Underworld: Awakening

2012-01-20 10:02
 
What it's about

Skipping right past the third film (a prequel), this fourth entry into the Underworld series sees Kate Beckinsale back as Selene, the leather clad vampire outlaw, who finds herself caught up in a world where humanity has discovered the existence of vampires and werewolves.

What we thought

The Underworld series has always been one of the most mind-bogglingly unbelievable franchises ever committed to celluloid. Not in a hyperbolic, that's-so-good-it's-unreal kind of way, you understand, but in the sense that it boggles the mind how a series based on the seemingly foolproof premise of Kate Beckinsale, dressed from neck to toe in skin-tight leather, kicking all kinds of ass in a centuries old war between vampires and werewolves, could be so relentlessly and unrepentantly dull. And yet, here we are: the first Underworld film was incredibly boring, the second even worse and the recent prequel, Rise of the Lycans, seems to have been ignored by just about everyone. All too predictably, Underworld: Awakening does little to right the ship.

A six-year break and a fresh new pair of directors might have suggested a new hope and new direction for the series – even I went into the film hoping that they might finally have gotten it right – but, if anything, the ironically titled Awakening is even more of a dud than its predecessors. Admittedly, it isn't quite as head-pulverisingly stupid as the second film but Awakening takes all of the series' many, many problems and amplifies them a million-fold through the prism of some seriously headache-inducing 3D.

The film could certainly have used another dimension or two in terms of its woefully under-developed characterization and plotting, to be sure, but the literal added dimension of 3D stereoscopy has done nothing but make a bad film into one that is nigh unwatchable. The two most obvious drawbacks to modern day stereoscopy (aside for the silly glasses, of course) is a) its inability to deal with rapid movement and b) the colour loss and darkening of the image on screen. The two things that the Underworld series is known for are a) its hyper kinetic action scenes and b) its pitch-black colour palette. Put the two together and you have nothing short of a truly unbearable viewing experience that could only possibly be made worse by hiring someone to simultaneously throw popcorn at you, rest their smelly feet on your lap and blather on to their cellphone at the top of their voice for an hour and a half.

Of course, even if you are fortunate/ smart enough to catch one of the film's few 2D prints, you may be spared the most moronic use of 3D to date, but you will still have to deal with the film itself. While the basic plot is actually smartly simplistic and there is even a twist or two along the way, the execution falls flat at every turn. Beckinsale's Selene might look great but her inconsistently drawn character is hard to root for – and the rest of cast somehow fare even worse – and even when the basic story is at its most engaging, the lack of interest in the characters make it very hard to care about anything else going on on screen.

The storytelling is also once again, at its very best, shoddy with herky-jerky pacing and overly-involved plot contrivances overshadowing any potential interest that the film's premise might have otherwise provoked. It doesn't even work on a technical level as action scenes are hard to follow and its relentlessly dark colour palette is somehow confused for stylish moodiness. Most damningly of all though, is its complete and utter lack of a sense of humour – hogwash is one thing but hogwash that has no understanding of its own hogwashiness and has its characters spout dialogue as if its from the pen of Billy Shakespeare himself is quite another.

Underworld: Awakening is saved from an even lower score by a final act that gains focus by its straightforward, rescue-mission simplicity but it's the sort of vampire film that makes you gain a new found appreciation for the Twilight series – and that's not something to be taken lightly.

Four films in and still no one has figured out how to make a halfway decent Underworld film. Maybe (the inevitable) next time.
Read more on:    kate beckinsale  |  movies

