I’ll admit up front, I have a celebrity crush on Kate Beckinsale going all the way back to the vintage costumes Pearl Harbor dressed her in. So this review of her latest movie may be a little biased. Biased, but, as you can see below, only a little.
First let’s get the recap out of the way. Underworld: Awakening is the fourth in the franchise about the thousand year feud between vampires and werewolves (known as lycans). Beckinsale is Selene, a vampire soldier (called death dealers for maximum bad ass) devoted to wiping out the lycans. The predecessors in the franchise follow Selene as she discovers a conspiracy between the vampire and lycan leaders and falls in love with a hybrid man who is both vampire and lycan. When Awakening begins we find out the vampires and lycans have a new mutual enemy. It seems all us plain old normal humans have found out about all these secret goings-on and have decided to just kill everybody whether they’re vampire or lycan. (But now that you’ve read it, forget about the humans.) In the opening scene Selene is caught and cryogenically frozen in a lab. She wakes up twelve years later and wreaks a little carnage on the poor guys in white coats. In the ensuing carnage Selene learns that she now has a hybrid daughter whom the lycans are trying to use for all sorts of nefarious purposes.
I ran across this quote from the Village Voice which sums it up:
The entire production is single-mindedly, earnestly devoted to serving up feats of BADASS, and it succeeds in this devotion to the exclusion of everything else.
Awakenings is essentially a series of action scenes strung together continuously. Each and every one features Beckinsale kicking ass and chopping up lycan. If you go into it expecting nothing more than an entertaining action flick with lots of explosions and gunfire you’ll probably be okay. There are bits of plot and dialogue between the action scenes, but I recommend you not pay too much attention to those. If you try and reconcile the plot holes you’re just going to end up walking out of the theater with a headache. In a particularly serious head scratcher, the first 15 minutes of the film showing human storm troopers killing vampires and lycan indiscriminately was never followed up. Exploring that would have made for a much more entertaining movie.
My biggest complaint was actually that I had to watch it in 3D. My local theater had two showings of the 2D version, one was too early and one was too late so I had to shell out for the 3D glasses and that was an expense I could have done without in this case. The bullets whizzing over my head didn’t bother me, and the 3D depiction of fog and various gaseous clouds was a nice visual effect but obvious CGI. I just begrudge having to see it 3D because the movie wasn’t worth the added expense. If I’d been able to see it at 2D prices I probably would have been a happy camper.
While Underworld: Awakening isn’t a good movie or even average, it isn’t necessarily a bad movie either. The key to enjoying it is having the proper expectations (and seeing it in 2D, I really feel for the poor suckers who shelled out for 3D AND Imax). If you’re a fan of the non-sparkly vampire genre, and you go into it without high expectations, you can probably enjoy it. Just don’t expect a lot of plot or deep characters.