A Season of Vamps: “Underworld: Awakening” review

The Becks, as Death Dealing Vamp Selene, in "Underworld: Awakening".

Geek film critic Harry Knowles, of Ain’t It Cool News fame, has always been a proponent of giving his film reviews a wider context .  He wants to give you a sense of what the screening was like, how the audience behaved and a picture of how the surroundings of the film enhanced or detracted from his experience.

I would do that myself, but I’m not sure that you need to know how about my inhaler falling out of my pocket and getting stuck under the car in the cinema car park, or the van full of kids who were THIS EXCITED ABOUT GOING TO PLAY LASERTAG, LOLZ!

Instead, know this:

Mummy 3D Specs and her lovely offspring, Junior

Yep, that happened alright.

The normal-sized pair of 3D glasses is what I usually take with me when going to the cinema to see a 3D movie.   I forgot them when I set out to see “Underworld: Awakening” today and so ended up using the top, kids-sized pair of indoor, knock-off Raybans when it was handed to me – I’m 6 feet 3 tall and have unruly long hair – those glasses were lucky to stay perched on the bridge of my nose without exploding.

I’m assuming shenanigans on the part of the Emo-haired, apparently eleven year old cashier at Cineworld – however, his cunning (or inept) ruse did not prevent me from enjoying this latest salvo in the eternal war between vampires and werewolves, but did confirm that 3D doesn’t really add much to the experience.

SPOILERS, probably, from this point forward.

Kate Beckinsale’s eternal vampire warrior Selene – ‘death dealer’ in the ornate parlance of this franchise – has been frozen, experimented on and generally kept under lock and key for twelve years when we first meet her.   In flashback, we see that the wider world has finally gotten hip to the supernatural war being waged in the shadows – you would think that governmental types might have noticed ten feet tall werewolves running amok and be-winged ancient vampires attacking all and sundry as a minor blight on urban living – and instigated a cataclysmic purge.

Hence Selene’s on lock-down, her vamp/wolf hybrid love Michael is missing presumed dead and the supernaturals who swaggered through the previous films like they owned the joint have gone to ground.

To make matters worse, Selene’s having weird psychic flashes which link her to person(s) unknown and the Med-Tech group who were experimenting on her are quite keen on getting her up and flash-burning her into oblivion.  It’s not the best of days for anyone and it’s made a bit worse when Selene finds out that she now has a daughter, Eve (series newcomer India Eisley).

Bloody moody teenagers. What's wrong with classic Vampire black attire?

If you saw the picture of Eisley and thought to yourself, “Franchise spin-off, ahoy!”, then we’re on the same page.  It’s not hard to see that this iteration of  “Underworld” acting as something of a soft reboot for the series, with the likes of Eisley and Brit heart-throb-in-waiting Theo James filling a nice Beckinsale and Scott Speedman-sized space should the producers decide that they want to skew the series younger and attract some of the tweens and teens who’ve flocked to the “Twilight” films.

This said, all concerned may want to make some changes before that sort of plan is considered – I’m not remotely a champion of censoring films, but the level of violence in this sequel did make me wince a couple of times.  This is one film which absolutely earns its 18/R rating, so be fully warned if you’re not a fan of gore, blood and heads exploding.  It makes the last “Rambo” look like a Miley Cyrus vehicle.

As I’ve said, I did enjoy the film but had some reservations about some choices which were made.  The utterly convoluted but entertaining back story of the previous entries in the franchise is more or less forgotten in favour of covering events in the here and now.  Eve is the focus of this movie and the wholesale devastation of the Vampire and Were populace is dealt with in a quick-fire introductory sequence.

The cynic in me suggests that the introduction of new characters might be a studio’s favoured way of moving forward with the franchise and recasting younger, (subjectively) hotter and – most importantly - cheaper actors who aren’t married to the producer/writer/director.

Still, Eisley is actually quite good and Theo James acquits himself well, too, so the idea of seeing another “Underworld” sequel in two years with these two front and centre doesn’t fill me with the same level of horror that it might do for the mainstream critics (it looks like this film is going to have a pretty decent launch this weekend – number one at the US box office with $23-24 million and nobody has a good word to say about it.  Almost guarantees that there will be another film…).

To sum up – Kate’s great, the gore in this picture is mind-boggling, the 3D is okay, the climactic battle is a gonzo Battle Royale and it occurs to me that my favourite guilty pleasure horror action franchise is turning into a Vampire-centric “X-Men”/superhero clone  - and I’m absolutely okay with that.

Just don’t do a “Twilight”  number on the next one, eh, Screen Gems?

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1 Comment

Filed under Films, Geekery, Spoiled!

One response to “A Season of Vamps: “Underworld: Awakening” review

  1. Geek Soul Brother

    Rick, you have me totally curious now! I figured we would be stuck riding the same Underworld train as with the previous movies (though RISE was a interesting departure), but I’m in for the ‘More Gore’ battlefest. And nothing would be wrong with a Team Vampire strategy, as long as it isn’t Blade 3. Thanks for the review, and the 3D glasses story.

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