Underworld: Awakening (2012)


My Heart is Not Cold.  It’s Broken

It’s taken us a long time to get to this point.  At the time of the writing of this review, it’s been almost a week since I saw today’s movie.  I had prepared for my vacation by readying a week of reviews for you, my audience.  While on my vacation, I saw two movies in the theaters.  Today’s movie, to me, required that I review three movies before this one could come out.  And now I’m beginning to wonder if I’ll remember this movie well enough to write a review about it.  Well, I took a great deal of notes during the movie, so we’ll find out.  And, now that we’re all caught up with the story of these movies, and all caught up with the story of me reviewing this movie, I present to you my review of Underworld: Awakening, written by Allison Burnett and Kevin Grevioux, directed by Mans Marlind and Bjorn Stein, and (back in beautiful, skintight glory) Kate Beckinsale, as well as India Eisley, Stephen Rea, Theo James, Michael Ealy, Charles Dance, Kris Holden-Ried, and Sandrine Holt.

Six months after the events of Underworld: Evolution, humans have decided that they are not getting enough action in this vampire/werewolf war, so they start killing both of them.  Selene (Kate Beckinsale) decides that she does not enjoy being killed that much, so she takes her boyfriend/hybrid Michael Corvin (Scott Speedman?) to get the Hell out of Dodge.  The humans have other ideas.  They attack them at the docks and both are seemingly killed.  Instead of being dead, they wanted to make a movie longer than 5 minutes.  Something called “Subject 2” releases Selene from a cryo-prison, but does not stick around long enough to show her how to use the three seashells.  Following her natural curiosity, Selene eventually finds out that Subject 2 is a hybrid, much like Michael, and is also a little girl, much like Michael.  This little girl, Eve (India Eisley), is apparently, and inexplicably, the child of Selene and Michael.  Also, the scientists that were holding them want them back, so they have that to worry about too.

I kinda dug this movie.  The story is nothing to write home about, and probably wasn’t anything that really needed to be written down in the first place, but it was and it was fine.  It seemed like a lot of the story of the movie was decided on based strictly on the fact that Scott Speedman wasn’t going to be back.  This caused them to do as much as possible to keep him out of the story but possibly still alive so that he could still be a driving factor of the movie.  At first he’s alive, then he might be dead.  Then Selene is seeing visions through someone’s eyes and she’s all “Oh, he might be alive.”  Then she finds out it’s their daughter and she’s like “Oh, he might not be alive.”  Then there’s a facility where they were being held, and he might be alive again.  They decided to replace him with a little girl, and if I hadn’t just watched the first three movies, I wouldn’t have known the difference.  Parts of this movie seemed to just serve to waste time.  Somewhere in the middle, they’re in a vampire coven and the elder doesn’t like Selene and Eve being there.  He makes that clear from the start, but they still decide to randomly throw in a scene of the elder stopping Eve in the hallway and saying “I know what you are and I don’t want you here.”  Complete waste of our time as an audience.  I imagine that the real reason anyone actually watched this movie would be the action, and it’s pretty damned solid in that category.  The movie is pretty solid action for the first and the last thirds of the movie, wasting very little time on story.  The middle third is probably a little story heavy and action light, so you may get bored around that point.  But you should only go into these movies looking for some fun action anyway, so you get that, and should be happy with it.  There are some really good graphics to be found in this movie, but at least one glaring problem: the little hybrid girl.  It could’ve been done creepy, but it ended up just looking like a vaguely creepy goth girl.  She did the occasional badass thing, like ripping a werewolf in half, but the look never allowed me to be won over.  I got confused when the gigantic werewolf showed up, wondering if that was going to end up being a sumo wrestler or Shaquille O’Neal turned Lycan, but it was explained to me later.  Later in the movie, when Selene shoulder tackles a van onto it’s side, I wrote “Fuck yeah!” in my notes immediately.  It made me think about that story about a human mother being able to lift a bus to save her child, then I started wondering what that meant Selene would be able to do to save her child.  There’s the answer.  And if you also wondered what the inside of a throat looks like, you can have that question answered here as well.

The performances are much as you’ve come to see from the previous encounters with these characters.  Kate Beckinsale is still cold as ice as Selene, but has a few moments where you feel bad for her because she’s struggling to be able to connect with her daughter while simultaneously being a badass.  And she does indeed pull badass off, like few other women can.  Also, let’s face it, most of us guys watched these movies to see her running around in skintight leather.  Many worse things have been captured on film than Kate Beckinsale wearing skintight leather, filmed from behind.  Of course, they kind of shit on that in a couple of places by making her put on a trenchcoat.  Not cool, guys!  India Eisley did well enough, and it wasn’t her fault that the effects they used for her never really worked.  The rest of the cast never really did anything to grab my attention.  They didn’t do anything to bog down the movie, but never really elevated it either.  The biggest problem I had with the cast was Scott Speedman.  What’s this guy doing that he can’t come back for the movie?  Being some secondary part in a Rachel McAdams/Channing Tatum joint, that’s what.  Fuck that noise!  You could’ve at least been a main character in a movie that tends to make a good deal of money and has a strong cult following.  Instead you’re in The Vow, that didn’t even crack 30% on Rotten Tomatoes.  Unless you’re fucking Rachel McAdams, I am not down with that decision at all.

