By my scientific count, there are three kinds of people in the world: There are those who have a guilty fondness for Alice and the Resident Evil franchise, there are those who prefer Selene and the Underworld movies, and then there’s the rest of you: Joyless buzz-kills who have no appreciation for the finer things in life, which is to say: Incredibly attractive women wearing skin-tight clothing and doing very bad things to very ugly creatures.
Both franchises share a lot in common: They were originated by hacky directors and star their enormously beautiful but middlingly-talented wives; they are underwritten, poorly acted, and steeped in ridiculous, convoluted and contradictory mythology. They are bad movies that receive terrible reviews, and both series have gone on for far too long. And yet their modest budgets, straightforward action-driven plots, and heavy reliance on special make-up effects almost seem quaint these days. They are neither gimmicky nor cute, they don’t rely on absurd love triangles, and there’s plenty of blood and incoherent mayhem. There are worse things to aspire to.
Personally, I’m partial to Selene and the vampire and lycans, but I hold no ill will against Alice and her zombie-like creatures. We’re all in this messy bloodbath together, so I see no reason we can’t make blood-beards of the bubbles and squeak our undead rubber duckies in unison, relishing the day that brings our two franchises together in one unholy, post-apocalyptic zombie-lycan-vampire epic. It will suck the chrome off a trailer hitch, but in its own small way, it will unite us all.
Underworld Awakening is absolute crap, a darkly-lit mess of fangs, CGI hair, wooden acting, blood, blood, and more blood. And it is glorious. Granted, the middle section is a slog, but the first 20 minutes and the last half hour don’t even bother with plot or character development: They’re just raucous symphonies of Beckinsale’s badassery and gore, and I will not have it spoken ill of.
If you’ve seen all the films, and yet have no recollection of the mythology like myself, there is a nice bit of exposition to bring us up to speed: Selene fell in love with Michael Corvin (Scott Speedman), who became the first vampire/lycan hybrid. Then Selene killed off the elders, and while there was a brief era of peace, a zombie-like lycan outbreak among the humans put an end to it. Using ultraviolet bullets laced with silver nitrate, the humans purged the planet of lycans and vampires, and eventually captured Selene and left Michael for dead (Speedman is in the film so little that I’m not sure it’s not just scenes from previous movies spliced into this one).
After her capture, a corporate lab freezes Selene in a block of ice. She wakes up 12 years later to discover that — while frozen — she had a daughter, Eve, who is three-quarters vampire and one-quarter lycan, which is apparently the magic formula for immunizing the remaining underground lycans from silver. So, the lycans kidnap Eve, and Selene is tasked with retrieving her from what amounts to a lycan superman with no weakness to kryptonite.
It is dumber than frogballs and not even worth trying to make sense of. It’s just an exposition dump followed by a series of action sequences. While I’m normally anti-exposition dumps, they’re effective in the Underworld movies because it means that the characters don’t have to carry the weight of the (thin) plot and can be left to do what they do best: Kill each other. There’ a terrific amount of carnage in Awakening, and while the 3D element doesn’t add much, it’s not detrimental to the bloodshed, either.
Is it a good movie? God no. Monkeys flinging poo at typewriters could come up with a more coherent storyline. But it is entertaining at the front and back ends of the film (you can nap during the middle section and it won’t affect your viewing experience). How often do you get to see a hot chick in leather glide through a dozen men and slash their throats with a scalpel? Or fall down a 50 story elevator shaft, bounce off a pole, turn and split a werewolf in half? That’s stupid fun in its purest form, people, and while I could not in good conscience actually recommend the film, if you’re a (closet) fan of the previous Underworld outings there’s no reason to think you won’t enjoy this one, too.