The vampires and werewolves are at it again in Underworld: Awakening, the fourth film in the Underworld franchise. Why can’t those crazy monsters just get along?
Kate Beckinsale reprises her role as the vampire Selene, everybody’s favorite blue-eyed Death Dealer. This time she’s separated from her half-werewolf lover and ends up saddled with a mysterious 12 year-old girl named Eve, who is on the run from the werewolves because of some secret that is easy to guess. As with the previous Underworld films, Selene mostly just does a lot of jumping and posing and yoga, surely, to fit into that tight leather outfit.
The screenplay, written by a committee including J. Michael Straczyski, keeps things simple and tight. The slick, slow-motion action sequences are broken up by a few moments of computer-generated gore and even fewer moments of actual plot. Backstory is scarce – just enough for us to get up to speed on who’s who, but not much on why we should care.
The film is subtitled “Awakening” because Selene has spent 12 years on ice, and she wakes to find the world transformed. In truth, I was intrigued by the film’s premise that humans have discovered the existence of vampires and werewolves and have instigated a war to eradicate them both. This sounds like a good start, as the whole battle between vampires and werewolves has gotten a little stale in the Underworld world. I mean, how many different ways can Kate Beckinsale unload twin machine guns at the same howling, growling werewolves? Bring on some fresh meat, I say.
But alas, that premise is really just the film’s quick-and-dirty introduction. This is not a movie about a war between humans, vampires and werewolves, so don’t be fooled. Underworld: Awakening shrinks things way, way down, focusing instead on a few vampires and werewolves to survive the “purge” by the humans. The vampires now hide in small groups under the watch of British-accented vampire leaders. They all look tragic and goth in candlelit caverns and we don’t care a whit about any of them. The werewolves have apparently taken to the sewers to hide from the humans… or have they?
Apart from Selene’s near-constant running and gunning, she doesn’t seem to have much to say – and neither does the movie itself. Selene has only a handful of lines and spends most of her screen time (when she isn’t killing something in slow motion) glowering through the gap in her dark hair. There is one nice moment where Selene tries to connect with the mysterious 12 year-old hybrid, Eve, played by India Eisley. But the scene is so brief that it might as well not exist. It certainly doesn’t expand on the story or characters much. The film spends more time showing the vampires cutting their wrists than it does giving these characters any sense of depth.
If you liked the other Underworld movies, or you have a certain affinity for vampire fiction, then you’re going to get what you pay for here. There’s plenty of guns shooting and werewolves growling and vampires bleeding. Really, this chapter in the Underworld franchise is just more of the same, right down to Kate Beckinsale’s outfit. Don’t expect much and you won’t be disappointed when you don’t get much.