We have finally reached the end of the Underworld, at least for now.  Instead of finding Satan frozen in ice as Dante did, we find a solid action flick that is worth the price of admission.  The story won’t really shock you or stick with you in any meaningful way, but there is definitely some action worth seeing in this flick.  When it comes out, I’ll feel comfortable purchasing the tetralogy on BluRay.  Before that time comes, I’m comfortable saying you’ll find this to be a pretty fun time at the theaters.  Underworld: Awakening gets “This is a new war and it’s only beginning” out of “Consider us even.”

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Underworld: The Rise of the Lycans (2009)


This is Just the Beginning

Further deeper into the Underworld we go, this time arriving at a movie I distinctly remember not liking, so much so that my OCD-like compulsions did not force me to complete the series for my DVD racks.  Everything about the movie would lead one to believe that this movie would be the worst of the three.  Not only was the previous director not on board, but the previous star decided against returning this time around.  They did manage to get someone that could pass for Kate Beckinsale if you didn’t look too hard, but they made her a somewhat secondary character in the movie.  All that being true, my memory is completely shit, so I needed to watch this movie again to be able to make any claims on it’s quality.  Now that I have, let’s see what I thought about Underworld: The Rise of the Lycans, written by Dirk Blackman, Howard McCain, and the wrong Danny McBride, directed by Patrick Tatopoulos, and starring Michael Sheen, Bill Nighy, Rhona Mitra, Steven Mackintosh, Kevin Grevioux, and Tania Nolan.

The events of the film happen well before we met Selene, back in the beginning of the war between vampires and werewolves.  Apparently, it all started when a girl who couldn’t act fell in love with a pasty sparklefart of a vampire and a Lycan with sweet abs.  No resolution could be reached and war broke out.  Oh wait, that’s a different movie.  This war is started because the first werewolf, William, has created an army of savage werewolves, unable to return to human form, and the vampires must defend themselves from the onslaught of werewolves.  This movie focuses on Lucian (Michael Sheen), the first werewolf born with the ability to return to human form.  They use Lucian to make other Lycans that can become human and turn them into slave labor, keeping them from turning Lycan with the help of a spiked collar, most of which say “Fido” or “Rex”.  Over time, Lucian begins a secret relationship with the daughter of the vampire elder, Viktor (Bill Nighy), a Beckinsale-esque girl named Sonja (Rhona Mitra).  This sort of relationship is what you might call “frowned upon”.  Adding to the problems they already have, Lucian gets pretty fond of this idea of “freedom”.  Viktor is every bit as keen on this idea as he would be of the idea that his pet is giving the red rocket to his daughter.  If we’ve already watched the other movies, we have a pretty good idea of where this is headed.

It apparently happens at least once in everyone’s lifetime, but I found that I was wrong on this day.  I actually enjoyed Underworld 3, possibly even more than I liked 1 and 2.  It was sort of a mix between things I liked about the first two movies: Underworld had a better story, but was light on action, whereas Underworld 2 didn’t have a great story, but did have more interesting action.  This movie satisfied me on both fronts.  The story was pretty interesting, and the action was good as well.  But I am man enough to admit that I’ve been wrong one time in my lifetime, so there it is.  Much better than I remembered it.  The story seemed to have mashed up elements of better stories.  It had a quasi-Romeo and Juliet, star crossed lovers business in there, it had a quasi-Braveheart fight for freedom thing (minus the antisemitism), and it had a quasi-The Crow revenge for dead loves plot.  Yeah, I could’ve warned against spoilers there, but they totally showed it in the first movie, so fuck off.  The story all worked for me, but it probably did suffer a little bit from the fact that I had just watched Underworld and was just waiting for all the things I knew were going to happen.  It did a great job fitting into the continuity that was laid out in the other films, but it also kind of hurt itself by allowing us to know exactly how the story turned out.  As with many movies, there were parts of the story that never really made sense to me.  The first one was the fact that they wanted these Lycans for their slaves, and to protect them during the day, but they wouldn’t allow them to turn into Lycans and use their real strength.  I understand that they’d be stronger and harder to control then, but why not just enslave humans then?  Why risk it in the first place?  Also, Viktor is given the chance to promote Lucian beyond his station, but turns it down, even though that course of action would clearly make things easier for everyone to deal with.  The biggest problem with the movie was the romantic relationship, but only because it was teetering dangerously close to bestiality.  The action was also very good in this movie, showcasing a good couple of pretty sweet battles between vampires and Lycans.  I especially liked the use of the giant ballistas when they pinned people against walls.

