dir: Mans Marlind, Bjorn Stein
A fourth Underworld flick? Who clamoured for that? The first three didn’t bring enough shiteness into the world?
In writing this review, I'm probably going to reveal slightly more about myself than I should. Any long time reader would have to know already, considering the sheer quantity of reviews contained herein, that I'm both compulsive and not that bright. To see the Self-Prosecution’s Exhibit A of damning evidence of this, I present to you this shameful admission: I've watched all of the Underworld vampire/werewolf flicks in the cinema.
Why? Not as in, why am I admitting this, since I'm obviously doing so because I think it's got some mysterious relevance to the flick being reviewed right here. Why have I watched all of these flicks in the cinema, despite the fact that the first one was terrible and deeply leotarded to a degree previously unfathomed, and the others haven't been much better? Why, since I can't stand Kate Beckinsale, and think she's the acting equivalent of a tranquilizer smeared all over beige wallpaper? Why, when too many stupid vampire/werewolf movies and series have permanently poisoned the well, to the point where the whole genre should be off-limits for me?
I dunno. I just don't know. I'm just compulsive about some things, and I have no excuse. Maybe not watching them is impossible, conflicting as it does with my obvious obssessive/compulsive disorder. Or maybe I'm just a bigger fuckhead than I previously ever dreamed. Either way, it reflects poorly upon me, for which I wish I could blame Society. That's it, Society is to blame, not me. Or maybe drinking, who knows
I remember the first Underworld flick, which, apart from having a convoluted and interminable plot, cheap approximations of effects pioneered by The Matrix, and a central performance contributed by a mannequin with scoliosis called Kate Beckinsale, was not something I enjoyed. At all. On any level. It was too boring to be appreciated on a 'so-bad-it's-good' level, and too teeth-grindingly acted to be any kind of guilty pleasure.
The second one was just as bad, but decided to cut down on the deathly talking scenes, and upped the amount of action and carnage. Which, in some alternate reality, is a good thing(?). With the third one, they thought retelling Romeo and Juliet with vampires and werewolves hadn't been done enough in the first two flicks, so they had to do it all over again. In the past! Making it a period piece, of sorts. How exquisite.
The fourth one says, with a quiet poetry, "Fuck all that shit", pares down the running time to the absolute bare minimum, being 75 minutes, has a plot and actors utterly perplexed with what's going on around them, and has lots and lots of action scenes. I won't pretend that it’s better or worse than anything else, because the only thing, the only goddamn thing that this series of movies has going for it is Kate Beckinsale in PVC and leather shooting guns at people and werewolves and floors and ceilings, but I will say that it’s still awful, but at least it's not one of the Twilight films.
Selene (Beckinsale) is a vampire, and an even more special than that vampire, called a Death Dealer. This means she's good at killing vampires, werewolves (here called Lycans) or humans, which you wouldn't think is that hard. She and the rest of the menagerie used to live in a world like ours except it was ignorant of their existence. Also, that 'world' looks mostly like a post-Soviet Eastern European dystopia, mostly because I think they were filming on the cheap in Bulgaria or wherever. She was captured and put on ice for twelve long years. Not a thousand years, but twelve. How much more thrilling would Futurama have been if a vampire came out of the cryogenic tube rather than Fry?
When she wakes up, she kills a whole bunch of people because she hasn't taken kindly to being experimented on and such by lab monkey humans. It's very impolite, at the very least. She goes back to the spot at the docks where she was last awake, and only then figures out that lots of time has passed. She seeks her lover Michael (the digitally super-imposed face of Scott Speedman, who wisely chose not to be in this movie), but he is nowhere to be found.
Some more stuff happens, then some more stuff happens, and then she has a daughter. A daughter! A daughter?
It's instantly supposed to make a character more likable and relatable, when they out-of-nowhere discover that they have a child, that they have to looooooooove. Did anyone really ever want to care with pathos more about the protagonist of a vampire / werewolf / action movie? Did she need to be, stop laughing, humanised? Oh my various gods: That's hilarious!
The child, like all children, is a combination of her mother (a vampire) and father (vampire/werewolf/former teen heart throb). How she actually came to be, as far as I can remember, wasn't explained. We can assume that something was taken from mamma, and something from daddy in the lab, and put together in a petri dish, but honestly, it doesn't matter. A wizard did it, we could assume, and it carries as much weight. The head scientist (Stephen Rea) doesn't care about anything other than extracting organs and genetic stuff from the girl. But the girl, who intentionally or unintentionally looks like the fearsome Sadako from the Ring movies, can rip people's heads in half. Still, despite being superpowered, she simpers and whimpers whenever Mummy is around.
[img_assist|nid=1587|title=I'm chaffing ever so terribly, hence the wide stance|desc=|link=none|align=right|width=449|height=253]
The facist human authorities think they've wiped out all the vampires across the world, or at least across Sweden, which is where I'm guessing this flick was filmed. Still, they have a detective (Michael Ealy, who deserves better), who spontaneously starts helping out Selene. The point of the flick is something about the werewolves trying to make themselves immune to silver, and Selene killing everyone who gets between her and the child she adores.
Being a deeply neurotic, I often feel useless and unneeded emotions for people who couldn't care less, being these actors. I feel bad for Charles Dance, who deserves better, as some vampire leader pacifist. I feel bad for Michael Ealy, who looks the most confused of anyone in the flick. But I don't feel bad for anyone else. Kate Beckinsale may think and act like she's slumming by being in these flicks, but this is all she's got. If she stopped appearing in these stunted but successful action flicks, no-one would remember what she was for or what purpose she served in this world. To say that she is as unconvincing here as she ever is would be to miss the point: a lot of people, inexplicably to my mind, find her entrancing in her corset, long coat, big boots and long coat. And they pay money to see her kill monsters and people, where most of the work is done by the effects team working on computers. That the CGI looks crappy also kind of misses the point, because I guess it doesn't matter if it looks cheap; that way it's perfectly in alignment with all other aspects of the enterprise.
The person, contradicting something I wrote not two sentences ago, I feel the worst for is Wes Bentley. Wes Bentley is probably not a household name anymore, not that he ever was. But people might remember him from the pinnacle of his career, which was when he starred as Ricky in American Beauty, as the neighbourly pot dealer who nails Spacey's daughter, and gives the monologue about the plastic bag caught in the updraft.
And now? Now he's getting a few seconds of work in mediocrities where his death is a punchline delivered by Kate "It's rather not easy acting in all this get up" Beckinsale.
It's shite, but when you expect something to be shite, you're not as disappointed, I find. Some of the action was entertaining enough, and I didn't mind the action at the end, which was reasonably well done, in a hacky way.
Other than that, bring on Underworld 5, that's what I say! And if Selene could get to kill the cast of Twilight, I'll buy a million tickets.
5 times Kate, like her character, doesn't seem to have aged in the last twelve years either out of 10
"But I let you go!"
- "And now I'm returning the favour." - a line Arnie would be proud of - Underworld: Awakening