Underworld: Awakening (2012)
(18) Running time: 88 minutes
Directors: Mans Marlind, Bjorn Stein
Writers: Len Wiseman, John Hlavin, J. Michael Starczynski, Allison Burnett, Kevin Grevioux, Danny McBride
Starring: Kate Beckinsale, Michael Ealy, India Eisley, Stephen Rea, Theo James, Kris Holden-Ried
Reviewed by: Matt Wavish, official HCF critic
I’m going to attempt to review Underworld: Awakening without mentioning Kate Beckinsale’s skin tight leather outfit and corset… darn it!!! I can’t, how can I? Let’s get it out the way then: if I get it out of my system now then maybe I can concentrate on the actual film. So, here it is, as expected: Kate Beckinsale looks hot, and I mean hot in her outfit, and it has been far too long since she was last dressed like this (Underworld: Evolution was a whole six years ago!) It is very difficult to concentrate on anything else as Beckinsale eats up the screen and seduces without even realising it. Whether the film is good or bad, I could watch Beckinsale in her outfit for eternity, and regardless of how good or bad the film was, it was enjoyable for her alone. Now that I have got that out of my system, I will crack on with whether Mans Marlind and Bjorn Stein have been successful in directing the fourth Underworld movie.
Now, I am reading many reviews complaining at the lack of story in this one, and how it fails to connect with the previous Underworld films. Granted the story in this one pretty much takes a back seat to the highly impressive action, but there is still a plot, and there is a small linking to the previous films. Beckinsale as Selene is the only major character returning from the previous films, and the film opens with her doing voiceover and explaining how things have moved on from Underworld: Evolution, and of how Vampires and Lycan’s are now being hunted by humans and their very existence hangs in the balance. Selene, a Death Dealer, decides it is time for her and her partner Michael to escape and go into hiding. Cue tons of terrific action as Selene makes her escape, meets Michael, but sadly things go wrong.
Twelve years later, Selene escapes from a frozen imprisonment where she has been used as a sort of test subject. She is hell bent on finding Michael, but instead finds a much different world to the one she once knew. Lycan’s and Vampires appear to have been wiped out, until she finds Vampires living underground. Not only that, she also finds her daughter, who has been held at the same place Selene was imprisoned at, a dodgy research company called Antigen run by Dr Jacob Lane (Stephen Rea). Selene now must protect her daughter from Antigen, try and figure out where Michael is as she continues to have flashbacks to what happened to him, and also fight off a hoard of Lycan’s. Business as usual then, but clearly the directors here are happy with a fairly simple plot, and instead have opted for a full on action horror that rarely comes up for air.
I loved Underworld: Awakening, and for me this was the best in the series since the first film. I wasn’t Evolution’s biggest fan, and Rise of the Lycan’s was a bit of a disappointment. However, I found Awakening to be an awesome achievement, a full on rollercoaster of terrific stunts, plenty of action, Beckinsale looking hotter than ever, and some glorious violence. The characters are also a lot of fun to watch on screen, and somehow you actually care about them. Theo James as the vampire David is superb, delivering lines which border on cheesy but thankfully never quite get there, and you really side with him as he leads his men into battle, much to the annoyance of his Father Thomas (a very good, if underused Charles Dance). India Eisley plays Selene’s daughter Eve with believability and vulnerability, and Stephen Rea plays the research boss Dr Jacob Lane with chilling precision. Kris Holden-Ried is superb, but I shant spoil that, and Michael Ealy wraps up the main cast nicely as Detective Sebastian. However, this is Beckinsale’s show, and she relishes her role, looking more comfortable than ever and oozing confidence at every turn. Even when faced with a giant Lycan she is cool, calm and collected. Beckinsale even manages a few tears, and will have you wanting to give her a big hug as she explains to her daughter how her “heart is broken”.
There is a lot to enjoy here, and I think I am right in saying that Awakening is the most violent out of the entire series. Beckinsale kills off adversaries in spectacular ways here, especially humans who get in her way. In just a few seconds she slits the throats of ten men, someone who helps her is chillingly tossed off a balcony, arms are broken, people literally snapped in half and Lycan’s are killed off in some imaginative ways too (check out the clash in an air vent). She also does battle with a gargantuan Lycan, and the thrilling set piece is a joy to watch. The final battle is terrific, but there is just so many awesome fight scenes here I cannot mention them all.
If you are looking for a deep, plot driven chiller then look elsewhere, however, if you just want to watch a load of violence, blood, guts and madness, then Awakening has it all. The action barely stops for a minute, and with a fairly short running time, Awakening is perfectly paced for maximum thrills. If you want to pick holes in the film, then I am sure you will find plenty to complain about, but if you want an easy watch and some very simple thrills and violence, then Awakening will deliver. Give your brain a rest and just enjoy the show!