Underworld: Awakening (2012) - Can't Stop the Movies
Can't Stop the Movies
21Jan/120

Underworld: Awakening (2012)

I remember being pretty neutral to the first Underworld. It was a decent enough mash-up of The Matrix and the World of Darkness rpg series, but I never bothered watching the sequels. The whole “vampires vs. werewolves” idea was interesting for one film, but got old pretty quickly.

The newest installment, Awakening, at least offered something new by throwing humans in the mix. What new intrigue would this bring to the world of Underworld? As it turns out, nothing, really.

A quick warning: If this is your first excursion into the Underworld mythos, too bad. Awakening gives zero fucks if you haven't seen those films. Why are werewolves and vampires fighting? Why does Kate Beckinsale have cooler super-powers than the other vampires? Why is that werewolf blue? What's the deal with hybrids?

You'd better check the wiki because this film just doesn't have time to explain the “rich” history of Underworld.

Not 'The Crow'

The film begins at some indeterminate point after the second film. Humans have somehow learned of the secret war between vampires and werewolves and their reaction can be described as shock quickly followed by genocide. See, despite both strains of beasts possessing supernatural speed, strength and highly advanced weaponry, the human race has seemingly little difficulty driving both races to the brink of extinction. How did they discover the monsters living amongst them? Well, they never quite say.

How do they accomplish this exactly? Well, they never really explain that, either. There's some clips of armed soldiers hunting down hapless vamps and wolves and talk of martial law being declared across, uh, England? America? The World? But it doesn't matter, because focusing on humans fighting vampires might actually bring something new and interesting to the franchise, and the film knows that it's fan don't want that.

I hope you like this scene, 'cause you'll see it again in about two minutes.

No, they want sexy vampire hero Selene (Kate Beckinsale) and her kinda-a-werewolf lover Michael who is played by, uh, some guy with Scott Speedman's face digitally imposed over his own. Seriously, I'm not finding an IMDB listing for this guy, but it doesn't really matter because he gets “killed” in the first 5 minutes so that we can jump ahead 12 years and not worry about that pesky “war with the humans” thing.

12 years later finds Selene “awakening” (get it?) out of a block of ice in a super-secret lab. Naturally she's naked, but the good people who've been experimenting on her were nice enough to store he latex catsuit in the cupboard adjacent her cryo-pod along with some jars of SCIENCE STUFF. For twelve years. Seriously.

Feeling a little less naked in her vinyl corset and Hot Topic boots, she manages to kill the facility's guards and escape. That's right: the facility that has held her captive and studies her for the better part of a decade, and operated by humans that have all but eradicated all vampires and werewolves in the world, is not prepared to stop a single vampire

Her original name was "Darkness Ravenblood."

So Selene starts getting psychic visions of another escapee. Is it Michael, her were-vamp lover? Odds are, probably not, seeing as he isn't in the film. No, instead it's a little girl who looks like Selene and has powers similar to Michael. Her name is Mary Sue Eve, and he starts protesting that she's Selene's daughter. All you Underworld fans out there, that feeling you're experiencing now? That's called “shame.”

Now, Selene's just woken up after 12 years of being an ice cube to find herself short one love interest and up one kid with a decade-plus of abandonment issues. Naturally, her reaction to all of this is to drink the kid's blood to see if she's telling the truth (yeah, I don't know either) and then act really indifferent to her until the plot necessitates that she needs to care for this kid so that the story can plod towards a climax.

Nope,still not 'The Crow'

It was at this point that Danny stood up, begrudgingly whispered, “I'll probably be back,” and left. I'd see the look he gave me before, just before he walked-out of Green Lantern. I wasn't hopeful.

While he was gone, Selene found some vampire refugees, Charles Dance did his best impression of Bill Nighy (who I suddenly remember was the only good part of the first Underworld) and Selene apologized for being such a terrible mother to Eve, which was basically “Sorry I've been such a bitch, but I really miss your dad. You haven't seen him, have you? No, well, uh, sorry again.”

Then, the first legitimate shock of the film: Danny actually came back! He later told me it was to see if the humans turned out to be the "real monsters." It was a decision he would come to regret.

Somewhere in here a giant werewolf kills a bunch of vampires and kidnaps McGuffin Eve. Oh, and Selene resurrects one of the vampires in a scene straight-out of Matrix: Reloaded, which led me to ask: If you're going to rip-off a Matrix film, why Reloaded?

Actually, I'm going to go ahead and spoil the big “twist” because, let's face it, you weren't going to watch this anyway. Turns out the lab where Selene was held captive was actually run by werewolves, and their experiments on Selene and her daughter and totally not her lover were what was making the werewolves so strong! What a twist! Turns out humans are just being manipulated by those sneaky werewolves into exterminating the vampires for them! The humans were just a red herring, it's still vampires vs. werewolves! Good thing, too, as making the humans potentially more monstrous than the actual monsters was bordering on something resembling social commentary.

I'm not sure if there are more "twirling trench coat" shots or more "jumping off a really tall building" shots, but I do know that if you take a drink each time you see either one, you'll be dead by the half-way point.

You can pretty much guess how the film plays out from this point. Selene fights some wolves, there's some slow-motion, you know the score. Oh, and her dead lover? Turns out he was frozen, too! What a completely unexpected turn of events! He manages to escape while Selene is fighting wolf-hulk and runs out of the building all but shouting “See you in the sequel!”

I'll give the film some credit: It had a marginally better depiction of women than any given Mila Jovovich film I've seen recently. Selene might not have been a very deep character, but the film seemed more concerned with making her look “cool” than as male-gaze. Yes, I'm saying this despite the fact that she spends the entirety of the film dressed in skin-tight pleather. At least the film focuses more on shots of her jumping off of buildings and twirling he coat in slow motion then it does on shots of her ass. Then again Three Musketeers and Transformers 3 probably broke my sexism-barometer, so that that as you will.

But really, Underworld is a collection of missed opportunities. I'm re-watching the previews for it right now, and the film doesn't make good on a single one of the trailer's promises. The “war” between the humans and the vamps/wolves takes place largely during the opening credits. Exactly why Selene's daughter is “key to winning the war” is never really explained, nor why having a “hybrid” vampire/werewolf/human is so important.

If I had to describe the plot of the film in a single sentence, it would be: Selene wakes up in the future and has to find her missing lover, but never does.” That's it. A complete tease of a plot that teases it's audience with a pay-off that it has no intention of delivering and padded down with gratuitous hero-walking, slo-mo jumping, and a 3-D ninja star scene that gets reused no less than three times. That's almost as bad as ending it before the climax with and advertisement for a book tie-in.

In summation: Fuck this movie.

Posted by Jacob

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