Dark, beautiful, and full of gore: everything a Vampire movie should be.
Underworld: Awakening, the fourth in the series starring Kate Beckinsale (Contraband) as the ever-so-sexy Selene, features a world where humans have discovered the existence of Vampires and Lycans. Even though it had been established in the first film that the Vampires generally ignored humans (preferring instead to obtain their blood from hospital blood banks), the humans decide that anyone with either “disease” needed to die horribly. So begins the war.
Now, before I get really into the review, I need to acknowledge the absolutely fantastic casting in this movie. Along with Kate Beckinsale, we have the eye-candy for those appreciating males in the form of Theo James, who is stunning throughout the movie. For those of us who are complete nerds, we are treated to none other than Charles Dance (also known as Tywin Lannister from Game of Thrones). Mix all of this with the wonderful (relatively new) actress India Eisley, and you get a cast where any audience member can find someone to appreciate.
Moving on! We start the movie with the previously mentioned war that really doesn’t make much sense to me. The way it is explained is basically “humans need someone to fight, so now it’s the Lycans and Vampires instead of each other.” We get the pleasure of watching unsuspecting Vampires dragged out of their homes and into the daylight, and Lycans being shot at with silver bullets, and it really is quite horrible. Never is it when the creature is attacking humans, and often they barely seem to fight back. The exception, of course, is Beckinsale’s character who seems mostly interested in getting to her boy-toy Michael.
Now, here is my one big complaint about this movie. Michael is the most useless character ever. He does literally nothing and the entire time Selene is all “Michael this” and “Michael that.” I know it’s because she is in love with him and whatever, which is all well and good, but she kicks so much more ass than he does that it leads you to wonder “Why the hell is she with him?” It’s just one of those horribly unbalanced couples that you almost hope fails, because there is no way that useless idiot is good enough for her. Honestly, he’s just the worst.
Speaking of how much ass Kate Beckinsale kicks, the fight choreography in Underworld: Awakening is a wonder to behold. I am a big fan of action movies, and the fight scenes in this movie have to be among the best ever. They use whatever weapons happen to be lying around, the gunfights actually cause wounds even on the main characters, and everyone knows how to aim. It really is amazing to see what can be done once people get past the Storm Trooper School of Shooting.
There is one strange thing about the movie, and that is Beckinsale’s complete disregard for the safety of others (except Mr. Useless). Even when she’s trying to save Eisley’s character, she does this by flipping a van. While Eisley is still in it. Maybe it’s just me, but it seems to me that almost killing the person you’re trying to save might be somewhat counterproductive. Not that I would ever openly criticize her methods.
Not only were the fights visually stunning, but so was every other visual aspect. I was lucky enough to see this movie in IMAX 3D, and I honestly have to say that the 3D effects were the best I’ve seen since Avatar (actually, the effects may have even been better than Avatar). One of the coolest effects has to be the silver gas grenades Beckinsale uses at various points throughout the movie. Not only is it an interesting concept in general (as well as being mildly disgusting and very effective), but it looks beautiful in 3D. Also surprisingly cool to see in 3D is all of the gore. So much gore. This is not a movie for the overly squeamish, to say the least.
Now, this is an action movie, so there isn’t a whole ton of plot. That said, pretty much everything (except for that useless POS Michael) is clearly explained at one point or another in the movie, and everything is wrapped up fairly well. Any time one asks, “Wait, why did that happen?” one gets an answer within 10 to 15 minutes. Not only that, but they don’t stop the movie dead to explain. You get a few lines telling you why at an appropriate point, and they don’t feel the need to drive their point in much more than that. It works very well with the tone of the movie, and makes those few places where they stop to drive a point home all the more poignant.
Underworld: Awakening is dark, dangerous, and full of stunning visuals that will both disgust and amaze you. The acting is incredible, and the fight choreography is some of the best in recent memory. As a person habitually disappointed by sequels, I have to admit that all of the other Underworld movies come up short by comparison. This is by far the best of the bunch, and Kate Beckinsale only gets better and better.