It has been twelve years since Selene walked the Earth in all of her pleather/plastic death dealing vampire wearing goddessness. She returns in Underworld: Awakening with a vengeance but also a new role to play, mommy. Beginning with a very good montage of the previous three Underworld franchise films it is a nice refresher course for those who have seen them and fills in the gaps for those who are experiencing an Underworld film for the first time. It then shows the viewer the state of the world now, as a place of modern warfare where vampires and lycans are being exterminated by humans. As Selene puts it, "Humans no longer kill each other, they kill us." The blood feud between the lycans and vampires is all but forgotten in Underworld: Awakening, a strong point in the story as it gives it the possibility to re-vamp itself and make way for the next chapter, that of the hybrid.
At the same time the post-apocalyptic feel of the first two Underworld films is lost, leaning more towards a very generic human world laced with, dare I say it, tones of the Resident Evil franchise as genetics, mutations, and the scientific experiments of a company are at play here, not the genetic mutations found in the previous films. Regardless, Underworld: Awakening still has at its core what fans of the series come to expect--an ass-kicking time with Selene, plenty of lycans getting angry, and enough action to fill three movies. There is also the newest addition, since Michael is missing from this installment (or is he?), the young hybrid girl who has been raised inside the Antigen Corporations lab since her birth. The secret here is really not a secret, nor has it ever been from the trailers and clips released of the film, that she is indeed Selene and Michael's child. How that was able to happen is not made clear, probably because the screenwriter's do not know exactly how either; or it leaves material for the next film. Either way it was inevitable to introduce a hybrid child and while it is the plot device that the entire film is motivated upon, as Selene must keep her daughter safe from the lycans (and the new lycan-in-charge) the child never becomes annoying in the film--a thankful thing. All eyes continue to focus on Selene, and the future of the vampire race. This story is far from over, and after watching Underworld: Awakening you will be thankful.
Shot in 3D, and shown in IMAX, Underworld: Awakening is full of effects meant to keep the eyes dazzled. It succeeds, but there is one thing that never seems to get "fixed" in all of the Underworld films and it plagues this one as well, the lycan. The effects on the lycans are always below expectations, the transformations a bit shoddy, the blending of CGI and live-action imperfect. You would think the effects team would get it right by the fourth film but alas they still struggle. For those who have seen the prior films you expect this, and therefore it will not bother you. For newbies it may strike a chord of disappointment. Then again, everything else looks amazing, so it is easily forgivable.
Is it worth watching in 3D? This is always the question. It will look great in 2D, there is no doubt. The 3D does have some great moments during the action scenes, and it makes the explosions all the more spectacular when silver dust fills the screen. As for the IMAX presentation, if you want the sound to rip through your body and cause your chest to feel like it is shaking then IMAX is for you with Underworld: Awakening. The sound effects are incredibly loud and pulsating, the IMAX sound system amplifies this to the utmost highest level.
With a running time of merely 90 minutes Underworld: Awakening does not waste one single minute on tawdry dialogue or inconsequential events. The entire movie is one big action sequence after another, between vampires and lycans, hybrids and lycans, and this time around humans are in on the fight as well. It may have been twelve years that Selene was in an icy cryogenic tomb but her fighting skills appear to have only improved--old age is not getting the best of this vampire. It could also have something to do with the "gift" she received from the father of all vampires, Alexander, at the end of Underworld: Evolution.
What is different this time around is the Uber-Lycan. Genetically bred to be bigger, stronger, faster, and a whole lot scarier this Lycan is more than twice the size of the other Lycans and makes Selene look miniature-sized. The fight scenes between the two find Selene getting knocked around, literally, and a big bloody mess being made. It makes for great entertainment, even if the special effects on the big bad Upber-Lycan could have used a bit more polishing.
Underworld: Awakening is as fast-paced of an action movie you will find, and with stunts aplenty to keep you transfixed on the screen. Should you look away you may miss something great, like Selene high-flying her way in the air only to come down with a sharp object right into a Lycan's head--and no one wants to miss that.
Thriller, Action, Horror
January 27, 2012