Movie Review: Underworld Awakening

When a trilogy has been solid, I’m not a fan of its creator’s taking a stab at a fourth film, just for the sake of making money.  But when the third movie in the franchise is a prequel, such as the case in the Underworld trilogy (i.e. movie #3, Underworld: Rise of the Lycans), there’s a great reason for a fourth. Especially when the second movie leaves fans with so many questions left unanswered, as was the case with movie #2, Underworld Evolution.

What happened after Selene, our favorite ass kicking vampire Death Dealer (played by the luscious Kate Beckinsale), and her hybrid paramour Michael Corvin (played by the equally eye pleasing Scott Speedman) eliminated Marcus and William, the original vampire and lycan, and also, found love with one another? Was a new war started? Could a hybrid child be next? And, further, did Selene have a new power thanks to gift given to her by the father of them all, Alexander Corvinus – his blood? She was standing in the sun at the end of movie #2 after all and didn’t burst into flames, so one can only wonder.

Fans begged for answers to these and other questions for years, but were left without when movie #3 came out in 2009 and took the prequel route, exploring instead, the root of the vampire/lycan war.

Thankfully, one of the most common questions among fans “what if Selene and Michael had a child?” turned out to be the basis for the franchise’s fourth film, and when news hit online last year it was scheduled for release early 2012, tongues wagged and fans anxiously awaited the sequel.

I was one of them.

As I’ve said before, the Underworld movies are some of my favorites. Not just vampire-based, but movies in general.  I love the story, the surprising complexities of the characters, and the look and feel of the world Len Wiseman and Danny McBride created. Therefore I was ecstatic when the Underworld Awakening trailer began to appear in theaters, and couldn’t wait to see it.

It’s been a week since I saw Underworld Awakening, so I have to apologize for the delay in post. I’ve been sick and well, no one writes well when sick. But I will admit I saw it as soon as it arrived in theaters last Friday and despite its slightly different look and feel from the first three films, I enjoyed it, and glad to see from what I can tell, the franchise may actually going into reboot mode, with another two sequels planned (rumored). The ending certainly left room for a sequel so let’s hope that’s the plan and they make up for some of what this movie lacked.

There were some distinct differences in this fourth installment, compared to the first three films. The look and feel is one of the biggest. True, the story takes place 12 years after the end of the second movie, in a world that has learned about the existence of vampires and lycans and essentially, purged them from existence therefore making it a world that isn’t quite as dark, hidden and well “under.”  The movie at the beginning also quickly glazed over the 12 years between movie #2 and #4.  What did the world look like when humans found out about vampires and lycans? How did they find out? This content itself would have made an awesome movie.  And while the action is just as intense and some say even more graphic, it looks somewhat juvenile, lacking the medieval feel and sophistication fans came to know and love in the first three films. New directors (Måns Mårlind and Björn Stein) were tasked with Underworld Awakening’s new look and feel, and while I don’t want to give them TOO bad a time, their inexperience (most of their work on Swedish television) showed and didn’t make as solid a sequel as it could have been.

At the end of the day however, it was a thrill for me to finally see another installment of one of my favorite movie franchises.  But while I loved the story line, I think it fell a bit flat. There was so much they could have explored. How about the primal bond between a mother and her child –a bond that has been tampered with when the mother has been held captive for twelve years, completely unaware she even has a daughter? I also missed Michael (Scott Speedman) and hope he returns if they do indeed move ahead with a fifth and sixth film. Also, I’d like to see the vampire/lycan war return, with those pesky little humans more in the background.

So much that can be done with the characters and world of Underworld, and I hope they continue for another film or two. Resident Evil sure seems to find itself making sequel after sequel. For now however, I will keep watching my  copy of the Underworld trilogy and when this newest movie hits DVD, I’ll buy it, too. A fan is a fan, after all.

Side note – did I go home and watch the first three again? What do you think. And what do you think I am watching right now…

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