Take Van Helsing, a Mummy sequel and the attitude of The Crow; lose the campy nature of the first two flicks mentioned, and that’s pretty much what Underworld: Awakening feels like.
Now depending on your thoughts on those flicks this comparison may annoy or entice you to check out the 88 minute fourth installment in the supernatural action franchise. While part 3 (Rise of the Lycans) went prequel mode, this story is a direct sequel to part 2 (Underworld: Evolution). Building upon the story of Death Dealer vamp Selene (Kate Beckinsale); the story executed here is more show than tell. Meaning, the action is taking precedent over the storyline. And judging from how this ended, this tale is just what it feels like as you watch it…a flashy placeholder.
But that doesn’t mean it’s not worth seeing. Seeing, being the keyword here. The imagery is what wills this to, well in this guy’s case, a decent review. The way director Måns Mårlind places the actors, all of the CGI (mainly the Lycans), and set pieces in each scene, projects out an intense & serious tone for the audience to take in. So even with a vague and obvious storyline, the franchise still feels like its progressing in some respects. Though there was a need for more exposition on key plot points. Based on what happened at the conclusion of this, the script may have contradicted itself, therefore, lost some continuity. Or…my brain didn’t catch those details since yours truly had to catch a midnight screening because the studio decided not to screen this one. (At least I’m honest).
What definitely has evolved here are the action choreography and the Selene character. Beckinsale becomes more ruthless and deadly than ever. It didn’t matter if it was Lycans (costumed and/or CGI) or humans, the body count is massive. The blood is flowing and when factoring in the cold callous atmosphere created, this series actually becomes more of a horror flick rather than an action piece like the previous entries were. Granted, the conversations are not all that interesting or revealing this time around. During Beckinsale’s dialogue scenes – which are very empty – she still delivers like a robot, but this time it at least fits with the scenario she finds herself in. Plus her new supporting cast is able to slightly spice up the chatter.
The biggest obstacle this feature has to overcome is whether or not people will buy into the direction of the story. Again, this brings up continuity with regards to part 1 & 2. These questions come up in the first act and unless you can buy into what is happening between Lycans, Vampires, and humans, then this could end up being a letdown. But as stated earlier, the imagery and action could cover-up the storytelling direction.
Overall, Underworld: Awakening can be summed up like this: Fans of the franchise will be content with where the story is heading; casual viewers will not feel like they wasted their money; and chances are, one will not have the urge to watch this again. For a fourth installment in franchise built around a war between vamps and werewolves during modern times though, what more can you ask for? Well, besides developing a more engaging storyline that is just as entertaining as the continuous blood bath depicted on screen.
And feel free to skip the IMAX and 3D. Though a few sequences could benefit with the IMAX scope.
RATING: 3 out of 5