For the most part, any decisions you made about the performances of characters from the previous movies can be transferred over to this movie.  Michael Sheen becomes the star of this movie, and pulls it off very well.  He can do the action scenes, but dude can also act.  The terrible grief Lucian is going through as he watches his lady burn alive is very evident.  Possibly a better performance than this movie had comin’, but whatcha gonna do?  Rhona Mitra throws out the performance you would probably expect in that she doesn’t really impress.  She’s an attractive lady and all, but I couldn’t get over the distinct feeling that there was a good chance she was Steven Tyler.  I don’t have any proof for that … yet.  Bill Nighy’s performance was much better in this movie, not because he’s not a good actor, but the previous movies didn’t really require that much out of him.  He has a great bit of emotion over sentencing his daughter to death that I liked very much.  He’s still too old to really hold his own in the fight scenes though.  I got excited at one part because they had him put on a helmet that covered his face, so I thought he would be able to throw down because he could easily be substituted by a stunt man, but he very quickly removed his armor and jumped into the next scene.

I was pleasantly surprised to find that the Underworld movie I previously thought to be the worst one was actually probably the best one so far, having a more interesting story and better action than the previous two movies.  Most of the performances were good, and Rhona Mitra was Steven Tyler, but altogether I found the movie to be pretty enjoyable.  I guess I’ll be able to complete the series now, but only if the newest one holds up, and if it comes out with a BluRay tetralogy.  We’ll find out at least one of those things tomorrow, when I review the latest Underworld movie.  For now, Underworld: The Rise of the Lycans gets “You are credit to your race” out of “We are no better than the beasts at our door.”

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Underworld (2003)


A Full-Grown Man Bit You?

I recently found myself on a trip from work, and mostly superbly bored.  Thankfully, there was a movie theater within walking distance of the hotel I was staying at.  I was saved!  During the course of this week, I managed to fit in two movies.  Today’s movie is not one of them.  Now, before you go crazy about that long introduction to nothing, it does relate to today’s movie.  The movie I saw in the theater was the fourth part of this series.  But, before I reviewed the newest one, I felt like I needed to review the previous three.  Today, we get started with the movie Underworld, written by Danny McBride (not THAT Danny McBride) and Kevin Grevioux, directed by Len Wiseman, and starring Kate Beckinsale, Scott Speedman, Bill Nighy, Michael Sheen, Shane Brolly, Erwin Leder, Sophia Myles, Kevin Grevioux, Zita Gorog, and Wentworth Miller.

As we all know, vampires and werewolves do not get along.  We join this fray as two of the vampire’s elite soldiers, the Death Dealers, are tracking a group of werewolves, here called Lycans, who are themselves tracking a guy named Michael Corvin (Scott Speedman).  This situation devolves into a fight between the Death Dealers and the Lycans, and only the Death Dealer Selene (Kate Beckinsale), the Lycan Raze (Kevin Grevioux), and Corvin walk away in tact.  Selene determines that the Lycans were hunting Corvin, but doesn’t know why.  I’ll tell you, Selene!  It’s because their leader, Lucian (Michael Sheen), is trying to create a hybrid of the vampires and the Lycans, and Michael Corvin is the last remaining descendant of the original immortal, Alexander Corvinus, and the only one likely to survive taking on the vampire and Lycan diseases simultaneously.  Selene is also not having fun times at home because Kraven (Shane Brolly), the guy currently running the household, is trying to tap that and she’s having none of it.  She wants to wake up her father-figure, Viktor (Bill Nighy), to help her fix a few issues, like the Michael situation and the fact that only Kraven asked her to the prom, and he’s so totally lame.

