Opening with a three-minute reminder of where we’ve been with the previous installments, Underworld Awakening, rather surprisingly, soon ditches its celebrated mythology of werewolf vs. vampire and lets the human beings weigh in on the bloody war between the fangs. Threatened by their unholy existence, it is safe to assume that we don’t like them. At all. Yes, the humans have stopped killing each other and have turned their collective attention to wiping the planet clean of pesky leather-wearing vampires and hairy-hooved werewolves. Turns out, at least in this reality, we never got that certain Twilight fever…
Welcome to the future, Selene.
Written by Len Wiseman, John Hlavin, J. Michael Straczynski, and Allison Burnett, Underworld Awakening opens twelve years after the events of Underworld: Evolution and jettisons our beloved Death Dealer, Selene (Kate Beckinsale), into the future after what is now known by creature denizen survivors as “the Purge”. It's a hollow future; one without Michael Corvin (Scott Speedman, who does not return for this one) and soon-to-be discovered daughter Eve (India Eisley). Scratching your head? Don't. Uncovering the mysteries of the future and what has happened to Michael is what the film covers and Selene, being the wicked hybrid immortal that she is, quickly discovers exactly why she has been kept frozen and what that means to vampire and lycan alike.
Topping itself with moments of dynamic acrobatics and sheer theatrical badassdom, Underworld Awakening streamlines itself without the logic that grounded and guided the previous entries and makes for a brevity that its snazzy 3D conversion tries to cover. It doesn’t and, yes, we notice. Flash and dash aerials swell our eyes...
…the brain eventually catches up. Light and forgettable, Underworld Awakening puts fury first and comes off as a favorable mess.
The cast swells, too. With the inclusion of Stephen Rea, Theo James, and Charles Dance, Underworld Awakening keeps adding to its impressive list of British actors (previously we had Michael Sheen, Bill Nighy, Derek Jacobi) who are more than willing to sink their teeth into its pulpy mass (or mess). Of course, that’s one of the fun factors of this on-going series. Who’d they get this time? It’s the Harry Potter of Vampire lore…or something sticky like that. This time, though, American actor Michael Ealy gets a chance to make his character, Detective Sebastion, who discovers the whole truth of the shadowy human conspiracy, a lasting part of the Underworld franchise.
With snappy (and shallow) 3D direction from the Swedish duo of Måns Mårlind and Björn Stein (Shelter), the film zips along at a pulse-pounding pace and, of course, takes itself far too seriously at times. To be fair, the movie does allow for a bit of humor to creep in, you just have to recognize it as such. We chuckle at the convenience of placement when Selene’s tight-fitting leather outfit is discovered next to her cryogenic prison (waiting there all this time? Impossible). Then we quickly move along. Yet, to be a part of the franchise, the film has to be as moody as a pair of hybrid eyes and it, too, deals out atmosphere with a heavy hand.
Depending on your view on the importance of the mythology, Underworld Awakening could be your favorite of the four or the least liked. Myself, I found its briskness to be a bit of a relief after the myth-soaked richness of the last installment. Certainly, there are fair criticisms to have about its single-minded production and overall ultraviolet sleekness, but Underworld Awakening captures what the series has always been aiming for: popcorn B-movie escapism at its supernaturally bloodiest with only the tiniest of earthly parallels.
And, if the ending is any sort of hint, the fifth film will finally bring about a conclusion to these future shocked supernatural events. Blow out the torches. Put away the stakes. Underworld isn’t ready for the lynch mob just yet…
...Selene and company will return.
MPAA Rating: R for strong violence and gore, and for some language.
Director: Måns Mårlind, Björn Stein
Writer: Len Wiseman, John Hlavin
Cast: Kate Beckinsale; Stephen Rea; Theo James; Michael Ealy; India Eisley
Genre: Action | Fantasy | Horror
Tagline: Vengeance Returns
Memorable Movie Quote: "Today is the day that will change the course of the war."
Distributor: Screen Gems
Official Site: entertheunderworld.com
Release Date: January 20, 2010
DVD/Blu-ray Release Date: May 8, 2012
Synopsis: The vampire warrioress Selene, escapes imprisonment to find herself in a world where humans have discovered the existence of both Vampire and Lycan clans and are conducting an all-out war to eradicate both immortal species.
Available on Blu-ray - May 8, 2012
Screen Formats: 2.40:1
Subtitles: English, English SDH, French, Spanish
Audio: English: DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1; French: DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1
Discs: 50GB Blu-ray Disc; Single disc (1 BD); UV digital copy; Bonus View (PiP)
Encoding: Region free
The slick and smooth feel of Underworld: Awakening carries over onto the video transfer. Captured in 1080p, the blues and blacks of the color tone are intense and full of supple detail as well as black leather skin-tight shine. You know what to expect if you’ve ever graced your blu-ray player with an Underworld title. Blacks are dynamic and hold their shape in shadow. Blues are cool and rich and amazingly the only light you need. Occasionally, the splash of crimson blood casts a new color onto the screen. As per design, skin tones are effectively bleached to a cold color for the undead and a pale wash for the humans. Contrast is sharp and reveals great depth and detail. The sound is also a heroic release. The DTS-HD MA 7.1 lossless soundtrack is so rich in design that it damn near breathes. With sonic kicks and punches, Sony offers a whole new level of excitement into the film simply with the element of sound.
- Look what happens when your film makes money! You get a commentary track. Here, with directors Måns Mårlind and Björn Stein talk, you listen. Their excitement about the film is palpable. Joined by Producers Richard Wright and Gary Lucchesi and Visual Effects Supervisor James McQuaide, this five-member panel talks at length about story, visuals, shooting in 3D, and where the story can go in this impressive commentary track.
The supplemental material definitely does not disappoint. While no one comments on why Scott Speedman didn’t reprise his role in the series (enquiring minds want to know), the featurettes cover all angles of the film’s making. Bringing Selene back, the look of the modern world in the film, the design of the Lycans, the story and its future, and the actual locations of the shooting are all topics detailed by the actors, directors, and those begind-the-sceen members that brought the film together. Also included is a blooper reel and super smart Picture-in-Picture feature where trivia, pieces of history about the series pop up throughout. A UV Digital Copy of the film is also included.
- Selene Rises (12 min)
- Casting the Future of Underworld (12 min)
- Resuming the Action (9 min)
- Building a Better Lycan (11 min)
- Awakening a Franchise, Building a Better World (19 min)
- Blooper Reel (3 min)
- Lacey Sturm Music Video (4 min)