Review of Underworld: Awakening

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Kate Beckinsale returns to fight in 3D! When human forces discover the existence of the Vampire and Lycan clans, a war to eradicate both species commences. Vampire warrioress Selene (Beckinsale) leads the battle against humankind.

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Movie Review: "Underworld: Awakening"

Rating: R
Length: 88 minutes
Release Date: January 20, 2012
Directed by: Mans Marlind, Bjorn Stein
Genre: Action, Fantasy, and Horror
Stars: 3.5 out of 5

"Underworld: Awakening" may be the fourth installment in the franchise, but it actually picks up where the second film left off. This is because the third film, "Underworld: Rise of the Lycans," was more of a prequel. The third film also did not feature Kate Beckinsale's vampire Seline, whose skin-tight leather bodysuit and smooth action sequences made the first two films such big hits.

Seline was sorely missed in the third film. Her presence in "Underworld: Awakening" gives fans a taste of familiarity, especially because Scott Speedman did not reprise his role as Michael, Selene's lover. His character is shown at the very beginning of the film as Selene's voiceover catches the audience up on what they have missed since the second film. Michael is not actually played by an actor, as a stand-in and CGI are used instead. His time on screen is very brief, as both he and Selene are captured.

The film then fast-forwards 12 years. Selene wakes up in a lab run by Dr. Jacob Lane (Stephen Rhea) who works for Antigen. In the 12 years since Selene was captured, humans came to find out that vampires and Lycans exist. Out of fear, they have hunted both species, nearly causing their extinction.

When Selene wakes up, she meets fellow vampire Thomas (Charles Dance) and finds out that during her sleep, she has become a mother to Eve. Eve is a hybrid just like her father and has been raised by lab workers who refer to her as Subject 2.

Although Selene is unaware of what Dr. Lane's intentions for her are, she knows she must escape and take her daughter with her. Once she gets out of the lab, she finds out that the few Lycans left are creating a super breed of Lycans that will strengthen the species and prevent their extinction. In order to strengthen their chances of survival, they must somehow get rid of their allergy to silver. They believe the blood of a hybrid such as Eve will give them this power.

Now Selene's maternal instinct kicks in as she must race to stop the super Lycan breed and protect her daughter from being captured by them at the same time. She partners with Detective Sebastian (Michael Ealy) and Thomas to get the job done. This sets up plenty of fight sequences that the entire series is known for. Beckinsale's quick martial arts abilities and even quicker trigger finger cause plenty of destruction.

The bulk of the middle of the film is spent on these action scenes, set to a pulse-pounding hard rock soundtrack and score. Fans of the first two films will welcome back the frenzied fights and pacing. Besides fighting and bullets, there is plenty of blood and much more gore than in the first three movies.

Unlike the first three films, there are no flashbacks in this one. The flashbacks served mainly to tell the story of vampires and Lycans, but this plot is set in the present and has no need for them. The story is very straightforward, so beyond Selene's opening voiceover, no other explanations are given. The story is very easy to follow, which sets it apart from the first three films. Those installments all needed the audience to really pay attention to the flashbacks to understand the plot. "Underworld: Awakening" may be simplistic in plot, but it more than makes up for this in action and moodiness. Combine that with a great soundtrack and the welcome return of Selene, and you have a franchise that could have gone cold but instead heats up again.