I remembered this movie being better than it turned out to be.  After having just recently watched the fourth movie, I expected this movie to be heavy on the action and light on the story, but this movie felt a little like the opposite.  The story is pretty good and interesting, but it definitely could’ve used more action, in my opinion.  The story is vaguely a mystery, but it’s never really kept all that mysterious to the audience.  We pretty much know what’s going down.  The characters in the movie remain oblivious to it much longer.  After that, it’s not a whole lot more than your average vampire/werewolf movie.  But, in a world where vampires go into the sunlight and become gay sparklefarts, this movie gets a little more love from me.  There were a couple of good lines in the movie as well, like when Michael was asking Selene what they do with the bullets after they interrogate the Lycans and she said “We put the bullets back in.”  They also did a good job hiding the big betrayal at the end of the movie.  But, on this watching, I found myself a little let down by the amount of action.  It was mostly cool and stylized when it happened, but it was pretty spread out here.  They probably assumed their story was a lot more compelling than I actually found it, but they should’ve given us a little more, and probably a little better action.  First of all, these bitches in this movie couldn’t hit the broad side of a barn from three feet away.  98% of the bullets fired in this movie hit everything around their mark, but never the mark itself.  The only time I can presently remember anyone hitting what they aimed for was when Selene decided the best method for retreating was to point her guns at the ground and spin in a circle, effectively cutting a hole in the ground for her to fall through and then run off.  And speaking of falling: the director apparently loves to watch Beckinsale drop from high places.  We watch her jump from high locations and drop lightly to the ground about 10 times in this movie.  It’s not particularly interesting visually, so I’m not sure why I was watching it so much.  It seemed like the director was thinking that we may have forgotten that she was a vampire, so they better do something that other people couldn’t, like drop from 6 stories up and walk it off.  But I was with you, Wiseman, you don’t have to keep showing gravity’s money shots all the time.  The werewolves in the movie could’ve looked better, most of them being fairly reminiscent of Tokka from the second Ninja Turtles movie.  Sometimes they were entirely CG, but not all that convincing.  Other times they were kind of animatronic but they didn’t move very fluidly.  The vampires had a much easier day in the makeup chair, just having to be pasty white and wear a pair of contacts.  It also occurred to me during this movie that wearing vampire teeth apparently gives most people what I called “kissy face”, but I don’t feel like defining what I mean by that.  YOU FIGURE IT OUT!  Their transformation is also nowhere near as impressive.  The transformations of the Lycans, from humans to werewolves, was actually pretty well done.  Their bones shift in a way that makes your skin crawl, and they pop out hair as if they were Ron Jeremy or something.  The vampires?  Their teeth get a little longer and they hiss at people a lot.  I did like the whole process involved with waking Viktor up, involving an elaborate mechanism to bring his coffin out of storage, then the blood has to be focused or else his performance when he wakes up will be really quirky, and then you attach some blood bags to his back for a couple of hours.

The performances in this movie were surprisingly solid.  Kate Beckinsale’s main goal in this movie seemed to be to wear skin tight leather and be ridiculously hot, and she knocks that part right the hell out of the park.  She also acted the part really well.  But at one point Kraven slaps her and, though she does that typical thing where she just looks right back at him defiantly, it made me wonder why the fuck this bad ass Death Dealer would let some asshole she hates already slap her in the face.  There was one weird scene where she, I guess, just took a shower and wrote the name “Viktor” in the fog on the mirror, then wiped it off.  I have no idea why this happened at all.  Thanks for wasting a minute of my life, movie!  Scott Speedman didn’t really do anything for me in this movie.  I was neither for nor against him.  I was hoping there would be a little more awesomeness out of him when he turned hybrid, but he was actually fairly ineffectual.  When he finally turns into a hybrid, his first big movie is to shove Bill Nighy like they were fifth graders on a schoolyard.  Granted, that shove put him through a wall and down a story or two, but it was a shove nonetheless.  Speaking of Bill Nighy, his quirky performance really works for the character here.  He was supposed to have fragmented memories, so his little weird mannerisms worked really well for it.  He was pretty bad in the fight scenes though.  He’s an old man, so I can’t blame him, but they maybe should’ve gone stunt double a little more than they did.  The first time I had seen this movie, I had no idea who Michael Sheen was, so I didn’t think much of him.  But having added Tron: Evolution and 30 Rock to my memories, I paid a lot more attention.  And he was really good.  He’s actually a funny, charming guy from what I’ve seen in interviews, but he can be a badass if he wants.  Shane Brolly is a very unlikeable character, but that’s what he’s going for.  It did bother me that he had this hot chick hounding after his nuts for probably centuries, but didn’t really catch on until the events of this movie.  That begs the question: How many Kravens does it take to screw in a hot blonde?  14, of course.

I remembered Underworld being much more awesome than it turned out being, but it was still enjoyable.  The story was good, but nothing really special.  The action was okay when it happened, but it should have happened much more.  And the look was pretty good, but they probably didn’t have very much money for special effects at this point.  We’ll see if that improves for the next movie.  But, for now, I still think Underworld is worth a watch.  I own it on DVD, and I don’t feel very bad about that.  So check it out if you haven’t already.  Who knows?  Maybe I’ll be saying that the fourth Underworld is awesome, but you really need to catch up on the story to understand it.  Either way, Underworld gets “I want to stay with you…” out of “Your incompetence is becoming most … taxing.”

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