Kate Beckinsale pours herself into her Death Dealer outfit to tackle the forces of fur once again and inject some life back into the popular series.
Before vampires became shiny diamonds and set the course of feminism back five decades, they were a force to be reckoned with. From the days of the Universal monster movies, it was always vampires and werewolves that were the creatures who made the bumping noises in the night, and sometimes they even went head-to-head. With 2003’s Underworld, an ultra-slick world in which an ancient war between vampires and werewolves (or Lycans) was being waged unbeknownst to humans, we were introduced to Selene (Kate Beckinsale), a vampire hell-bent on wiping out the Lycans that killed her family. She ultimately falls in love with the Lycan-Vampire hybrid, Michael, and is exiled from the vampire community.
As Underworld: Awakening opens, vampires and Lycans have been exposed to the world at large, who set about systematically wiping them out. On the eve of their escape, Selene and Michael are violently separated, and Selene is knocked out, only to awaken in a world she doesn’t recogise. In fact, she has been placed on ice for twelve years, and only vampire David (Theo James) seems to be a friendly face. They soon find the injured child Eve (India Eisley), a powerful child of non-human origin, and despite a reluctant vampire coven, they must all band together to face off against the Lycan and human forces who aim to stop them.
The return of Beckinsale is a welcome treat for Underworld fans, as she was not present in the poorly received prequel Underworld: Rise of the Lycans. Apart from still being amazingly fit and able to slide into her old outfits, Beckinsale injects a sense of familiar energy back into the series, making this one of the best entries since the first installment. The cool poise that the beautiful Beckinsale brings to the role is unmistakably striking, and her focus for the last few years on smaller-scale dramas (Snow Angels, Everybody’s Fine) comes to and end as she eases back into big-budget fare with this film and Total Recall later this year. It is just a shame that there isn’t as strong a relationship formed with David the one with Michael in the first two films, and while it is great to see Charles Dance, he barely compares with Bill Nighy as a vampire elder.
Måns Mårlin and Björn Stein take over the series, and while it may be missing some of the panache of series originator (and Beckinsale’s husband) Len Wiseman, they project a visual flair all of their own. The action barely lets up in the brisk running time of the film, so dwelling on any plot holes will only aid in missing the gunplay. There is an element of style over substance, but this is to be expected with one of most stylish set of action films of the last decade. The constant running and gunning can be relentless, especially given the short nature of the film. Indeed, more time could have been spent fleshing out a potentially fascinating new world, when ultimately the film simply sets up the inevitable sequel. Either way, despite the modern trappings, this feels like old-school Underworld, and fans will lap this up.
Underworld: Awakening is released in Australia on 26 January 2012 from Sony.