If you’re like me, then you are completely sick and tired of the seemingly everlasting Vampire/Werewolf trend in popular culture that has resurged through the popularity of the novels and film franchise Twilight. Lately the very thought of more Vampire and/or Werewolf films and shows makes my most recent meal flow from my stomach back into my mouth. After such relentless exposure of the ancient folklores you’d think that any self respecting person would resist the urge to further feed the machine. Shame on you for thinking such nonsense when there’s money to be made and the fourth installment of the Underworld franchise reminds audiences of that very sentiment.
Underworld Awakening takes place six months after the events in Underworld Evolution (there’s a few seconds of flashback to bring us n00bs up to speed on some of those events) where now the knowledge of the existence of Vampires and Lycans has been made public and a mass genocide of the immortals have begun to take place. Vampire and Lycan hunter, Selene (Kate Beckinsale), and her Lycan/Vampire Hybrid lover Lycan, Michael, plan to leave the city but are disrupted and captured by humans. Twelve years later Selene awakes to find that she has been frozen in a testing lab, Lycans are nearly extinct, and a strange girl with both Lycan and Vampire tendencies has escaped from the same lab. Selene desperately attempts to find her missing lover while protecting herself from her newest enemy, humans.
There are times throughout Underworld Awakening when the action is just really cool and intriguing. When the film is not relying on CGI for its special effects, its make-up, sound design and filming in certain shots make for impressive scenes that are reminiscent of The Matrix. At times fluid camera movements capture Selene’s prowess as in one scene she holds a character up against a glass window, her mere strength causing the window to bulge resulting in the crippling sound of slow-cracking glass. Additionally a character is thrown from a building and falls to his death. The camera follows his swift fall and the intense impact the body makes on the car. However, the choice to make Underworld Awakening in 3D prevents the film from having more of these noteworthy moments.
Thus the use of 3D and CGI in Awakening becomes the film’s weakest element because it takes away from any creative ingenuity the film could have had and instead makes the entire movie look stylistically cheesy and cheap. Awakening seems amateur due to its excessive and flawed computer generated effects. Objects in the background of certain scenes are blurred and flat against the focused sharp images in the forefront and the green screen process can be witnessed in nearly every scene. Lycans at times are too smooth, lanky and sleek to strike a genuine fear or cause for alarm and weapons hold no power when they look like nothing more than super-imposed objects hitting a computerized thing.
Awakening’s 3D makes viewers more aware of the film process than engaged with the story. Barely anything within Awakening seems natural and believable. The Matrix, for instance, made a computerized world realistic due to amazing stunt choreography and nearly perfect special effects that allowed viewers to believe that its characters could transcend gravity and time. Awakening on the other hand doesn’t possess the same credibility. When characters are unexplainably able to jump unbelievable bounds, it doesn’t look natural and instead appears posed and contrived for the sake of a “cool shot.”
Whoa, I bet you didn’t see that coming at you in 3D!
Now considering that Awakening is the 4th installment in the Underworld franchise, I’m aware that it’s had three previous films to explain the origins of its characters and their powers. Since I’ve seen none of the other Underworld’s, I spent a fair amount of time glancing over the franchise on Wikipedia to understand missing links, yet I still feel clueless as to what was really going throughout the film and why I should care about certain characters. In its defense, Awakening attempts to quickly catch us ignorant viewers up on what took place during the previous three films, it just doesn’t do a great job of it or perhaps it does and Awakening’s script just doesn’t do a great job of story development—or maybe a little bit of both.
Sure viewers are caught up to the fact that the past for Selene has consistently meant having to fight Vampires, Lycans, and Werewolves while dealing with being so damn good at it. Yet I felt that key questions remained unanswered by this film such as why Lycans can kill vampires so easily if they heal so quickly? How is Selene so powerful? How is she so relaxed during intense moments of fighting? How is it that she is never outnumbered despite being outnumbered? And where is she getting this endless supply of loaded guns despite always emptying her clip during fights? The world may never know.
“Oh no, I’m out of bullets and just threw my guns! No worries, give me two scenes and I’ll have them back in tow.”
Selene seems nearly invincible from harm making the threat of danger nearly non-existent and therefore creating no real tension within the film. Instead of spending an hour and a half on cheap looking special effects and mediocre action sequences, Awakening could have been better spent developing character relationships and their inner turmoil such as Selene having to deal with realizing she is a mother despite losing the only person she’s ever loved. Michael Ealy plays the horribly underdeveloped Detective Sebastian whose character could have made an impact had more time been spent developing his desire to help Selene. Nearly every character featured is given the potential to be interesting and/or menacing, however they are only introduced to be pawns that are played and then killed off all too quickly.
Despite it all, Underworld Awakening is a surprisingly entertaining film. It’s got a great amount of action and “cool shit” to make the hour and a half of watching it bearable. However, it’s not developed enough to be considered a great or even good movie; it just barely skates by being a mediocre film. It spends too much time setting up for another damn sequel that this one is basically nothing but fluff for the meantime. Take away the CGI, 3D, shitty directing, flashing lights and the need to make Beckinsale a sex symbol, then you got yourself a pretty good action film, however, because Underworld Awakening possess all of those qualities, viewers are left with a barely living entity that’s feeding on audience members’ dollars. Damn vampires.
Bonus Drinking Game
Take a Drink: every time Selene doesn’t get hurt during a fight.
Take a Drink: every time an attractive character is killed.
Take a Drink: every time someone’s insides are shown.
Take a Drink: every time eyes are the focus of a shot.