Wednesday, 8 February 2012

Film Review: Underworld Awakening 3D

Kate Beckinsale in Underworld: Awakening 3D
Movie sequels can be tricky. As can movie prequels. But movie threequels? They are trickiest of the lot. Take Sam Raimi's hugely popular Spiderman franchise for example. The first and second films were both massively successful and celebrated, the only stumbling block came with the overly jumbled third instalment. The same can be said for numerous film franchises such as X-Men, Shrek and The Matrix.

Which brings us to the latest instalment in the widely popular vampire/lycan/action/fantasy/catsuit orgy that is the Underworld series. Underworld: Awakening is the fourth entry into the series but is the third to be set in modern day with 2009's Rise of the Lycans being a prequel to the initial two films, Underworld and Underworld Evolution.

Stepping back into the corseted catsuit for the third time is Kate Beckinsale as vampiric Death Dealer and all-round badass Selene. Set 12 years after the events of Evolution, the warring vampire and lycan factions are now hunted by humanity, who have since learnt of the existence of their kind.

As a relative newcomer to the franchise (having only been introduced mere weeks ago), may I first start off with this; Underworld Awakening is unlikely to attract any of the uninitiated to the series. With an extensive, complex and fleshed-out back story, the Underworld series is best viewed and appreciated in it's entirety. The three films that have preceded Awakening obviously accounted for something, and so I would at first recommend a quick catch up on at least the first two films in order to familiarise yourself with the characters, ideas and plot-lines.

Underworld aficionados will be pleased be to hear however that Awakening is a worthy entry into the series. Whatever the film lacks from the absence of stars such as Bill Nighy and Martin Sheen, it makes up for in satisfyingly gore-drenched vampire versus lycan action.

The actions set-pieces are certainly impressive stuff, but I did feel that the films insistence on adding 3D visuals did detract from the enjoyment somewhat. Rapid shot changes and fast-pased fight sequences were well executed but often reduced to a mash of jarring blurriness and disorientating visuals. The films final third may have one of the most exciting and impressive set-pieces of the entire franchise; it's just a shame the murky and unimpressive addition of 3D lowers the entertainment factor. If you get the chance, see it in 2D instead.

That aside, Beckinsale does a fantastic job of steering a fairly average plot that sees her escape her human captors and uncover her vampire/lycan hybrid of a daughter, Eve (India Eisley). Suddenly faced with maternity, Beckinsale's usual cold-hearted killer shows more vulnerability here and this is the central device that drives the plot forward. Eisley is also satisfyingly creepy and frail as Eve. A notable absence from proceedings is that of Scott Speedman's love-interest Michael. Whilst referred to, his non-appearance was undoubtedly added in as a lead into the plot of Underworld 5. Instead, Theo James' character David, falls fairly flat and has little else to do other than add an fairly pointless injection of heroic testosterone.

The Verdict: 5/10

Overall, the latest Underworld film is a notable addition to the franchise, but ultimately falls short of expectation thanks to it's fairly hammy script and dull visuals. The action scenes are top-notch, but disappointing 3D ultimately means the audience misses out on the excitement. One to catch if your a fan of the series and vampires that don't sparkle.

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