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Underworld Evolution

dir: Len Wiseman
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Evolution, if we are to believe in Darwin’s satanically inspired theory, occurs incrementally over a great amount of time, resulting in minute changes on the micro level, and new species on the macro level. But over a great expanse of time.

The only connection the term ‘evolution’ has with this vampire / werewolf action flick, Underworld: Evolution, is that as if by a miracle, this sequel is better than the original film. The improvement, however, is tiny, almost invisible to the naked eye, and, like changes in species, will require millions of years before it really matters.

No ‘evolution’ of any sort occurs in this film, as far as I can tell. Wiseman and screenwriter Danny McBride go to extraordinary lengths to embellish the backstory they created in the first one, with painstaking attempts at linking everything and avoiding obvious plotholes and continuity mistakes. Really, they spent a great deal of time on the script.

But so fucking what? It’s a stupid story anyway.

Continuing on directly from the first Underworld, Selene (Kate Beckinsale) a vampire who’s thrown her clan into disarray by killing one of their elders, is on the run with a vampire / werewolf hybrid called Michael (Scott Speedman). Her previous idiotic antagonist, Kraven, (Shane Brolly) wants to raise the last of the elders, Marcus (Tony Curran) from hibernation. He wants to kill him in order to become the uncontested leader of their little vampire clan. But Marcus, who apparently is the Original Vampire, has other plans.

Marcus wishes to release his brother William, the Original Werewolf (Brian Steele) from centuries – old captivity, so they can go out, for steaks, beers and bitches, presumably.

So Selene and Michael have to stop them. Or else.

Beckinsale is as lifeless and wooden in this as she was in the first. Considering the fact that she goes out with the director, you’d have thought she could convince him to let her act. She can. I’ve seen her do it. Honest.

She does have a decent bunch of action scenes, which are mostly CGI. Which reminds me, despite the dense plotting, the best level that this movie works on is purely as an action film. It doesn’t have the inspiration or the talents involved for a genuinely awesome action fest, but it’s a solid enough mainstream action film.

The other stuff is window dressing. The fact that the majority of the characters are werewolves or vampires is irrelevant. That’s just their team affiliation. There’s no subtext, allegory, thematic elements, or insight into their existence, so there’s no real substance.

But I doubt anyone’s looking for substance here anyway. What they want is a tiny slip of a girl walking around in latex suits and leather corsets, fucking shit up old school.

And that’s what they get. The action is substantially better in this sequel, and the makers have wisely made the decision to trim the movie down to a respectable 100 or so minutes, unlike the two ponderous, painful hours of the first. Still, it’s too long by at least twenty minutes.

Still, there are mysteries that don’t get solved, which still bug me. The biggest mystery is what Derek Jacobi is doing in this film. It’s on a par with Dame Judi Dench turning up in the Pitch Black sequel The Chronicles of Riddick, alongside, of all the meatbags on this planet, Vin Diesel.

I suspect someone went up to Jacobi with a tan coloured sack with a big green dollar sign painted on the side, stuffed to overflowing. You can see why a producer would want someone of that calibre in one of their genre flicks. It has a way of confusing potential audiences into thinking “Well, if an actor knighted by the Queen for their services to the theatre is in it, it can’t be all bad.” What a brilliant, devious, and thoroughly fucked up plan.

It’s no guarantee of quality, of course. In fact, their presence, especially in roles which amount to little more than cameos, signals a filmmaker’s desperate scrambling for credibility.

Jacobi, though he does get to wear some lovely gothic brocaded jackets, and deliver his dialogue like he’s playing Claudius in Hamlet again, or Claudius in I, Claudius, for that matter, looks as confused as we are as to his presence in the film. I hope he got well paid in cocaine and rentboys for his services.

The other great mystery to me, apart from what the makers think evolution has to do with the film, is how the story is set in the Czech Republic, or some Eastern European country, yet the leads only speak English unless they have to interact with the local peasants or the militia (who wear Soviet-like uniforms). I was under the mistaken impression that the first one existed in some almost alternate reality Earth where it was perpetually night and everything had that grimy post-Berlin Wall Fall look.

I see now that I was grossly mistaken. Apparently, the entirety of the first interminable film occurred over the duration of one night. In this one, the sun also rises. And vampires don’t like sunlight, or more correctly, sunlight doesn’t like them.

The plot, though overdone and convoluted, doesn’t really make much sense all the same. There’s nothing to really care about. As a supposed villain, Marcus is quite ugly and fearsome, but as for any believable motivation or threat to his actions, I didn’t really get it. And having the idea of a build up to a really bad Big Bad Werewolf which is a guy in a suit was a total fizzer.

And though I won’t spoil the ending, the makers want to have it both ways. They represent or imply a cataclysmic change, but then have Selene, in a voice-over, indicate the complete opposite of that, so they can leave the option open for further sequels.

As if the world, the very earth itself was crying out for a sequel in the first place.

Still, I surprised myself by not hating it as much as I thought it would. I thought the first film, to use the appropriate Shakespearian quote, sucked copious quantities of dog’s balls, but I didn’t hate this one. It’s shot with the same blue, metallic monochrome throughout, no character does or says anything of much consequence or humour, and I left the theatre none the wiser or more entertained than when I entered it.

But it’s not too bad. Fans of the first one (and I know of only two at this stage) might really enjoy it. People who don’t generally like vampire films, who just want to see an action film with lots of cheap CGI, and who mostly breathe through their mouths might think it’s actually quite entertaining.

And they do say that such people are born every minute.

Sandro – 6 times you might wonder why a director would be happy to film his wife having a sex scene with another guy, and show her shaved pubic region multiple times, but be reluctant to show any other part of her anatomy out of 10

“Michael, you’re a hybrid, like nothing ever before.” Selene - shucks, I bet you say that to all the guys – Underworld: Evolution