Underworld: Evolution

  • Len Wiseman
  • 2006

Vampires and werewolfs: are they really an exciting subject for movies? Well, if they are Nosferatu (F.W. Murnau, 1922) or An American Werewolf in London (John Landis, 1981) then maybe so. If a filmmaker can be bothered to inject some life into the characters and make us care about them then bring me a library full. Hey, even Blade (Stephen Norrington, 1998) was a semi-enjoyable romp as it did not take itself too seriously and threw a few flashy effects in for good measure. For a pre-_The Matrix_ (Wachowski Brothers, 1999) film it looked pretty good, even if now it needs bullet time to go with all the shades and black clothing on display. Then along came Underworld (Len Wiseman, 2003) — a kind of _Matrix_-lite slug fest between vampire and werewolf, oh, sorry, that should be ‘Lycan’ (because it makes everything clearer, doesn’t it?), with guns, lycra and Kate Beckinsale doing her best Lara Croft impression with both. Now we have a sequel that starts where the first finish…in the land of endless statements of intent.

…the continual flashbacks in the film that barely explain anything adequately

Maybe I’m being a little harsh so let me get with the plot if I can. Well it all boils down to a centuries-old battle war between vampires and Lycans in which vampire Selene (Kate Beckinsale) used to go dishing out the death to Lycans in a _Matirx_-style fashion. Yep, think Trinity killing mammals and you’re there. Then she met Michael (Scott Speedman). He became a Lycan/vampire hybrid and on the way Selene had to kill some high-end vampires. Now Selene and Michael need to find the first Lycan, the brother of the first vampire, who has been locked away for centuries to stop disaster striking both vampires and Lycans. If you struggled to follow that, do not worry, you will be even more confused by the continual flashbacks in the film that barely explain anything adequately.

So the plot is little more than an excuse for a series of gory battles between Lycans and vampires. The first has plenty of beheadings as blood is splattered every way possible, one has a _Terminator 2_(James Cameron, 1991) style lorry chase and the rest are guns-blazing wire-assisted fights and punch-ups with the odd giant stabbing from a vampire wing. These action scenes are nothing particularly inventive until the finale with a helicopter crashing into a cavern, and it’s a long slog to get to that point.

…Bill Nighy is wasted in a five-minute role at the start

In between there is plenty of male posturing and shots of Beckinsale’s (admittedly lovely) posterior in figure-hugging lycra while characters inanely whittle away a drab story line about how the fate of the world is in the balance unless Selene finds the lost Lycan first. Or telling Selene ‘You will fail!’, or words to that effect. Bill Nighy is wasted in a five-minute role at the start and most of the supporting cast are consigned to close-ups of scowling like they lost their mobile, shouting nonsense about age—old feuds and shooting guns while doing both. Speedman looks bewildered by it all and Tony Curren as arch-rival vampire Marus spends the best parts of his role covered in CGI.

Underworld was disposable entertainment; its Evolution is into an overly complicated story that will bore all but the hardened Goth and/or fantasy audience it so blatantly courts. The action is appealing enough and Beckinsale works wonders to hold it together. She has a captivating way of taking on all the vampires, Lycans and other foes the world can throw at her as well as a clunky script. Perhaps it’s the lycra. Anyway, if you do not mind contending with the drab dialogue and want to see some werewolfs, sorry, Lycans, battle it out with some vampires this will just about do. It follows in the footsteps of the recent video game movies such as Resident Evil (Paul W. S. Anderson, 2002) and Doom (Andrzej Bartkowiak, 2005). Run around shooting the bad guys and someone will want to watch no matter what happens when the actors have to open their mouths.

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