Underworld: Awakening actually isn’t that bad of a movie, albeit it’s not that great either. It’s probably on par with the previous movies just with slightly lower quality in terms of the cast (Bill Nighy even in a small role is irreplaceable). As it stands, the movie is really short and the visual effects, despite an upgrade in the budget, is mediocre at best, although the make-up and monster effects are alright in an old school kind of way.
Genre(s): Fantasy, Horror, Action
Sony | R – 89 min. – $35.99 | May 8, 2012
Directed by: Marlind & Stein
Writer(s): Kevin Grevioux and Len Wiseman & Danny McBride (characters); Len Wiseman & John Hlavin (story), Len Wiseman & John Hlavin and J. Michael Straczynski and Allison Burnett (screenplay)
Cast: Kate Beckinsale, Stephen Rea, Michael Ealy, Theo James, India Eisley, Charles Dance
Theatrical Release Date: January 20, 2012
Features: Commentary, Picture-in-Picture, Featurettes, Gag Reel, Music Video
Number of Discs: 1
Audio: English (DTS-HD MA 7.1), French (DTS-HD MA 5.1)
Video: 1080p/Widescreen 2.40
Subtitles: English SDH, English, French, Spanish
Disc Size: NA
Codec: MPEG-4 AVC
Region(s): A, B, C
THE MOVIE – 2.75/5
Full disclosure: I’ve never been much a fan of the Underworld franchise. Generally they’re dark, dreary and often feature lots of action scenes but none of them memorable. What does stand out, and a big reason why Sony/Screen Gems have now released the fourth movie in the series, entitled Underworld: Awakening, is because of Kate Beckinsale who fills her tight PVC outfit quite nicely appealing to different demos from the vampire/werewolf crowd to the fetish audience (I would assume the two cross paths).
The movie opens with a recap of the first two movies in case anyone has forgotten. Selene (KATE BECKINSALE) outlines the battle between the Lycans and Vampire clans as the fight has turned from going against one another to against the humans. We get an awkwardly cut series of scenes where Selene escapes from a dragnet of the authorities to meet up with Michael but gets there too late as the police open fire. He drops into the water, she after him with bullets floating by followed with a flash grenade which knocks her out.
We fast forward to find Selene, frozen upside down in a tank at some generic corporate research facility (possibly remnants of what was used in the Resident Evil movies) and something or someone has managed to release her from captivity. Lucky for Selene, her outfit is nearby and she gets dressed into her slinky gear ready to kick ass and NOT take any names. Later she would discover that she’s been in suspended animation for 12 years! Anyway, despite the best efforts of the Generic Facility’s manager, Dr. Jacob Lane (STEPHEN REA), Selene escapes, but she’s plagued by visions, seeing events happen in real time through the eyes of someone else.
In the meantime, we are introduced to Detective Sebastian (MICHAEL EALY) investigating the gruesome death of one man Selene had disposed of earlier; a Lycan but went back into human form. The reason this is important is because up to this point, the human race believed the Lycan populating was extinct but something more sinister is going on.
Selene continues trying to evade the authorities while also tracking down the person she’s psychically connect with and in the search, runs into fellow vampire David (THEO JAMES) and a group of Lycans who are hunting down the person Selene has been looking for. After fighting off the Lycans, she discovers 12-year-old Eve (INDIA EISLEY), who was another subject at Generic Facility. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure this out, so I’ll reveal it now with a SPOILER WARNING, that Eve is in fact Selene’s daughter.
With the help of David, Selene and Eve take shelter at an underground covenant after taking a car chase skirmish with a few Lycans in which Eve sustains injury. After some reluctance from David’s father (CHARLES DANCE) Thomas,, the leader of the covenant, Eve receives treatment where they discover she is a perfect mixture of Lycan and Vampire, which disturbs Thomas who wants the two gone before the Lycans discover their location. Unfortunately, the warning is not heeded and indeed they are found out in which a bloody battle ensues culminating in Selene taking on a massive mutant-like Lycan and Eve getting captured. Now Selene, with the help of David and Detective Sebastian, breaks back into Generic Facility and rescue Eve before it’s too late. I’d go a bit further, but there is a twist that should remain for the viewer. It’s nothing earth-shattering but kind of interesting, I guess.
Alright, so what about Underworld: Awakening? Well, honestly it’s not nearly as bad as the trailers have made it out to be. Although the simple visual effects look fine, others, like when the Lycans jump from car to car during the chase sequence, look pretty bad. Of course, it’s to be expected since none of these Underworld movies were heavy on the budget, although this one reportedly around $70 million (the first only cost $28 million or so with inflation), so they either beefed it up for the visual and special effects or Kate Beckinsale took a nice paycheck (worthy).
