Directed by: Mårlind and Stein
Starring: Kate Beckinsale, Stephen Rea, Michael Ealy, Theo James, India Eisley, Charles Dance
The most notable thing to me about the Underworld franchise is that the second entry so enthralled me that I nodded off during its “thrilling” climax. By that barometer, this fourth one, Underworld Awakening, may be judged as marginally better. That, unfortunately, doesn’t make it any good—just better than an even dumber movie. I certainly can’t say that imported Swedish directors Måns Mårlind and Björn Stein (who bill themselves as simply Mårlind and Stein) have made any notable strides in bringing anything new to the table—except to make the series even more interchangeable with the equally undistinguished Resident Evil for hot-babe-in-leather-kicks-monster-ass movies.
Since this film returns from the prequel realm of the last one, Kate Beckinsale is back as Our Lady of Perpetual Leather, Selene. Vampire overlord Bill Nighy is taking advantage of having had his head cleaved in two in an earlier entry, and has fled the scene. In his stead, we get Brit TV actor Charles Dance (a kind of low-rent Nighy, I guess) as a vampire patriarch. This entry offers two “new” wrinkles. The first is that humans have discovered the existence of vampires and werewolves (or Lycans as the series has it) and have set out to eradicate both species. Is it a workable premise? I suppose. Is it an interesting one? Not particularly. The second twist is that the film opens in the midst of the slaughter of the supernaturals (something explained as giving humans something to kill other than each other, which is the screenplay’s idea of profound). Soon the story skips forward 12 years to a world more or less free from the monsters. Or so it seems, of course.
For reasons that are part of the plot, a few of the pesky things have been kept around in a frozen state (kind of like Jason-on-ice in 2001’s Jason X). Naturally, Selene is one of them, and, just as naturally, someone defrosts her. (Insert coy nude scene with obscuring dry-ice mist here.) Soon she’s running wild, kicking butt and causing mayhem. It’s not long before she meets up with hunky vampire David (Theo James, You Will Meet a Tall Dark Stranger), some inhospitable CGI werewolves and a strange little girl named Eve (TV actress India Eisley). Eve is apparently supposed to be mysterious, but even before she asks Selene, “Don’t you know who I am?”, I had a pretty good idea. I’ll bet you do, too.
The second wrinkle this round is the introduction of the new über-werewolf. This is a really big werewolf that’s more or less impervious to silver (as long as it suits the plot). How big is this boy? Well, he’s bigger than those Buick-sized beasts in the Twilight pictures. Is it impressive? Well, it’s as impressive as a CGI werewolf can be, I reckon, but there’s a drawback to the whole idea. You see, the thing’s so damned big it can’t get through the door. I don’t think this was meant to be funny, but I found it pretty darn amusing. Less amusing was the fact that the film’s ending involved the set-up for yet another in the series—which is even more depressing than seeing Stephen Rea show up in this witless thing. Hopefully, he was well paid. Rated R for strong violence and gore, and for some language.