Thursday, February 02, 2012

Underworld: Awakening in IMAX 3D

Eat Lead!

I will not make any excuses. This film appeals to the religious fan boys who have been following the Underworld series since 2003, where Kate Beckinsale burst onto the screen in her now iconic tight black leather as a vampire Death Dealer firing her automatic handguns on all cylinders in what would define to be the aged old folklore of Vampires versus Lycans/Volves way before Twilight came to give a teenage saccharine romance in place of hardcore action. It gave rise to a sequel before going backwards to an origin film with the third installment minus Beckinsale's Seline, who was sorely missed.

Picking up after a quick recap of the first two films, we learn that the constant overt bickering between the Vampires and Lycans have gained the attention of the humans who naturally start a genocide to exterminate these horror film staples through fire and silver bullets. Selene and Michael (a stand-in for Scott Speedman who refused to reprise his role as the powerful hybrid) soon find themselves trapped, and for 12 years are housed in a research corporation facility known as Antigen that's experimenting on them to seek a cure for any known infection of humans either way, although head scientist Dr Jacob Lane (Stephen Rhea) harbours a more sinister intention beneath his fuddy duddy looks and demeanour.

Soon Selene gets broken out from her cryogenic state thanks to Subject 2 / Eve (India Eisley) her hybrid daughter conceived in Evolution, and they find themselves running from Lycan enemies and being rejects of the Vampire race given Selene's bad reputation of betraying and slaying her own kind in the earlier films. Mother and daughter soon get separated again and Selene gains allies in the form of David (Theo James) a fellow vampire and a human cop Sebastian (Michael Ealy) to get her daughter back, and continue in their search for Michael so that this dysfunctional, hybrid family can reunite once again.

I suppose you can guess by now the story's really flimsy, and being nothing more than perfunctory to allow a series of action sequences to be strung together, and compensate for what's been missing in the previous film - Kate Beckinsale's icy cool Selene, now being a lot more powerful since her transformation in Evolution. It's still pretty amazing to imagine how Beckinsale can breathe in all that skin tight leather, and deliver her fair share of slinky action poses and moves without her heart skipping a beat. It's a lot more grittier in directors Mans Marlind and Bjorn Stein's version of the world and the fair share of gory violence shows the extent of just what's required to dispatch powerful enemies, given the one-sidedness with very weak vampires, and much stronger and meaner Lycans no thanks to an experimental serum extracted from Subject 2 / Eve.

And the action doesn't disappoint, especially for moments geared to exploit 3D since it was shot using the RED EPIC cameras in 3D. It's a lot more varied through the use of automatic weapons, silver blades, silver nitrate fragmentation units, and good 'ol fangs to puncture the neck, and even so, the new Lycans prove to be too much of a handful for one all-powerful Death Dealer. But some aspects could have been dealt with in a better way, with the Super Lycans being nothing more than double their size and strength, though worse would be Eve's transformation that looked a little bit like Linda Blair from The Exorcist having an Incredible Hulk moment.

The earlier Underworld films with Selene as chief protagonist had a lot more going in its story than this installment, given the references and thicker conspiracies hidden in the sins of the fathers, which ultimately had been resolved in the third film being the prequel and origin. This one doesn't have that need to flashback or reference those any longer, which may also explain a shorter run time, and the feeling of a chunk of missing storyline that had been staple in the earlier movies contributing to that empty feeling. It tried to parallel the relations of parent-child in Selene-Eve, Thomas (Charles Dance)-David and Jacob-Quint (Kris Holden-Ried), but these attempts were never fully explored, otherwise it would have provided some form of an emotional anchor or deepen the character sets a little bit more.

Just how this film can progress from here is anyone's guess, although like Superman 2 / Superman Returns, it comes with an extra baggage in the form of Eve and her near invulnerability and powers par none, together with Selene may make the proceedings a little bit stale and boring. But until that happens, the Underworld franchise should have legs similar to the Resident Evil franchise which is also due for another outing this year - films that cater to fan boys, not too much depth in its stories, with superbly crafted action and headlined by a sexy actress kicking a lot of ass in style. It has the sporadic sprinkling of brilliance, but otherwise a relatively bland affair if not for its charismatic lead.

1 comment:

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