Thursday 8 May 2014

Underworld: Awakening (2012)

I cover the fourth film in the horror/action Underworld series, entitled Underworld: Awakening, directed by Mans Marland and Bjorn Stein, starring Kate Beckinsale.

I was lucky enough to record the premiere of the Underworld: Awakening on freeview TV at the weekend and with it being a movie that I was looking forward to watching for a while despite the fact that I hadn’t seen the previous movies, I was glad that it sort of met my relatively average expectations – mainly due to all the negativity surrounding this film.

However, for what it was, I enjoyed it. It’s not a masterpiece. There are plenty of plot holes and logic gaps, but for the 88 minute running time that it had, it proved to be very entertaining. Opening with the discovery of the Vampires and the Lycans by mankind, two species that are at war with each other, the film opens with humanity at war with them both. However, refreshingly, the film does not present it from a human perspective but from that of a vampire – in precisely the kind that we want vampires to portrayed as, proper creatures of the night rather than victims to teenage fantasies.

The film opens with Selene (Kate Beckinsale) meeting Michael in a harbour, intent on escaping a human occupied city. Michael is a character from the previous movies who is Selene’s love interest and a Lycan, but his part is greatly reduced in this movie. Instead the main attention of the drama is Selene-centric, which is good, because Kate Beckinsale pulls off the character incredibly well, delivering a good action-focused female protagonist when there aren’t enough of them in theatres nowadays.

 Selene manages to survive the attack from the humans, but is captured and put into cyro-sleep. Twelve years later, she wakes up in an Antigen laboratory. Escaping, she encounters the Vampire David (Theo James) and they learn that the Vampires and Lycans have practically been eradicated from Earth. There may be hope however, for Selene and Michael’s child, Eve (India Eisley) – is alive and has been raised by Antigen. However, the Lycans want her dead, and only Selene and David may be able to keep her alive.

The movie has a relatively simple plot set against the backdrop of a three way war between Vampires, Lycans and Humans who are taking on all comers. It allows for some great action scenes and whilst there are no outright scares, this is a move that is certainly in the horror genre but the type where you go in expecting fun. I’ve already praised Kate Beckinsale’s performance but there’s also some good appearances by Charles Dance, (Tywin Lannister in Game of Thrones), and Michael Ealy (Dorian in the recently cancelled Almost Human) who add to some depth to the series, and I enjoyed seeing Ealy in the role as the Commissioner Gordon figure to Selene’s Batman, willing to help the vampire rescue her daughter.

The CGI is fairly solid, with some decent cinematography that creates a dark atmosphere over the whole movie, with barely any daylight scenes featured. Having not seen it in 3D I can tell however that there were several sequences that would have worked better in that format, but on the whole it really didn’t impact my enjoyment of the film.

The film itself is all about action and there are some good scenes in the movie. Nothing too standout and unfortunately the film doesn’t really do anything to make itself memorable as either a horror or action flick, being ultimately forgettable despite being relatively entertaining. It has however succeeded in getting me interest in the previous series, especially with claims that they are better than this movie.

For a 88 minute movie, it feels like a big budgeted TV episode rather than a film which is a shame given the potential of a three-way battle between the factions going on here, but this is what you have to expect from directors who are primarily known for their TV work. The CGI could also have been utilised better as well despite the relatively decent atmosphere created, and despite the fact that I may have found this film enjoyable I think the biggest problem is that it failed to live up to its premise. We get a very rushed opening that could have taken a whole movie to develop (The Vampire/Lycan Purge) as it seems to be the norm with prologues in genre movies nowadays.

So I can cautiously recommend this film. It’s a fun movie that’s enjoyable enough but not without its problems, and is probably better approached as a longer TV episode than a film. However, you may enjoy the flick, but don’t expect it to work miracles.


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