Yolande Kruse 2012/01/23 11:00 AM
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Let me guess, you're a Twilight fan, right? The underworld series was great. Only in Anime and Bram Stoker's classic could you find better vampire stories. Also I have great respect for humour, but it has it's place and dark gothic vampire stories have no business with humour. Go watch your silly little cutesy glampires and leave the comments on proper vampire movies to someone with a decent IQ.
Michael 2012/01/23 11:10 AM
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WOW! Biased much? I thoroughly enjoyed the first Underworld, the second was just an attempt at moneymaking, and the prequel could have been better, but there was nothing wrong with the original. One of the best vampire movies out there. Are you that hard up for work, that you review movies you know you're going to hate?
Dracolusus 2012/01/23 11:24 AM
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How do you even have a job as a movie reviewer. I pity your boss for hiring such a waste of space. I'm sorry, but you are so far off on all points, I suggest you change careers.
Oceanh 2012/01/23 11:52 AM
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All of the Underworld movies are AWESOME, I couldnt disagree with your "review" more. Perhaps you should have a look at the figures on just how well all these movies have done at the cinema's, in fact the latest edition was the highest grossing movie of all the movies at the cinema's for it the past weekend.
Johann 2012/01/23 11:53 AM
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So THAT is why it's doing so good world wide!
Jakkals 2012/01/23 12:13 PM
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Just to show the complete incompetence of the reviewer...go check out how it ranks on IMDB... http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1496025/ Maybe you should step out of the Twilight and "glitter", so we don't have to read this junk again!
JP 2012/01/23 12:30 PM
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Thanks for giving us YOUR opinion into a movie and a genre that you obviously have no clue about, the Underworld series is a great series and it would be appreciated that as a "professional" reviewer you keep your totally biased comments to yourself. You are here to review, not waste space and time in writing dribble..
Nico 2012/01/23 12:55 PM
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I loved the movie! Thoroughly entertaining and a good addition to the series. Would recommend it to just about anyone...except those who rate Ilan Preskovsky as a critic. @ Ilan Preskovsky...really? Maybe you wanted to write something, but didn't know what, so you just inked in a bunch of crap. How can i ever take anything you ever review or say for that matter serious after you've proven your opinion to be so utterly twisted and off the mark?
Robert 2012/01/23 1:14 PM
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In all honesty, I could watch Kate run about in PVC/Leather all day long and would love it. Your point on "its pitch-black colour palette" obviously fails to realise the "creatures of the night" theme. Oh wait... Twilight killed that :(
Tenebrae 2012/01/23 1:30 PM
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The only critisicm I can rightly level at this movie is that some of the Underworld fans are quite annoyed that we got more of the rather duller vampires instead of the vastly more interesting lycan characters in this film. I would personally enjoyed another lycan-driven movie more than more of Selene, which is about the only point of this entire review I can agree on: The character of Selene is dull, badly constructed, badly executed ad just really not intriguing at all. This movie lacked a character that really draws you in, think Bill Nighy's Viktor, Steven Mackintosh's Tannis and above all, Michael Sheen's Lucian. This is what happens when Hollywood "keeps it in the family" and rather have screenwriters they've worked with do the rewrites and updates instead of the originator of the story.
Sean 2012/01/23 1:36 PM
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Why would one appreciate Twilight more after seeing Underworld? One is just a love story aimed at teens while the other is hardcore action. Awakening is a great flick for people who enjoy the VAMPIRE(ones that burn not sparkle) genre. Only thing I can complain about is that it was too short.
Sam 2012/01/23 1:38 PM
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I love the previous movies, Ilan must have no clue!
Hazard 2012/01/23 1:51 PM
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Clearly a twighlight fan. The underworld series is one of the best series of vampire movies. Definitely allot better than vampires that glitter in the sun. AS we can all agree you clearly have no idea what you are talking about and need to seriously need to make a career change very soon before you give any more pathetic, ridiculous, biased, stupid advice. Do us all a favour and do NOT write any more reviews of any kind, wait I take that back you can write reviews on stones and pebbles only.
Ilan Preskovsky 2012/01/23 2:17 PM
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Keep these comments coming, people! Funny, funny stuff. One thing I do want to clarify though is this business of my being a Twilight fan. If you didn't quite catch on with what I was saying in the last line, go on over to http://ilanpreskovsky.blogspot.com/2011/11/twilight-saga-breaking-dawn-part-1.html to see exactly what I think of those films.
Darkman X 2012/01/23 2:32 PM
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Illan - you are quite a daft prick and seriously no-one cares about your stupid opinion. You are a pompus a-hole to think that the 1st movies was bad. I enjoyed all of them, after all they are their to entertain me and the did just that. You on the other hand I find mildly annoying. Why in heavens name would anyone want to read your freaking blog??
@Preskovsky 2012/01/23 2:39 PM
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"Glad" you see the funny side...regardless of your feelings towards Twilight, I will forever going forward check who wrote the 'review', and base whether I read it or not, on that. I think everybody "caught" what you said in the last line, it was just that your review was so poor that it was the only conclusion we could make...
Oh My 2012/01/23 2:40 PM
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And finding delight in critism leveled at your utter incompetence, just shows you what a totally unprofessional critic you are! I am sure many more comments will follow. I wont smile knowing the world thinks me an amateur. Yes, i agree, go back to writing about stones and pebbles... And leave the reviews to real professionals!
UberDouche 2012/01/23 2:44 PM
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Ilan, how did you even get this spot as film critic for Channel24?
Christo 2012/01/23 3:15 PM
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I'm sorry, but Underworld is way more of a Vampire movie than the glampires of Twighlight. And it's not supposed to be a comedy. I really can't see how you can review a movie if you're biased towards another which don't even fall in the same category...
DB 2012/01/23 3:18 PM
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Most movie critics spend too much time concerning themselves with the irrelevant and forget that most people want to watch movies for simple entertainment and just as a break - away from the presures of modern life---which makes you wonder about the relevance of movies crtics? Underworld is GREAT entertainment!!!
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