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Underworld: Awakening

January 22, 2012

 If you’re like me, then you are completely sick and tired of the seemingly everlasting Vampire/Werewolf trend in popular culture that has re-surged through the popularity of the novels and film franchise Twilight. Lately the very thought of more Vampire and/or Werewolf films and shows makes my most recent meal flow from my stomach back into my mouth. After such relentless exposure of the ancient folklore’s you’d think that any self-respecting person would resist the urge to further feed the machine. Shame on you for thinking such nonsense when there’s money to be made and the fourth installment of the Underworld franchise reminds audiences of that very sentiment.

Underworld Awakening takes place six months after the events in Underworld Evolution (there’s a few seconds of flashback to bring us n00bs up to speed on some of those events) where now the knowledge of the existence of Vampires and Lycans is made public and a mass genocide of the immortals have begun to take place. Vampire and Lycan hunter, Selene (Kate Beckinsale), and her Lycan/Vampire Hybrid lover Lycan, Michael (Scott Speedman), plan to leave the city but are disrupted and captured by humans. Twelve years later Selene awakes to find that she has been frozen in a testing lab, Lycans are nearly extinct and a strange girl with both Lycan and Vampire tendencies has escaped from the same lab. Selene desperately attempts to find her missing lover while protecting herself from her newest enemy, humans.

There are times throughout Underworld Awakening when the action is just really cool and intriguing. When the film is not relying on CGI for its special effects, its make-up, sound design and filming in certain shots make for impressive scenes that are reminiscent of The Matrix. At times fluid camera movements capture Selene’s prowess as in one scene she holds a character up against a glass window, her mere strength causing the window to bulge resulting in the crippling sound of slow cracking glass. Additionally a character is thrown from a building and falls to his death. The camera follows his swift fall and the intense impact the body makes on the car. However, the choice to make Underworld Awakening in 3D prevents the film from having more of these noteworthy moments.

Thus the use of 3D and CGI in Awakening becomes the film’s weakest element because it takes away from any creative ingenuity the film could have had and instead makes the entire movie look stylistically cheesy and cheap. Awakening seems amateur due to its excessive and flawed computer generated effects. Objects in the background of certain scenes are blurred and flat against the focused sharp images in the forefront and the green screen process can be witnessed in nearly every scene. Lycans at times are too smooth, lanky and sleek to strike a genuine fear or cause for alarm and weapons hold no power when they look like nothing more than super imposed objects hitting a computerized thing.

Awakening’s 3D makes viewers more aware of the film process than engaged with the story. Barely anything within Awakening seems natural and believable. The Matrix, for instance, made a computerized world realistic due to amazing stunt choreography and immaculate special effects that allowed viewers to believe that its characters could transcend gravity and time. Awakening on the other hand doesn’t possess the same credibility. When characters are inexplicably able to jump unbelievable bounds, it doesn’t look natural and instead appears posed and contrived for the sake of a “cool shot.”

Now considering that Awakening is the 4th installment in the Underworld franchise, I’m aware that it’s had three prior films to explain the origins of its characters and their powers. Since I’ve seen none of the other Underworld’s, I spent a fair amount of time glancing over the franchise on Wikipedia to understand missing links, yet I still feel clueless as to what was really going throughout the film and why I should care about certain characters. In its defense, Awakening attempts to quickly catch us ignorant viewers up on what took place during the previous three films, it just doesn’t do a great job of it or perhaps it does and Awakening’s script just doesn’t do a great job of story development—or maybe a little bit of both.

Sure viewers are caught up to the fact that the past for Selene has consistently meant having to fight Vampires, Lycans, and Werewolves while dealing with being so damn good at it. Yet I felt that key questions remained unanswered by this film such as why Lycans can kill vampires so easily if they heal so quickly? How is Selene so powerful? How is she so relaxed during intense moments of fighting? How is it that she is never outnumbered despite being outnumbered? And where is she getting this endless supply of loaded guns despite always emptying her clip during fights? The world may never know.

Selene seems nearly invincible from harm making her threat of danger nearly none existent therefore creating no real tension within the film. Instead of spending an hour an half on cheap looking special effects and mediocre action sequences, Awakening could have been better spent developing character relationships and their inner turmoil such as Selene having to deal with realizing she is a mother despite losing the only person she’s ever loved. Michael Ealy plays the horribly underdeveloped Detective Sebastian whose character could have made an impact had more time been spent developing his desire to help Selene. Nearly every character featured is given the potential to be interesting and/or menacing however they are only introduced as pawns that are played and then killed off all too quickly.

Despite it all, Underworld Awakening is a surprisingly entertaining film. It’s got a great amount of action and “cool shit” to make the hour and a half of watching it bearable. However it’s not developed enough to be considered a great or even good movie, it just barely skates by being a mediocre film. It spends too much time setting up for another damn sequel that this one is basically nothing but fluff for the meantime. Take away the CGI, 3D, shitty directing, flashing lights and the need to make Beckinsale a sex symbol, then you got yourself a pretty good action film, however, because Underworld Awakening possess all of those qualities viewers are left with a barely living entity that’s feeding on audience members dollars. Damn vampires.

AVOID IT. But don’t hate yourself for seeing it, it has its moments.

