January 23, 2012

Movie Review: Underworld - Awakening

It's hard I believe it as been almost ten years side the first Underworld arrived in theaters. That 2003 film introduced us to a new goth-flavored look at a war between vampires and werewolves. Over the course of the series we have learned the war has been going on for centuries without humanity even knowing. We are also given the story of the first hybrid, a conspiracy between the races and how our hero became a target by pretty much everyone. A prequel film helped provide some insight to the start of the war by taking us back to the start. Now, with the fourth film we get a film that simultaneously furthers the story and feels a bit like a reboot, or at least a new beginning.

As Underworld: Awakening opens we learn that the war has gone public. Humans have learned of these before unknown races existence and have united in their efforts to exterminate them. If the creatures appearance has done one thing, it is to unite humanity against a common enemy. They engage in a series of purging and cleansings in an effort to wipe out the vampires and lycans.

And so goes the early scenes. They are told with voice over accompanying a montage of scenes showing the human forces doing a pretty good job of getting closer to their goal of wiping out the non-human creatures. Frankly, I think this story would have made a pretty entertaining film on its own, but that is not what this movie is about. As the opening comes to a close we see Selene (Kate Beckinsale) and Michael (Scott Speedman) preparing to flee the city and get away from the nearing human forces. Unfortunately, they are not fast enough and they are captured.

Twelve years pass and Selene is awakened to find herself in some sort of scientific facility. As soon as she awakens from her prison slumber, she finds herself set upon by a horde of security guards. She gets out and discovers the world has changed, the vampires are hiding and the lycans are even worse off, but again, this is not the story.

What is the story? Well, it is one that sees Selene adjusting to this new world and discovering that she has a daughter, dubbed Subject 2 at the lab. It turns out the little girl is important to the scientists at the lab. She is a hybrid child and is being used by them to develop a "cure," well, a cure that is really a serum to enhance lycan strength and size.

In any case, Selene is still known among the vampires as a turncoat who murdered the elders years earlier.  So, she isn't exactly welcome there. No matter, she finds enough support to head back to the facility to rescue her daughter and maybe learn a little more of the truth, and perhaps where Michael is.

Underworld: Awakening is an enjoyable entry in the series that I found more entertaining than the prior entry, Rise of the Lycans. It gets back to the story that started in the first two, tweaks it some, and gives us what feels like a fresh start for the franchise. This movie gives us a new direction for the franchise for a few more sequels.

Now, while I certainly enjoyed this movie, I think it could have been a bit longer. It almost feels like the we got the Cliff's Notes version. The runtime clocks in at 89-minutes and I think it could have used a little more fleshing out. Perhaps a better look at this new world and what they've been up to, maybe more exploration of the animosity between the vampires and Selene, a little more with the daughter would have been nice, even more of Michael Ealy's story. I don't know. I liked it, the action was well done, Kate Beckinsale is great in the role, and the universe is fun. Perhaps the next one will give us a little more?

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