After a six-year absence from the franchise, Kate Beckinsale returns as one of her best characters, Selene the vampire warrior, in “Underworld: Awakening.” With new directors Måns Mårlind and Björn Stein at the helm — along with Len Wiseman, director of “Underworld” and “Underworld: Evolution,” on hand as writer and producer — we are being ushered back into a familiar world that has changed for us and its heroine. Can they re-ignite life into fans’ hearts and make us feel once again the amazement and excitement of seeing this “death dealer” back in action?
When we last saw Selene (Kate Beckinsale), she was on the run with her boyfriend Michael, who was the very first Vampire/Lycan (werewolf) hybrid. When the human race discovers the existence of these species, they start a “cleanse” worldwide to wipe out all of the “non-humans.” When an attempt to escape the clutches of the government task force goes wrong, Selene is captured and the next thing she knows, she is waking up in a lab called Antigen. Imagine her surprise to learn that she has been kept there for years. Her two most pressing questions are: who helped her escape and what has happened to Michael?
When she discovers that she was not alone in being kept in the facility, she goes on the hunt and finds a young hybrid child Eve (India Eisley). Knowing that she must protect this young scared girl, she goes on the run in this world that she no longer recognizes, where Lycans are said to be extinct and the few remaining Vampires have gone underground. She makes some new allies in a strongly-opinionated Vampire named David (Theo James) and police Det. Sebastian (Michael Ealy).
With these two new friends at her side, she is out to keep Eve safe and find some answers about what has happened to her and Michael all of these years that she was kept in an unconscious state. With the government and the domineering head of Antigen, Dr. Jacob Lane (Stephen Rea), searching for Selene and for Eve, they go on the run, but the authorities better watch out because Selene is a trained warrior and when she wants answers she will get them. A link between Selene and Eve drives her to know that there was much more going on at Antigen than what they say they do there, so she is out to find what it was and how to re-establish her place in a hostile world she no longer fits into.
It is true that Kate Beckinsale made this franchise into the phenomenon it has become. She is gorgeous, tough and pulls off this badass heroine action chick like no other. When she wasn’t in the prequel “”Underworld: Rise of the Lycans,” the film just didn’t feel right. So the fact that she has chosen to return should say something about this film. It’s action-packed, fun and the addition of really great 3D made it feel like a different experience. Besides Kate Beckinsale, there are no returning cast members from previous films, so it really is a chance for her to carry this films basic premise on her own.
As a whole, the film was good — but with a few key mistakes. First of all is the running time. The movie is barely 90 minutes and it feels like it was cut short on the storyline. Normally, I don’t complain about a movie’s length — unless it is incredibly long for no reason — but I feel like when the film ends that there was another 30 minutes needed to make the movie feel whole. Another mistake was choosing to focus on the character Michael when he isn’t in the film. I won’t spoil the movie, but they make you believe you see him in the film, but it is just some movie magic — you will get what I mean when you see the movie.
The action sequences in 3D were great and once again Kate Beckinsale proved how awesome she is. Theo James and Michael Ealy were great additions to the cast that proved to be compelling and genuine in the movie. With less Vampires and Lycans in the world, it was easier to focus on a few and really draw out their characters. India Eisley — who plays young Eve — was perfect for the role; innocent and yet vicious as a young hybrid who shows fear of the world, but proves to be vicious when she needs to protect Selene and her friends. The acting from the entire cast was top notch and was as expected for a film of this genre. “Underworld: Awakening” also stars Charles Dance, Sandrine Holt and Kris Holden-Ried.
Fans of the franchise will be excited to see the film and watch the story unravel, but the die-hard fans might be disappointed that there isn’t more story. As the first two films were centralized around Michael (Scott Speedman) and Selene’s relationship and how it was them against the world, it feels odd that there is constant mention of the character but he never was in the actual film. I’m not sure why Speedman chose not to be involved — or if it was even his choice — but while this film felt like a different movie, the constant mentions of that character left you feeling like he needed to be there.
Bottom line: “Underworld: Evolution” is a fun action movie that truly leaves you wanting more and while it might not satisfy everyone, it is still great to see Kate Beckinsale step into the rubber pants and trench coat once again. Who knows, maybe this is the launch of a whole new “Underworld” series?
“Underworld: Awakening” is rated R for strong graphic violence, gore and some mild language and is in theaters now.
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