When it comes to the acting, the Underworld franchise has never been a bastion with fine acting, although for what it is, the series has had some good performances, from Bill Nighy’s (who is sorely missed) over-the-top grandeur to Michael Shannon as the split antagonist. I’m not sure how the supporting cast stacks up in comparison, but for a newcomer India Eisley does a good job for a kid actor playing a werewolf and vampire, Theo James is still a tad bland though it seems another sequel could help expand his character and Michael Ealy, while given limited screen time and passing character development, has some charisma.
Of course, the highlight and reason anyone would even want to bother with this sequel is because of Kate Beckinsale. After taking a break from the series, for which the filmmakers’ chose to make a prequel starring Rhona Mitra as the chick wearing the PVC outfit, Beckinsale returns and is fine form (take that anyway you’d like) and still kicks ass like nobody else.
Even though I’ve never been a fan of this franchise, I could at least admire Beckinsale for all that she brought the role even when the story and/or script wasn’t at its best, and the same most certainly can be said for Awakening. Written by a plethora of screenwriters including Len Wiseman who originally co-wrote and directed the first two movies, the story never really takes form and seemed more suitable as a made-for-TV movie. Also, I should warn you that while the back cover says its 89-minutes, take out the end credits and this clocks in at around 75-minutes or so, a really short running time I haven’t seen from a major production since Men in Black 2.
Directed by the Marlind & Stein who also helmed Shelter starring Julianne Moore and Jonathan Rhys Meyers; here was decent enough I guess but nothing amazing as they seemed to just match the darkness and tone of the previous entries. It’s nothing profound, just adequate for the genre.
On the whole, Underworld: Awakening isn’t nearly as bad as the trailer had made it out to be, but it’s certainly not a very good movie either. If you’re a fan of this series, maybe this entry will be satisfying, but for those who haven’t been enthralled with the others, it will hardly change your mind.
SPECIAL FEATURES – 3.5/5
Creating the Underworld: Picture-in-Picture Experience – This is a regular Blu-ray exclusive is pretty worthless showing bits of trivia while you watch the movie along with some footage from the previous films. The info provided is too far and between and even then it’s not all that interesting so you might as well just skip this.
Feature Commentary – Directors Måns Mårlind and Björn Stein, Producers Richard Wright and Gary Lucchesi & Executive Producer/Visual Effects Supervisor James McQuaide sit down for a fun but still informative commentary track where they offer up trivia and tid-bits on the making of Underworld: Awakening, some of the challenges that were presented and how the directors’ approached the story.
Behind the Scenes Featurettes (TRT 1:02:55; HD) – There are 5 extensive featurettes included: Selene Rises, Casting the Future of Underworld, Resuming the Action, Building a Better Lycan and Awakening a Franchise, Building a Brutal World. These are set of well made featurettes offering insights into making the sequel, getting Beckinsale back and just going through the story as a whole. Between interviews with the directors, producers, writers and the cast, we get some behind-the-scenes footage that gives info on how certain shots or scenes were done.
Blooper Reel (3:21; HD) – Here is a collection flubbed lines or missed marks.
A music video (3:25; HD) for “Heavy Prey” but Lacey Sturm (of Flyleaf) and download code for the UltraViolet Digital Copy are also included.
Previews – Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance, Men in Black 3, The Amazing Spider-Man, Resident Evil: Retribution
VIDEO – 4.25/5
Underworld: Awakening bites and claws its way onto Blu-ray high-definition, presented in its original 2.40 widescreen aspect ratio and 1080p high-definition. First things first, one item I’ve seen much discussion on the Net is on the black levels and admittedly, it is a bit on the weaker side, showing more of a dark blue than black, but still, it’s not overly distracting and if any darker, it would remove more detail given how dimly lit this movie, and the previous movies as well, was shot. As for the picture in other aspects, it looks good and finely detailed throughout and while it doesn’t exactly shine on the smaller screen with its darkly lit set pieces, it’s still sharp and void of any flaws.
AUDIO – 4.5/5
The disc comes with a boom-tastic 7.1 DTS-HD Master Audio track. As you might imagine, a movie that’s high on action but low on substance will generally benefit from the extra channels and indeed it does for this one. The lower levels such as dialogue or ambient noises, when present, sound pretty good but once the gunplay, roaring and all general action begins, that’s when the bass kicks in and your walls will be shaking. During those scenes, it shows off the track’s depth from every channel and provides for a mighty home theater experience.
OVERALL – 3.5/5
Overall, Underworld: Awakening actually isn’t that bad of a movie, albeit it’s not that great either. It’s probably on par with the previous movies just with slightly lower quality in terms of the cast (Bill Nighy even in a small role is irreplaceable). As it stands, the movie is really short and the visual effects, despite an upgrade in the budget, is mediocre at best, although the make-up and monster effects are alright in an old school kind of way. As far as the Blu-ray goes, the video and audio transfers are impressive as are the selection of special features.
Brian Oliver, The Movieman
Check out some more screen caps by going to page 2. Please note, these do contain spoilers.