Tuesday, 8 May 2012

04/05/2012: Underworld: Awakening [2012]

I must confess that I was sorely disappointed when, after a month of waiting, I realized that Underworld: Awakening was not going to come to my local theatre. However tonight I finally got a chance to watch it, just before it hits shelves. While it would have definitely been nice to see on the big screen, Awakening still kicks ass on the small one.

Since 2003, it has always seemed that there are two competing series in the action horror field: Resident Evil (2002) which was then challenged by Underworld in (2003). While Resident Evil is currently a movie ahead with the 5th, Retribution, coming out later this year, Underworld: Awakening still shows us that Kate Beckinsale can kick ass much ass as Mila Jovovich. One of the only problems with both series is that I feel like they keep building and building but we aren't getting any closer to an ending. While Awakening did nothing to change that, perhaps Retribution will put us a step in that direction.

It has been 6 years since the story of Selene (Beckinsale) has been on the screen, with Rise of the Lycans being a very pleasing break. However, it is about damn time we get to see where things are going, and in-case you've forgotten we get a quick recap at the beginning of the movie. What follows is then a glorious visual feast, that satisfies both us action movie fans while giving us fantasy fans a great world and us horror fans a nice bit of bloody violence. (yes I included myself in all three of those).

If I didn't feel it, I might jump off everything too, why take the stairs?
One of the most recognizable things I find about the Underworld series is that it has a distinct visual style. It likes the dark greenish-blue tones, and so do I. Complement it with a lot of rain, some white labs, and nice splashes of red and Underworld is a visual feast, like all action movies should be. I must say that when it comes to special effects, the Underworld series has been no slouch either, and Awakening's effects are beautiful and ghastly, werewolf transformations look great, as well as eyes, which are always key in Underworld. The blood and gore is not over-the-top but we do get a nice R-rating for the blood and violence.

While it contains both horror and fantasy elements in it's premise and story, Underworld has always been about the action. Awakening, doesn't let up for more than a few minutes, which while a flaw, means that we get a lot of ass kicking and vampire/lycan/human fighting going on. It also mixes the guns and grenades, with more advanced toys, and the more medieval ones. Awakening was released in 3D, and while I'm not a fan, this might not have been a bad one to see that way. I didn't notice anything that was obviously supposed to have been flying out of the screen at me, which means it probably kept things a little more subtle, at least I would hope.

Selene will either rip out your heart or squeeze it back to life.
I try not to compare this with Resident Evil again, but for some reason the two always compete in my mind. Of course one of the obvious similarities is their ass kicking female stars. Personally, while I enjoy Mila Jovovich in  RE, I'm not a fan of her in anything else really, nor do I find her as attractive as anyone says she is. Kate Beckinsale on the other hand always seems good if underused, and is as always drop-dead gorgeous, in Underworld it is probably those beautiful blue eyes.

As I said before however, the story is where Awakening is weakest. I wouldn't say it dropped the ball. Honestly, Underworld never picked it up, and has been kinda fumbling it along the whole while. The world of Underworld is fantastic, and greatly developed,  we know the rules, the traditions and the history. It is a horror fantasy lovers dream, featuring a war between lycans and vampires, hidden from humans until this installment. It is the personal story of Selene which I think is lacking development. We keep discovering new hybrids and abilities, and Selene and Micheal's relationship has developed, but where is it all going? Awakening teases us with the idea that the vampires and lycans have been revealed, but then doubles back to its standard hybrid story. In the end, we get just enough to make us continue craving the next movie, which there probably will be.

He huffed and puffed, and then just shook off that wall of lead you just put in him.
Overall Underworld: Awakening is a solid and strong addition to the series. It improves on everything the series has always had while still suffering from a a few of the same weak points. Sometimes I wonder if the saga is dead. It seemed to me that we no longer have any 8-10 movie long series like they did in the 80's. Then I thought, those movies didn't all come out a once did they, we didn't go to the first movie and already know there would be another 8 to follow. With 4 movies under its world, and no sign of rapping up, Underworld might just be one of those good old sagas you can't just sit down and watch in a night, you'll need the day.

The only other complaint I had was that the movie is only about an hours and nineteen minutes before the credits role. If HBO can turns out a solid 56 minutes episode weakly, you could have given me a bit more than 79 minutes. I might be a little sore if you make me wait another three years for the next installment in Underworld, as seems to be the pattern they've followed at this point. Otherwise I am more than pleased with what they gave me, I was so pleased I came and wrote this right away, instead of procrastinating a few days. You better not procrastinate another three years, unless it is to let Kate Beckinsale do the Van Helsing reboot, but I'll discuss that another time, give me a shout if you want me to get into it now.

Bonus: in the credits Subject 2 is names Eve.

Underworld: Awakening IMDb

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