Saturday, January 21, 2012

Underworld: Awakening - Movie Review

I've never been a huge fan of the Underworld series.  I haven't hated the previous films, but I thought they were kind of boring.  Going into this, I wasn't expecting much, or even to like it.  I have to say though that Underworld: Awakening is my favorite of the series!

Again, this review might be a little spoilery, but trust me when I say there really isn't all that much to the story, and that isn't the reason why you are going to watch this anyway.

If you aren't familiar with the series, the first few minutes of the movie basically give you a recap of the series' history, which I appreciated because I had forgotten some of the details and that helped get me back into it.  If you're coming into this without seeing the rest, then that first few minutes is really all you need.

Then, the movie shows you that Humans have finally discovered the existence of Vampires and Werewolves (only refered to as Lycans in the Underworld series).  Humans have basically started an all out war to eliminate both species.  Selene (Kate Beckinsale) and Michael (Scott Speedman) are trying to flee the city, but are intercepted by a Human task force.

One flaw in the movie right at this point was that you hear the team say they need to take Michael alive as he is a Vampire/Lycan hybrid, but what's the first thing they do?  Shoot him in the chest.  Oops!  So Selene and Michael are captured and hid in a facility.  Selene is able to escape and realizes that she's been on ice for 12 years.  Initially, she's trying to track down Michael, whom she shares some kind of psychic bond with, only to discover that it's really a child named Eve (India Eisley).  Eve is also a Vampire/Lycan hybrid created from DNA from Selene and Michael.  The Humans want Eve back as her DNA can be used to cure both Vampires and Lycans.  That's pretty much it.

Make no mistake, this movie is dumb, but if you can get past that, you're in for a ride as far as the action.  This is easlily the most entertaining of the series.  Just shut your brain off and enjoy the visuals.  From almost the opening scene this movie is action packed and gory as hell.  Like horror movie gory.  Heads are flying off, people are getting sliced open and there's blood everywhere.  I actually dug that a lot.  When you have Vampires and Lycans that have super-strength fighting each other and using guns and claws and teeth, you should see a lot of blood.  This movie earns its R rating as far as that goes.

The effects, however were a little inconsistent in parts.  One of my pet peeves about CG effects is when the actors don't react to the CG effect that's put in later.  Like, in one scene Lycans are jumping on moving cars and the drivers don't react at all.  They barely swerve or break or look around.  If a large thing just hit the roof of your car, you'd probably react a little.  Then, when the Lycan moves to the front of the car, they still barely react.  As if a Lycan being on your windshield is a normal occurrence or wouldn't affect your driving at all.  No, I'm going to just keep driving at full speed as if nothing is happening.  I'm sure it will all work out for the best.

Another funny thing is that even though this movie takes in the future, everyone seemed to be driving old sedans from the 70's.  When you see old cars in modern movies, you know it means they are going to get totaled.  You even see this in movies like Terminator 2.  I have to wonder if this just a budget thing though.

In another scene where the Vampires and Lycans face off, the (real) Vampires are shooting at CG Lycans and not even shooting in the proper direction or reacting to the most immediate threats.  There's a Lycan attacking this Vampire standing two feet to the left of another and he turns he back to them.  Clearly, they don't see it because they aren't really there, but this seems like it should have been directed better or the CG team should have been paying more attention to what the actors were doing.  Something was off there.

Another pet peeve of mine in movies like this is when powers are inconsistent.  You see a group of Vampires get worked by a group of Lycans in one scene, then later on you see one of the very same Vampires having no issues with dealing with a group of Lycans by himself.  Maybe you could write this off to Vampires being stronger if they've recently fed, but this isn't shown, so you're left to assume these kind of things.  They way they handled feeding was inconsistent and there were a few things involving healing that weren't handled very well, but I'm getting nitpicky at this point.  Let's get back to the action....

I really did like the pacing and how crazy it all was.  Just when I thought they had shown me everything, they'd do something different that would get me interested again.  This movie only has an 88 minute runtime, so it really doesn't waste a lot of time with story.  It's just moving from one frenetic action sequence to the next.

If you're a fan of Kate Beckinsale, there's lots of slow-motion shots of her with her mouth agape.  Underworld: Awakening is all about her in a skin-tight, leather suit and seeing her move around in slow-mo.  They even tease her being naked in the opening sequence.  You'd think that with all the loving shots of her, that this was directed again by her husband, and Fremont native, Len Wiseman, but he only took writing and producing duties this time around.  U: A was directed by the team of Mårlind & Stein, and I think they really nailed the action.  I'd love to see what they could do with an actual story and script.

There's not much I can say about the cast, because there's not much to the performances, but I did really like India Eisley as Eve.  Whatever they did with the effects or makeup really worked in making her look genuinely evil and threatening.  Normally, when you see a kid in this kind of role, even when you're told they are supposed to be super powerful, you just never really get that sense, but I think they did a good job of that here.

I saw this on the IMAX which is too pricey for a movie like this and the 3D doesn't warrant seeing it in 3D either.  It's not terrible, but maybe I'm getting used to 3D in the movies.  I just didn't notice much from it.  The sound of this movie on the IMAX was awesome though!.  At one point I thought someone in the theater was shouting, only to realize it was the surround sound.  It was that loud.

Look, Underworld: Awakening isn't a good movie.  It's silly overall, but I enjoyed it nonetheless.  If you're a fan of the series, I think you'll like this a lot.  Even if you aren't a fan, but like over the top action movies, I think there's enough crazy action here to entertain you.  I went into this not being much of a fan, but actually hoping they make another (and yes, they setup an obvious sequel at the end).  I actually recommend checking this out.

3 (out of 5) Death Stars.

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