Well, here are are, the last Underworld review until the release of Underworld 5: Blood Wars, which comes out early next year. If I decide to throw in the EU-exclusive PS2 game “Underworld: The Eternal War” before then, great. But until that time, lets focus on this film.
To continue with the trend, if you haven’t seen Underworld 1, Underworld: Evolution or Underworld: Rise Of The Lycans, then I suggest going away and coming back later, because this review will spoil those films a little bit.
So what’s the story? Well, we continue on from where Underworld: Evolution left off – and are brought into a new age within this series’ universe. Shortly after the death of Markus, the presence of Lycans and Vampires becomes known to the humans, who then take it upon themselves to purge the world of both clans, which leads to the destruction of known Vampire Covens, and many Lycans being driven to the darkest corners possible. Selene and Michael decide they would board a ship and leave for good – until they are ambushed at the dock, and experience a silver-nitrate grenade exploding while Selene tries to bring Michael back to the surface of the sea. Selene then finds herself in a Fallout 4 scenario – 12 years in the future, inside a big glass pod and waking up from suspended animation. She escapes in a fashion that would make Hitchcock proud, acquires her trademark catsuit and weapons nearby, and then proceeds to find out what happened to Michael while at the same time avoiding both the cops and Antigen (the Scientific folk who held her there)
Now to awake you to its various bits and pieces.
First of all, we’ll talk about the Special effects, because this literally is the best that Underworld has ever looked. They went all out with the action scenes, with many of them being great fun, incredibly gory (the goriest of all 4 films) very creative, and even the winks of deja-vu that was well placed. The combination of men-in-rubber-suits and CGI was all beautifully put together within the context of it being a 70 million dollar film – making this the most expensive instalment.
The acting, once again, is either average or above average, with some fresh faces thrown in. Tywin Lannister himself, Charles Dance, graces our screens in the “Viktor” role of his Vampire Clan while he was in-between seasons of Game Of Thrones. He puts on a fun performance as a very safety-orientated leader, Thomas. Another actor to keep an eye on is Stephen Rea, who plays Dr Jacob Lane, the head scientist of Antigen. However, this doesn’t mean everybody is brilliant. Theo James as David left a fair bit to be desired, and was possibly worse than Shane Brolly – but he wasn’t “terribly good” either.
The characters, overall, aren’t as engaging as those of the original film. But in terms of heading in a new direction with the series, they aren’t a bad place to start. Selene is very much the main star with nobody really in the supporting role outside of perhaps Eve (India Eisley), who shares a bond with her, or David (Theo James) Thomas’ son, who helps her, despite her “history of killing vampire elders”. As the story progresses, other characters begin to make more sense, which could lead to their inclusion in the sequel.
The story is about Selene searching for Michael and finding out some new and interesting things from her 12 year absence, and to be blunt, this is for the fans. Anybody walking into this without paying attention to the exposition of the series will likely either get lost or not care about anything going on, or declare it to be either too simple or too complicated. If you’re a fan, it makes a lot more sense, and the direction it’s going is both acceptable and engaging, while not drifting away from its roots. The emphasis on the theme of evolution continues in the story, and during a time when Twilight was in cinema, we’re presented with a Lycan that would destroy that film series on its own, just by appearing.
The music sees Paul Haslinger return as composer as he brings the familiar, brooding sound that Underworld 1 was known for, and the official music has an oddly nostalgic choice to it, with the likes of Evanescence, The Cure, Black Light Burns, and Linkin Park adding their own songs in the mix (Keeping in mind, Evanescence were pretty big when Underworld 1 came out, Black Light Burns provided the end theme for it, and The Cure…well, that’s pure goth is it not?).
The cinematography is among the best in the series, with strong lighting choices covering up “flaws” in the special effects and CGI very well. Some of the action shots were really phenomenal in this as well, occasionally blowing the other instalments out of the water.
Would I recommend Underworld: Awakening? Yes, if you’re an Underworld fan, a Goth kid and a Kate Beckinsale fan, but mostly if you’re an Underworld and Kate Beckinsale fan. Underworld movies are generally accepted for their combination of cult appeal, fun factor and decorated, personalised lore, and ‘4 doesn’t lose sight of this. In fact, it managed to up the fun factor in this 1 with its superior action scenes and better visual presentation. While the film needs all of the others to help it stand up, it’s still a fun film within the series, and possibly the best 1 since Underworld in 2003.
Acting: ***1/4 (**** from Kate Beckinsale, Charles dance & Stephen Rea)
Special effects: ****1/2