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5 Comments leave one →
  1. June 12, 2012 1:21 PM

    ARE YOU SERIOUS!?!!??!? youre kidding me right? You CANNOT judge the movie like you have when you have no idea what the hell the past two movies with kate were about. Selene is so extremely powerfull because she drank the blood of the VERY FIRST vampire. Who was the most powerfull vampire of all time but when he was dying he told her to drink his blood and she would recieve powers she’d never dreamed of. THATS how shes so amazing. And fyi you CONT WATCH THE LAAAAST MOVIE IN A FRANCHISE WHITHOUT SEEING THE PREVIUOS MOVIES!!!!!!!!!!! i mean honestly. Also just to enlighten you “werewolves” ARE lycans. You know, “LYCANTHROPY”? get it? the disease that turns a human to a “LYCAN”? Honestly the only thing you got correct is that they couldve developed the characters a LITTLE more. So they had more depth. But other than that you should go back to viewing movies that ARENT in a franchise. And judge those so ridiculously.

    • June 14, 2012 12:59 AM

      Hi firstly thank you for reading and taking the time out to comment, I appreciate it! Now that being said lets get down to business: I, as a consumer, can very well watch the last film in a series and judge it solely on that. It’s a seprate entity of a franchise, therefore it should be able to hold up on its own. A “good” sequel knows how to do that. A “good” sequel knows how to bring audiences, who may not have seen or forgot events of previous installments, up to speed with relevant information in order for them to enjoy what they are watching. Do you think everyone who saw Underworld Awakening were fans who saw the first three? Or any sequel for that matter? No. People get bored and go to random movies, people get dragged to movies with friends or family, people read reviews and become interested in a film; that’s just how it works and directors and producers know this, that’s why when you watch a “good” sequel it’s not imparitive to have seen the first. A “good” sequel covers all areas of possible confusion for newcomers or “n00bs” and can still allow these people to enjoy it just as much as fans of the first, second and/or third would. Have you seen Goodfellas 2, The Empire Stikes Back, Rise of the Planet of the Apes or Terminator 2? These plus tons more are good abd enjoyable even if you haven’t seen the original. Thanks for explaining certain aspects of the film, but can you explain why the CGI was shitty along with the writing? It’s just not a well made movie in my opinion and yes the lack of clarity didn’t make it better.

      • Amy permalink
        April 5, 2014 1:05 AM

        This may totally be my opinion and of you get offended I apologize. I am sure there are people out there that watch a movie and find out it is a sequel. While your opinion is justified as your own view point, I merely question how you could possibly obtain adequate information about a movie franchise that allows people to edit articles.
        The complaint about not understanding Selene’s story is fallen from the fact that the previous movies weren’t watched and the information was saught using the internet of all things to find the answer. Not to sound heinous and bitchy, but there is no golden rule stating sequels must spend a set amount of minutes catching “noobs” up. A director can use flashbacks to bring the audience back into the storyline. In literary terms this is called a summary. Selene is a vampire that obtained the ability to walk in the sun by drinking the blood of Alexander Corvinus, basically patient zero. She’s at ease while fighting because that’s all she’s been trained to do…a soldier.
        As for the gripe about the CGI…you may be surprised to find that not everyrhing was green screened. Actual sets were built to an extent so any blurring that may have happened was along a seam. As for the lycans/werewolves and the rant about how they looks so smooth. CGI they would have lots and lots of fur until they look like overgrown chow chows like the ones in twilight. The Underworld franchise has been consitant in one thing, those beasrs are dudes in suits. I ask how you would find the time to to make full hairy suots for fifty or so actors. Plus who is to say a werewolve has hair all over? If CGI was used on the wolves it was done in the fight scenes or for the super wolf.
        One thing that gets me with your entire review os the fact that would even compare this franchise to th e twilight franchise…that is a great way to get sci-fi fanatics to start slamming youbin the comments line. Twilight is a movie that contains terrible acting, effects, and a plot line stemmed from a book series that puts vampire literature to shame.
        If it seemed like there may be yet another Underworld movie…there may, there may not.
        one question I have for you is of you are always this critical about movies that are in a series. Harry Potter? Indiana Jones? The Neverending Story? Hellboy? None of these movies gave you catch ups about what was going on. So it just furthers the point that a movie doesn’t need it and if someone gripes…do that magical thing of watching it from the beginning.

      • April 6, 2014 11:54 AM

        Thanks for such an in-depth response and your constructive criticism! And thanks for answering a few of those questions I had and giving me insight to the filming process. That being said, I totally understand what you’re saying and where you’re coming from. Who am I to go see a sequel, or particular film in a series, and not know anything about the story then slam it because I felt the story was weak among other things? I totally understand.

        However, I saw Underworld at the time not out if interest, but out of assignment from another website write reviews for. You make some very valid points, but my argument is through the lens of an unbiased, average movie-goer; like all the friend and significant others who may have been dragged into seeing it or all the curious people wanted to see a movie on a Friday or Saturday night but didn’t know what exactly they wanted to see. Ultimately these people settle on the film who’s name they actually recognize or saw advertised. People enjoy going to the movies or watching something late night and my argument’s intention is to recommend or dissuade some of these people from wasting their times.

        You’re right, there is no golden rule saying a filmmaker has to catch up viewers on the series’ previous events, but I think that’s what makes films that do so successful and “good.” I personally don’t like sequels or most series because their focus us usually weak and shallow compared to the original. But there are exceptions. I watched the first half of the last Harry Potter without being caught up and completely loved it. It doesn’t even summarize the previous films (if memory serves me right) but it tells me everything I need to know in the dialogue and actions of characters. Thanks again for your comment, I appreciate it.

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