Stephen W. Browne | Rants and Raves

Jan/12

25

Review: Underworld Awakening

Note: Published in the TV Guide issue of The Marshall Independent.

I must confess, I am kind of tepid about vampire fiction as entertainment, but as a jackleg social scientist I find the recent social phenomenon of “vampire as good guy” fiction fascinating.

Underworld Awakening is in chronological order the third movie in a series of four of the Underworld vampire/werewolf saga and set in the near future. A prequel, “Underworld: Rise of the Lycans” filled in the back story of the origin of vampires, werewolves, and the war between them back in the middle ages.

The first two movies: “Underworld,” and “Underworld Evolution,” are set in the present. “Underworld Awakening” is set in the near future, when the existence of vampires and werewolves has become known and the authorities have waged a war of extermination against them.

Now in a previous generation of vampire films, that would be taken as a given, “Well duh.”

A lot vampire/werewolf flicks of the past, such as the Hammer films of fond memory, would have a plot subtext of the valiant vampire hunter desperately trying to prove to skeptics there are such things, precisely so we could get together and exterminate them.

In the Underworld world, vampires are a virally mutated species who have learned how to produce artificial blood, or just live off animals, and coexist with normal humans while they fight werewolves (“lycans”) with hi-tech weapons. Except sometimes they yield to temptation and just have to dine on traditional vampire cuisine, a la the Twilight series.

The central character is again Selena (Kate Beckinsale,) a beautiful 300-something vampire trained as a death-dealer, i.e. a superhuman martial arts master who kills lycans.

Selena had previously found out the secret behind the centuries-old war, and the death of her family at the fangs of the vampire elder who turned her. Vampires and lycans it turns out, are sort of cousins, descendants of twin brothers who got bitten by a bat and a wolf respectively. By the end of “Underworld: Evolution” Selena has mutated again to the point she can stand sunlight, and is partnered with the first vampire-lycan hybrid.

At the beginning of “Awakening” Selena has been in cold storage in a laboratory for 12 years, and evidently had a daughter (India Eisley) while she was on ice. The daughter is a hybrid like her father. The lab is run by secret lycans who want to vivisect her daughter Eve (get it? First of a new race, Eve) to create a race of bigger, stronger lycans who are immune to silver.

Selena’s mate, Eve’s father Michael (Scott Speedman) is AWOL in this flick, though present in spirit and presumably will be reunited in the future.
There’s lots of slam-bang action, gun fights, explosions, and hand-to-hand combat in this one. My 10-year-old son loved it of course, “Because I like movies with hotties in them.”

The plot alas, is a bit thin, though to be fair it does advance the series story line in a way that promises more sequels.

The movie ends with Selena, Eve, and a young vampire David (Theo James) escaping just behind and just missing Michael, promising they’ll be back. Back to what is only hinted at, but perhaps to being the secret masters of the world or something. Not an appetizing prospect for us mere humans, but could hardly be worse than the current crop of blood-sucking politicians who run things.

So what is it about vampires and why has the modern incarnation of the legend mutated so far from its origins as a walking, blood drinking corpse?
Well for one, they’re immortal, and they’re super strong and fast. For another, they’re scary when they want to be. If you’re a vampire guy, you can offer the ladies something nobody else can, eternal youth and beauty. And vampire chicks are hot.

Vampires it seems, have replaced Superman as the hero we would like to be. Perhaps it’s because becoming a vampire is doable, while to be Superman you have to have been born on Krypton.

And vampires are powerful in an age when many feel we have lost power over our own lives.

So what the heck, take your kids (10 is about the lower limit I’d say,) they’ll enjoy the action and noise. And dad, watching English actress Kate Beckinsale kick butt in a skin-tight leather jumpsuit is the best English import since Emma Peal in “The Avengers.”

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