Action Movie Friday: Underworld, Awakening

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, Awakening
MPAA Rating: R
Release: 2012
Genre: science, fantasy, horror, action
Starring: Kate Beckinsale, Stephen Rea, Michael Ealy, Theo James, India Eisley, Kris Holden-Ried
Director: Mans Marlind, Bjorn Stein
Writer: Len Wiseman, John Hlavin, J. Michael Straczynski, Allison Burnett, Kevin Grevioux
Distributor: Sony/Screen Gems
Budget: $70 Million
Box Office: $160 Million

Rotten Tomatoes Rating: 26%

Gingersnaps Rating: Four and a Half cookies!

Summary:

The world has changed, someone has outed the silence. Humans have risen up against the vampires and lycans in their midst instigating a great purge of both species. Captured and then awakening as if from a long sleep, Selene escapes into a world that she no longer recognizes seeing visions through another person’s eyes. In order to make sense of things and in order to survive, Selene must track down the source of the visions and invade the place that held her to find out who outed both species and stop their plans before they can start.

Review:

For some reason, Scott Speedman didn’t want to be in this movie. Given, that Scott’s role is mostly to tear off his shirt (for no reason whatsoever) and growl most of the time. I don’t blame him for declining yet another Underworld movie. He spent maybe a day’s worth of shooting for this movie to explain his absence, where he once again growled and tore off his shirt. If you like Scott Speedman’s chest, then his absence might be disappointing. They did try to make up for it with Kris Holden-Ried’s chest. It might have been a fair trade.

We skip Season 3 of Days of the Vampires and head straight into the pilot episode of Season 4, Selene’s awakening at Antigen. This was probably a good decision given that we don’t have enough characters to care about whether or not they survive the Purge. The concept of the Purge itself is horrifying, the writers choosing to prove once again that humans can be far more monstrous than actual ‘monsters.’ Especially since while the vampires and the lycans were at war with each other, they did try to keep the humans out of it. In order for an Underworld: The Purge movie to work, Underworld and Evolution would have had to introduce a much larger cast and range of vampires and Lycans for us to care about. They didn’t. So, the Purge was thankfully skipped.

So, the rules of the universe have changed. We are no longer hiding behind the Masquerade, the lycans and vampires are hiding, period.

And we finally get a good plot out of it. Without politics, without all the machinations and betrayals that have no real place in an action film, we get a clear goal, with a clear conflict and a clear resolution, storm the castle, kick ass. And Hollywood, so over run with father and son stories, finally presents us with a mother and daughter story in an action movie. Woot! There is finally a female writer on the screenplay team. Maybe this is why it is better, fingers crossed.

The story made sense even. There was an amount of horror to it and developed further some of the things that I’d been wondering about since the first movie.

As usual, the more I like something, the less I have to say about it. Even though the attack upon Antigen reminds me a bit of the Matrix, but I suppose there are only so many ways to storm the castle. This is such a huge step forward for this franchise, one cookie.

She also didn’t have to blow up every floor of Antigen… geez. One cookie.

As much as I like this movie, the fights seem to be where we take a step back. There wasn’t as much hand to hand including for Selene and with the loss of Marcus, the vampires no longer feel as monstrous. Mostly, guns and grenades returned as the primary means of fighting because in the traditional fashion of each movie having to up the ante foe wise (I mean, what do you do after you fight the originator, Blade has this problem too), Selene was too outclassed to take the lycans on without the guns. Which, totally unnecessary to up the ante on enemies since lycans themselves are bad enough, but whatever. We get an awesome comeuppance out of it. Still it was a step back and so I’m going to take a bite out of the cookie.

Whatever fugue thrall state that Selene was in under the control of Viktor finally seems to be wearing off. She’s becoming less of a cardboard cutout and more dimensional. She’s also making some smarter decisions. Though this devotion has been cast onto Michael, as she believes that the psychic link is between her and him even though it has never been shown for them to have one. However, in this movie, she is more of a player than any other of the previous movies. She might not know what the hell is going on all the time, but she’s willing to be more of an example and a stronger voice. Instead of being a follower, she is taking on the role of a leader. Followers do not make for good action movie stars, leaders do. Selene even manages some inner conflict and to have a bit of a heart to heart with Eve.

Eve, herself is a decent character. I can’t say a great one because she spends a great deal of the movie in Selene’s former role, pawn on the chessboard. However, the building blocks are there. She works up the courage to free Selene, escape on her own and then when she is recaptured, she fights to free herself again. She is still in many ways a child and shows her disappointment when talking to Selene.

Once again, a huge step forward for this series. One cookie.

One thing that the Underworld universe has down is keeping within their own rules. Gravity defying stunts, painful transformation sequences, memories shared through blood and so on and so forth. What they aren’t good about is explaining everything and answering the so many questions that as a writer just fester in my brain. Most of them, most likely, unimportant in the scheme of things, at least for this movie.

The good news is that silver nitrate and silver ammunition returned after a complete and utterly mysterious disappearing act in Evolution.

If there are two things that bother me about the world building of this movie it was, one, Selene’s never ending ammo and two, the incredible vampire bias of the series overall. In the previous movies, Selene at least had the decency to run out of bullets every once in a while. In this movie, there wasn’t even a nod to her running out of bullets. She just fired and fired and fired and I was going… “now wait a minute.”

This doesn’t really count towards the cookies, but the incredible bias towards vampires and against the lycans in the franchise is really starting to aggravate me. Especially Selene’s little speech at the end. I mean, what was up with that? Everything wrong with the world isn’t because of the lycans. It would have been more ironic and possibly more vampiric if the vampires had outed both species to get ahead, but that isn’t the route they chose. Anyways, I’m getting tired of the ‘evil werewolf’ who always gets killed at the end. Marcus, as a vampire elder, was at least partially interesting antagonist.

Anyways, this isn’t a perfect action movie. There are still a lot of unanswered questions that weren’t resolved and Selene’s never ending supply of ammo means I’m going to take one bite out of the world building cookie.

Underworld Awakening is a mildly tense and engaging action movie with a decent plot with actual clear goals and conflict. Selene’s character exhibits some growth. This franchise has finally hit its stride. It is either uphill or downhill from here. Let’s hope they learned from all of their movies. Four and a half gingersnaps.

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