Underworld: Awakening (2012)
Underworld: Awakening (2012) is the fourth in the series and a sequel to the second film. For those of you who like to keep things in order, the third film was a prequel. You should understand it’s not really necessary to watch these films in order. They exist and share a historical context for the continuing feud between vampires and werewolves. Three of them have the same lead character. But they have minimal plot continuity.
OK, where are we with this latest exciting episode? As always, you can rely on humans to completely overreact when they discover supernatural beasties are real. I suppose, to those in power, the idea that vampires have been living among us for centuries might not be such a hard sell since both groups feed off the uncaring masses. But, as is required, we now go in for a shock and awe campaign to eradicate both the vampires and the werewolves. Martial law is declared. Repression is put in place. After all, the politicians must get fringe benefits if they are to take out their competitors. Let the mass cleansing begin as all who fail the tests are executed on the spot. Death Dealer Selene (Kate Beckinsale) and Michael Corvin (Scott Speedman) attempt to escape the purge but Michael is “lost” and Selene is captured.
Twelve years later, our heroine awakes in a cryosuspension chamber in a lab run by Dr Jacob Lane (Stephen Rea). It’s always impressive to see how quickly supernatural beings recover from being frozen. One minute they lie naked on the floor to give all the voyeurs an early taste. The next minute they are dressed in the leather gear so helpfully left to hand and they are running and jumping (and killing) as if nothing had happened. Then, after a quick snack, it’s into the streets for a quick memory recovery exercise and reorientation on current market trends for vampire teeth. Needless to say, after fighting off a few remnant werewolves and meeting up with David (Theo James), another vampire, Selene is reunited with Eve (India Eisley), the daughter she never knew she had. It’s a touching moment since it turns out the girl released the mother from the lab. Slightly later, there’s a nice line to explain why Selene does not immediately go all motherly, “My heart is not cold. It’s broken” by the news of Michael’s death. Then it’s underground (good to see Charles Dance again). Can she rally the remaining vampires to defend themselves rather than merely hide away? Meanwhile Detective Sebastian (Michael Ealy) is called to the lab from which our heroine (and her daughter) escaped. He knows immediately that Dr Lane is lying but he does not know why. When he meets up with our heroine, they conclude a faction in the government is protecting the werewolves and planning to harvest immunity to silver from Eve. Oh what a surprise, Dr Lane is the key player and his son is the first superwolf. And then the alarm went off and I woke up.
The question you always have ask when you watch films like this is whether the eighty-eight minutes running time is filled with sufficient content to entertain. This has everything you would expect. Vampires get to jump around like they escaped from the set of the Matrix. If you’re lucky they bite a few people to boost their strength and/or to heal more quickly Werethingies transform into ever bigger and badder doggies. They may not be endowed with the same brain power as the vamps, but they make up for it in brute strength. To this mix is added the new mother/daughter dynamic, the missing daddy and a policeman with vampire sympathies (but not Renfield tendencies) for additional emotional heft. No-one who pays to see this type of film expects anything subtle and, in this case, they won’t be disappointed. The plot moves along briskly and, for the most part makes sense. I suppose we shouldn’t think about how far up the government hierarchy the conspiracy goes. Underworld: Awakening is a film you admire for its technical proficiency. The effects are good. There’s an inexhaustible supply of bullets for Kate Beckinsale to fire plus the chance to let off a few grenades and generally blow stuff up. But there’s no emotional connection. You watch it. It ends. You wonder what to see next.