UNDERWORLD AWAKENING (Mans Marlind and Bjorn Stein, 2011)
Fans of the UNDERWORLD series have long waited for Kate Beckinsale's return as the leather-clad, double pistoled vampire Selene. The last we saw her was in 2006's UNDERWORLD EVOLUTION (because the third film is a prequel), and no matter how strong and able Rhona Mitra was in RISE OF THE LYCANS, we still wanted Beckinsale.
So in bringing back Beckinsale as Selene, there were few noticeable changes to the movie. First, the director is NOT Len Wiseman. Wiseman produces, but Swedish directing duo Marlind and Stein take charge of the action.
Second, the action never lets up. This ought to be the most violent first ten minutes of an UNDERWORLD movie. There are lesser dialogue, and the vampire mythology is completely erased in favor of a storyline that focuses on humans' campaign against vampires and lycans. Bullets fly every three minutes or so, or if not, somebody's neck gets bitten, or broken. The filmmakers are not shy with the amount of onscreen blood, too. This was clearly manufactured for a 3D release (though I only saw it in its regular version).
Third, Scott Speedman as Michael gets a back seat. He only appears no more than five minutes in the film. It is a big WHY for me.
Fourth, instead of Michael, we get another Vampire named David (Theo James) whom I've mistaken as Chace Crawford (GOSSIP GIRL) from the trailer. His father is a vampire coven leader played by Charles Dance (whom I remember so well way back in ALIEN 3).
Finally, the story moves in hypertime, as if the plot is trying to catch the train or something. I enjoyed the blood and gore and the impressive stunt work done, but it cannot conceal the fact that the story is paper thin, and could very well fit on a single episode of TRUE BLOOD, or VAMPIRE DIARIES on steroids.
I almost forgot. There's a girl who is the center of the story, another hybrid whose presence I cannot fully fathom. This is another problem posed by the story trying to race time.
Michael Ealy plays a cop involved in the centuries-old feud between vampires and lycans, but he need not be. In films where two powerful forces are at war, be it natural or supernatural, there's always a cop who gets tangled in between. Remember Reginald Veljohnson in DIE HARD? Or Daniel Wu in NAKED WEAPON? The plot cliche needs to die.
Stephen Rea could work well in a vampire movie, having already seen him in INTERVIEW WITH THE VAMPIRE, yet the directors doesn't know what to do with him here. This makes me wonder if ever Neil Jordan directed the film.
Despite all the flaws, UNDERWORLD AWAKENING is still an enjoyable popcorn film. Dark, more brutal, and features a musical score that booms its way the entire movie without pause. I mean not all parts of a movie needs to be scored, right?