens up the franchise to more installments. In a way, it felt like it's modeled after Resident Evil series and it could churn out endless installments to capitalize on the bored and clueless, the action junkies and the hardcore fans. It's not making a fan out of me and I don't think I will ever fork out money for Underworld 5 which I am pretty sure that it would get made.
Was it worth the 3D prices?
The first 3D movie in the Underworld series was equally unimpressive in it's 3D presentation. Beside certain scenes where a werewolf launches itself towards the audience and shattered glasses flying all around, there's very few 3D scenes that actually impressed me. I removed my glasses a couple of time and was surprise to see that I was able to view the movie normally. I know this is filmed in 3D like the recent Resident Evil movie but there isn't anything outstanding in it's 3D presentation that worth shelling out the extra bucks for.