Directors: Måns Mårlind, Björn Stein
Cast: Kate Beckinsale, Michael Ealy, India Eisley
Review by Brian M. Sammons
This is the fourth film in the franchise that basically ripped off White Wolf Publishing’s roleplaying game, World Of Darkness. Now I know fans of these films get upset when people point that out, but it doesn’t change the fact that it’s true. Don’t believe me, or don’t even know what I’m talking about? Google it, as it’s too long to get into here. Anyway, truth be told, I’ve never been a fan of any of the Underworld movies. They’ve always been way too much style over substance for my tastes. A blend of The Matrix action set pieces with two of the classics from monster movies: vampires and werewolves. Sure they can sometimes be a bit of mindless, but for me and many other red blooded heterosexual men, the flicks’ real saving grace has been the crazy beautiful Kate Beckinsale running around in skintight leather. Yeah, that’s almost worth the price of admission right there. So imagine my (and a whole lot of people’s) disappointment that for the third film they replaced Kate with Rhona Mitra. Sure, Rhona is also very lovely, but she’s no Kate Beckinsale. Well if you feel like I do, rejoice, for Awakening brings Beckinsale back to the role that she originated. Further, they also play around with the mythology and story in almost a reboot kind of way. So Kate is back, and that’s a plus, but is the rest of the movie any good? Well slip on your rubber cat suit, grab your twin guns, and let’s get back to the Underworld and find out.
The movie starts off pretty much like all the other flicks, with Kate’s vampire death machine (named Selene and given the badass title of Death Dealer) meeting with her part vampire, part werewolf, part human boyfriend. But he’s not really worth mentioning here as he is soon removed from the movie thanks to an explosion that also knocks Selene into a cryogenic coma. Twelve years later and little miss Death Dealer wakes up in a very different world where humans know about the vamps and the werewolves and are raging a war against both of them. Oh, and she also has a powerful human/werewolf/vampire daughter. Yeah, vampires having babies, that never gets old or ridiculous. Whatever. So sexy Selene is now a MILF, and I’m totally cool with that. She has to fight her endless war with the werewolves, plus now with the humans who are out to kill anything supernatural. Also the werewolves, called Lycans in this series, want Selene’s daughter for they think she can sure them of their severe silver allergy. And well, that’s about it for the story. So it’s not great, but it does do something new. Hey that’s something, right?
Now if the story was the only thing this flick had to talk about, oh that and sexy Beckinsale, that would be something. But it’s not. Let’s talk about it feeling like a boring chore to sit through with some of the most limp and lukewarm action scenes in any Underworld movie. Add to that that everything was shot to be 3D (and will that fad please die already?) and everything looks far too CGI fake for my tastes. And speaking of 3D, this movie seemed to be mostly a 3D tech demo than an actual film. What, think I’m being too hard? Well when Awakening was advertised, the fact that it was using the same 3D process that Avatar used was the biggest selling point. Seriously, see the YouTube trailers if you doubt me, it was pretty sad. So that’s how you sell movies now? Not with stars or God forbid, a good story, but 3D gimmicks? Again, whatever. But what that means to 90% of people out there who (wisely) didn’t buy a 3D TV, when you watch it not in 3D it’s annoying as all hell.
Blatant and irritating 3D pandering aside, the new Blu-ray from Sony does look damn good. I guess that makes sense, as Sony invented the BD format. So it looks absolutely great, but how are the extras? Well there’s an audio commentary with the two directors (yes this movie was so awesome that no one man could have made it) with the producers and video effects guy. While it’s informative, it wasn’t exactly entertaining and like the third movie in this series, it could have been made better with the addition of Kate Beckinsale, but then all things can be made better with her as far as I’m concerned. There are a collection of five smallish featurettes that all together run over an hour. A blooper reel and a needless music video from some someone I never heard of before and didn’t like. Then there is a picture in picture popup track that you can run as you watch the movie. Usually stuff like that is pretty good, sort of like a video commentary track. Unfortunately here it was pretty much just a trivia track that had nothing, and I mean nothing, interesting to say. Hey did you know that vampires need blood to live? Wow, thanks Underworld Awakening. The More You Know ™.
If you’re a fan of the Underworld movies, then you should get this Blu-ray. It’s more of the same but it looks great, and if you have a 3D TV then be sure to pick up the 3D version as the whole reason this flick was made was to show that off. And hey, it is better than the third movie, so there is that. But if you’re not an Underworld fan, then Awakening won’t do anything to change that.