Action Movie Friday: Underworld, Evolution

It is time for Action Movie Friday, where I treat an action movie like an action movie and not like a drama and stuff. All movie reviews are subjective and while I may like something, you might think it’s shit, and vice versa!

Title: Underworld, Evolution
MPAA Rating: R
Release: 2006
Genre: science, fantasy, horror, action
Starring: Kate Beckinsale, Scott Speedman, Tony Curran, Sir Derek Jacobi, Bill Nighy, Stephen Mackintosh, Michael Sheen
Director: Len Wiseman
Writer: Len Wiseman, Danny McBride, Kevin Grevioux
Distributor: Sony/Screen Gems
Budget: $50 Million
Box Office: $111 Million

Rotten Tomatoes Rating: 16%

Gingersnaps Rating: Three and a Quarter Cookies!

Summary:

Viktor is dead and no one mourns his passing. Selene and Michael Corvin are on the run from the vampire coven’s out for their blood for killing one of the Elders. Selene believes their only hope is to awaken Marcus, last of the vampire Elder’s and the originator of the species and plead their case. But Marcus, already awakened, has his own plans and the answers he seeks are in Selene’s past and blood. Selene and Michael must seek the help of Alexander Corvinus, the first true immortal, if they are to stop Marcus from releasing a new plague of lycans upon the world.

Review:

In the next installment of Days of the Vampires… there is part of me that just can’t take these movies seriously. Part of the film’s major appeal is seeing vampires go at it with werewolves and rip each other’s heads off. It doesn’t need much more than that, but the filmmakers keep trying. Thus, it’s hard for me, as a writer who loves story just as much as I love fights, to take this seriously due to the fact there is so much potential for story that gets lost in brawls between werewolves and vampires.

The plot picks up right where we left our supposed couple, fleeing for their lives the night they killed Viktor. Not only do we get a voice over from Selene to remind us what happened in the last story, we get a written introduction to tell us about the ‘supposed legend’ of the origins of both species. It is later all gone over again with character interaction and flashbacks. This means, we’ve got way too much exposition. If it can’t be shown in the first ten minutes without resorting to gimmicks. There is a problem.

Selene heads to a safe house (not very smart) and leaves Michael alone (also not very smart) in hopes to awaken Marcus and beg for clemency of some sort. (Sure, that’ll work.) Michael goes and does something stupid, which makes me wonder if he has the thirst at all (which would make no sense since he is a hybrid.) A chase later, we get to the pointless sex scene and can we get to the plot here or back to fighting. (And seriously, Michael reminds me more of a puppy than a monster.) It isn’t until after this that we actually get to the point of the story. So, most of this could have been cut out without me feeling the least bit bad about it going.

But because we killed all the interesting characters in the last film, we now have to introduce new ones! Just don’t get too attached, that’s not the way these movies go. This is partly why I can’t take these movies seriously. Sure, our characters are in peril, but with everyone dropping like flies that isn’t them it doesn’t feel very realistic. Isn’t there a way of dealing with your enemies other than ripping their throats out? Sure, Kraven had it coming. Just, when every interesting character with complicated motivations dies leaving us Selene whose motivation just seems to be “stay alive,” it’s hard to root for her and the film loses tension. This is on top of the fact, we are basing the entire point of this movie on memories that are centuries old.

So, there is plot here. It just isn’t utilized very well. So, whatever tension there is, because there is some tension, gets lost in the senseless deaths and senseless choices on behalf of the protagonists. The bones of a good story are there and if someone could boil it down and distill the essence of it, it could work. Just, not as given. Half a cookie.

The blowing up of Alexander Corvinus’ ship was unnecessary and over the top. Not only did he happen to have explosives right next to where he was lying, that ship was a huge source of information that can no longer be used by anybody, which is a shame. So, one cookie.

The fights are thrilling, when Selene isn’t just spraying bullets about. Michael seems to go into some sort of berserk mode that still proves the truism of don’t mess with your doctor, they put you together, they can take you apart. They finally seemed to get the idea that the movie goer wanted to see hand to hand combat, so they put a lot of that into the film, giving Selene a knife for close work. The fights are perhaps the best thing about this movie, one cookie.

Selene hasn’t improved much since the last movie. She’s stoic, she’s stubborn and suddenly after one night of sex, if Michael is in trouble, she’s devastated. I don’t have much to stay about her as a character, because there doesn’t seem to be much to say. She has her moments, but those are fleeting. Supposedly the plot revolves around her and the entire reason why Viktor turned her, which was a direct and utter contradiction from the first movie that it, once again, makes no sense whatsoever. Two things, if she was this key to finding what shouldn’t be found. One, she should have never been a Death Dealer. She should have been a pampered court darling that never saw combat. Two, Marcus should have never known about her existence, thus Viktor should not have kept her close but sent her to be with Amelia. With vampires and blood sharing, it seems awfully difficult to keep a secret. So the fact her secret is carried within her blood makes me wonder how well this was thought through.

There wasn’t anything added to her character in this movie. At least in the first movie, she had a few moments of being conflicted about Viktor, not that it lasted very long before she cut his head in half. Once again, all the interesting characters with the conflicts are the men. Alexander and Marcus and their troubled relationship. Tanis and what he did to become exiled. There is a story there between Marcus and Viktor as well. Marcus and William have some sort of twin bond that is never explored. Selene spends too much of the film being a victim of circumstance. At some point, she needed to take control and assert herself, unfortunately, it never happened.

I’m eating the whole cookie this time. She made no progress, the plot that revolved around her was nonsensical and she never showed any inner or outer conflict or assertion over her circumstances.

Once again, Underworld is grounded in a really solid concept. It was all the additions and flourishes that they added that make for the frustrations I have with this franchise. Mainly, because nothing can be done with them in a two to two and a half hour long movie.

So, first for the good. I am pleased to report that the lighting is better in this movie and thus I don’t get a headache or feel the urge to fall asleep. Yay! The special effects and transformation sequences are fantastic. I love Marcus’ design. The vampires were lacking the ‘monster’ feeling that the werewolves had and Marcus provided that.

Now, for the not so good. It seems that within a period of forty eight hours, silver nitrate bullets were invented and then completely forgotten about. Alexander’s men don’t seem to care about putting down werewolves as they don’t even pack silver bullets, even when going to confront the originator of all werewolves. And, there are yet more unanswered and unresolved questions and the questions that are answered are done so in a nonsensical way. So one bite out of the cookie for the bad.

This movie wasn’t expressly worse than Underworld, but it wasn’t expressly better either. The franchise continued to feel like it was part of a television series that couldn’t make it to screens because of budgetary constraints. There were a lot of interesting story ideas that instead of cutting it down to the simplest, they decided to throw everything in and hope it worked. The plot wasn’t edited enough to fit the time constraints. This movie is good for a few one liners and bloody fights (and one very awkward uncomfortable sex scene that wasn’t needed), Three and a quarter gingersnaps.

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