‘Underworld Awakening’ Review
Junk-food action movie that’s disposably short but satisfying for franchise fans.
At this point in the ‘Underworld’ franchise, you’re either going to see the movie regardless or you won’t care. Having only seen half of the first ‘Underworld’ movie and not any of the sequels that followed, it was interesting to watch the latest iteration in the franchise. ‘Underworld Awakening’ is a junk-food action ride that’s high on stunts and cool-looking CGI that will satisfy without ever being anything more than disposable fun thanks to a fleeting runtime and barebones character development.
The film follows Selene (Kate Beckinsale) returning as the vampire assassin. Awakened after 12 years, she realizes that the world as she knew it as been changed as humans have become aware of vampires and lycans and have moved forward to eradicate them completely. As she traverses a different world looking for Michael who has gone missing, she realizes that the lycans aren’t completely extinct as they were thought to be and an even larger threat looms the world in the form of a mysterious young girl who might just be the youngest hybrid that’s being hunted down.
Right off the bat, the first thing you want to know is that the movie is brisk. And by that I mean it’s barely eighty minutes long and is over before you know it. It’s basically like a junk-food version of an action movie – disposable but satisfying that you wouldn’t particularly remember much of after it’s over. But the film manages to use its fleeting runtime to its advantage by ramping up the pace and hardly having a dull moment before a fight breaks out once again. The action quotient here is probably the highest in the entire franchise, thanks to the addition of 3D which ensured that the filmmakers would want you to enjoy 3D as much as possible. But unlike the awful ‘Priest’ which was also short but was utterly unsatisfying, ‘Underworld Awakening’ manages to meet expectations of the franchise.
The story here is somewhat of a departure from the franchise since it takes a more sci-fi futuristic route than the plain old ‘vampires vs. lycans’ angle that the previous movies dealt with. Don’t get me wrong – that’s exactly what the film is at its core but the humans are actually a plot element this time around as well which makes it interesting. It borrows quite a bit from ‘District 9’ at the beginning and also reminded me of the mediocre vampire movie from last year ‘Daybreakers’ but overall the story felt fresher than the previous installments especially due to the little girl angle that they managed to add in. But don’t me fooled – it still feels like an Underworld movie thanks to some ludicrous plot twists that don’t really make much sense but you don’t really mind them. But once again, the characters take the short end of the stick here as there’s zero attempt to develop any character with the exception of Selene herself who gets some dramatic scenes in the middle of the movie. The rest of the characters just serve the purpose of moving the plot forward or take part in action scenes and that’s exactly what happens. My only beef is the ending scenes of the movie which looked like they were going to resolve an important plot point of the film but instead just slap a cliffhanger on top with some voiceover narration that promises you that the next film will answer it. I doubt that.
The action is pretty solid this time around and for non-fans of the franchise, it’s the only reason to watch the film in cinemas. As I mentioned earlier, scenes regarding the story have been reduced and more time is given to fight and chase scenes and while none of them are ground-breaking, they’re actually consistently entertaining and well-staged despite being modestly budgeted. ‘Underworld’ is a franchise that may be an event picture but actually gets made for a surprisingly modest budget when compared to other action franchises. Hence there is no epic scale to be expected here, but what we do get entertains. A highlight is the finale towards the end which takes place in a parking lot but has enough thrills to stand out. There’s a lot more CGI here compared to the previous movies but it works in its favour. The 3D is what’s being sold here the most and even though it isn’t as great as the trailers would like you to believe, some scenes use it very well and is probably the way to go if you want to see the film at the cinemas.
Kate Beckinsale is obviously the star of the show here and does a suitably effective job with her character which suits her perfectly. She’s physical in her role but also shows some acting chops in a few scenes that give her character some emotional depth that any other actress might not have been able to give it (read: Mila Jovovich in ‘Resident Evil’). But other than her, the film obviously suffers from lack of excellent actors like Bill Nighy and Michael Sheen that graced previous films. The actors that appear here are serviceable but never really end up being memorable or are well-written enough for you to care. One particularly bizarre move of the movie is to have a creepy actor like Wes Bentley in the film but ends up completely wasting his potential in a role that lasts less than a minute.
‘Underworld Awakening’ is a better than expected installment of the franchise that may not be as attractive to non-fans, but ends up being a very watchable action movie thanks to high-octane thrills that don’t overstay their welcome. And in the month of January, that’s something that doesn’t really happen that often.
Rating – 6/10