Saturday, July 21, 2012

my thoughts on.... 'Underworld: Awakening'

Ever since I first saw the original 'Underworld', it felt like a cousin to the 'Resident Evil' films. Like they were companion pieces. I'm not 100% sure why that is, but they seem to go together. They're both action/horror films, they both have female leads and they both seem to have a bigger story line going on then you might have first expected. Where they differ is the type of creatures they're fighting. 'Resident Evil' is considered a zombie based film and 'Underworld' is werewolves vs. vampires. Now, over the 3 films so far.... we've seen all sides of the vampire/lycan war. The films are more story focused than action focused, but when the action kicks in, it's pretty sweet. Throughout the 3 films so far, the series has been steady and consistent, but not mind blowing. So, when I heard about the 4th one going in to production and that Kate Beckinsale was back, I got excited. Things seemed to be looking pretty good and I had high hopes for another good installment. Last night, I finally got my chance to make an educated verdict about it. We'll get to that in a bit.

This next chapter, takes place 12 years in the future and this is the basic plot.... from "Mankind discover the existence of the Vampire and Lycan species and they begin a war to annihilate the races. When Selene meets with Michael in the harbor, they are hit by a grenade and Selene passes out. Twelve years later, Selene awakes from a cryogenic sleep in the Antigen laboratory and meets the Vampire Thomas. She learns that she had been the subject of the scientist Dr. Jacob Lane and the Vampire and Lycan species have been practically eradicated from Earth. But Selene is still connected to Michael and has visions that she believes that belongs to Michael's sight. However she has a surprise and finds that she has a powerful daughter named Eve that has been raised in the laboratory. Now Selene and Thomas have to protect Eve against the Lycans that intend to use her to inoculate their species against silver." Sounds interesting, yes? Read on....

With the first 3 films, there was a certain level of production and the people involved all seem to be 'A' list actors. In this film, it felt different. Those actors were gone and although Kate remained, no one else did. Scott Speedman was digitally added into the storyline and it was obvious. The rest of the main players, felt to me like they were just substituting for the original cast. These were new characters to the story, so that wasn't really the case. I can't explain why it felt this way, but it did. This movie also seemed to scrap the more story driven formula for a more action based one. Len Wiseman was still at the helm writing, but it just wasn't the same. Things were just so simple and basic. There was plenty of action, right from the opening sequences. But as the movie chugged along, I kept expecting a moment to catch my breath and get more details as to why things were the way they were. Instead, it felt like I was driving by a bunch of street signs and I would be lucky if I could read all of them before they flew by. The movie itself flew by in terms of time. As soon as it started, it was over. The special effects seemed slightly lower budget too. It was almost as if it was a bigger budget direct to DVD movie. They also left it wide open for a 5th film.... one that I would gladly watch, despite my slightly lowered expectations. What I'm saying is, this wasn't the first 3 films.... but it wasn't bad either.

I won't tell you to stay away from 'Underworld: Awakening', I would just warn you to check your brain and your high hopes at the door. Instead, expect to see 'Die Hard 2: Die Harder' instead of the original 'Die Hard'. The characters have been established, the world is firmly in place and the only thing that changes is the dates the movie takes place. This feels like another chapter in the 'Underworld' franchise, it just doesn't hold up as well. Despite the constant rain of bullet casings and blood flying everywhere. Perhaps with repeated viewings this may improve. Very much like 'Die Hard 2: Die Harder', this movie might have a life yet. Maybe it just needs a fresh set of eyes, not expecting to see 'Die Hard', but ones expecting to see a lower budget sequel. I thought about what to rate this and I think it still needs a 3 out of 5 star rating. It wasn't the best movie in the series, but it isn't the worst movie I've seen of this kind. I don't know that this franchise will ever keep me as interested or get my as excited as the 'Resident Evil' films do, but it's good enough to merit the occasional re-watching. Also, if you are new to these films.... get all 4, start at the beginning, make a bunch of popcorn and check your brain at the door. Vampires are hip right now, again.... but these aren't the kind that sparkle. These are the kind that'll blow a hole right though a werewolf's head and not think twice about it. Team Jacob? Team Edward? I'm on Team Selene.

If you like this movie, check out: 'Underworld' (2003), 'Underworld: Evolution' and 'Underworld: Rise of the Lycans'

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