By clicking on this review, it suggests that you have seen Underworld, this film’s prequel. If you haven’t seen Underworld, I would suggest in stopping here and go to watch it. Because both the film and this review will contain numerous spoilers, as I provide both backstory and context to what takes place. So…Underworld Evolution.
Our story begins in 1202 with some exposition about the Vampire/Lycan war, as we see Viktor, Markus and Amelia (the 3 head vampires mentioned in ‘1) chasing down Markus’ twin brother, William Corvinus, the first Lycan. You see, Markus became the first Vampire after being bitten by a Bat while William became the first Werewolf after being bitten by a Wolf. And as mentioned before, Vampirism and Lycanism are products of a virus in this film’s universe rather than a supernatural curse. Due to the fact that William was unable to change back into human form, he is subdued by the Vampires after his rampage through a small village nearly gave him ‘pups’. Despite Viktor’s desire for William’s death, Markus says “Kill him, and you kill me as well”. Viktor then reluctantly suggests that William should be locked up for all eternity – which is what they do. Fast forward to the aftermath of Underworld 1; Selene (Kate Beckinsale) and Michael (Scott Speedman) are on the run from the Vampire Clan, who are searching them both down after Selene killed Viktor and Michael had awaken as the first Vampire/Lycan Hybrid. Their Bonnie and Clyde lifestyle seemed to be going smoothly as they search for the truth behind the war – until the blood of the Lycan Scientist who was killed in the Vampire Clan’s Head-Vampire Chamber had awoken Markus from his slumber – and because Markus is of the Corvinus Clan, he went from being the first and therefore most experienced Vampire, to being the second ever Hybrid. Leading Markus to begin an ethnic cleansing spree, and therefore chasing after Selene and Michael.
Now to talk about the various components that make up this hybrid.
Due to having over twice the budget of its prequel (never mind the advancements in visual effects in 3 years), the CGI and Practical effects have improved and are a definite step-up. The use of cold filters and noir lighting have also helped in its presentation.
The Acting, much like its prequel, is not world class, but it’s still good and it’s still presented within the context of fun. Kate Beckinsale shows off more of her range in this, as Selene becomes more vulnerable and challenged, and the addition of Tony Curran as Markus was a nice touch. Out of all the main actors, once again, Scott Speedman was among the most flawed. But he wasn’t all bad.
The Characters have been met with improvements in this film, as we continue to see Selene and other characters develop further. Selene is demonstrating a vulnerability that she didn’t have in Underworld 1, partly due to the fact that she no longer has a home to go to in the morning, and Michael ends up taking the role as carer, as he doesn’t burn in the sun. Also the fact that Markus is now a hybrid like Michael, and unlike every other Vampire in this universe, is capable of flying like a bat, and is many centuries more experienced than the rest – the threat that the couple experience is only heightened to a greater extent.
The Story in Evolution isn’t as tight as ‘1, and it relies heavily on how much you know or remember from the previous story. It remains Shakespearian in nature as it revolves around a loose but highly dysfunctional family in the Corvins and the Vampires and people saying no to obviously sensible choices due to how love is obviously corrupting their judgement (Ha!). It’s a very different story to ‘1 – and you know what. That’s a good thing! Also, the title “Evolution” hints greatly at the most major themes, including “Journey” “Searching” “Growing” and obviously “Evolving”. It’s something that happens to numerous characters throughout the film, and since I’m not going to spoil it, you’ll have to watch it to see who.
The Music, this time, was done by Marco Beltrami (who also the the music for Wes Craven’s 1st 3 Scream movies and the first Resident Evil movie with Milla Jovovich) left a lot more to be desired, to be fair. Paul Haslinger’s piece “Eternity and a day” is present in 2 scenes, but the rest of the music is very generic and unremarkable when compared to what Haslinger did for Underworld.
The Cinematography is as strong as ever, with the use of Eastern European/Russian-looking forests and snow was a great way to make it stand out from its prequel.
Would I recommend Underworld Evolution? Yes. But only under 1 condition. Underworld 1 and 2 were originally written as 1 script. You can’t enjoy Underworld Evolution properly unless you saw (and enjoyed) Underworld. Everything makes a lot more sense and you give a damn about the characters a lot more after Underworld. Also, while it’s not as tight in its story, it’s still nearly as good. As for the critics who gave it a bad rating – this may have been your problem.
Practical Effects: ****1/4
CGI: ***1/2 (****3/4 in 2006)