Tuesday, 8 May 2012

Underworld Awakening (DVD Review)

DVD review of Underworld Awakening, starring Kate Beckinsale; the fourth film in the highly stylized Underworld universe which pits vampire vs werewolves.

Image Courtesy of Sony Pictures Home Entertainment
© 2012 Lakeshore Entertainment Group LLC. All Rights Reserved.

Dir: Måns Mårlind & Björn Stein (Shelter - podcast review)
Cast: Kate Beckinsale, Stephen Rea, Michael Ealy, Theo James, India Eisley, Charles Dance
USA, 2012

Reason to see: Selene, the vampire death-dealer protagonist, is one of my all-time favourite film characters and it's on My Most Anticipated Films for 2012

Underworld Awakening technically follows Underworld: Evolution chronologically in the series but if you aren’t overly familiar or haven’t revisited the series recently they do help with a little memory jogger, which is the lead into the current world where humans were not only made aware of the vampire and lycans existence, but also defeated them in a ‘cleansing’ leaving the remaining numbers very small. I found that a bit of a challenge to buy into, that the humans would prevail, but that’s the world they create so you kind of have to go there to experience the film. In this near future world we travel with death dealer vampire Selene (Kate Beckinsale) who awakens after the said ‘cleansing’.

A brief personal history of how I weight in on the Underworld series is that I absolutely adored the highly stylish full-tilt vampires vs lycans (werewolves) action film that was the original Underworld, but was completely dismayed by some random gender crap in the sequel Underworld: Evolution that made me hate the film, which is a statement I don’t make very often. And then I flipped back to enjoying the series with the prequel Underworld: Rise of the Lycans which features Michael Sheen and was the only film in the series without Kate Beckinsale. So, personally I’ve had a bit of a rocky relationship with the series but I can’t help but the gorgeous stylings, amazing action and cool vampire & werewolves throughout.

In terms of the action and art direction of how the film it looks and feels, I loved it. It’s a little dingier than the original film so you have to take that into account as it aligns with this whole living on the fringes with low resources which doesn’t really read ‘vampire’ to me, but it is something new. I really enjoyed seeing a lot of the actors in the film including Theo James (‘Bedlam’), Charles Dance (Aliens 3) and Kris Holden-Reid (‘Lost Girl’) who I really think they could have had more in the film. Plus, to make sure it doesn’t go without saying, Kate Beckinsale was fantastic to see, I love her as Selene a fierce and beautiful death dealer who kicked a whole lot of butt in the film and makes no qualms about the fact that she is completely in charge.

I was pretty surprized to see that it was only 88 minutes with around 10 of those being credits, but I still felt like I got 1-films worth of enjoyment for the film. The story and world may not have been perfectly what I was looking forward but they stayed true to what they created and I respect that. In terms of the series I’d still say the first one is my favourite, and then Underworld: Rise of the Lycans, then Underworld Awakening and finally Underworld: Evolution. It was one of my most anticipated films of the year so I was excited and looking for a bit more than what we got here, but I certainly was entertained and engaged while watching.

In terms of the story, I took me for a bit of a surprized that I don’t think the themes will appeal to everyone; but it also feels like it’s one of many periods within this world and therefore we’ll have more to enjoy to come. However, for supernatural action fans this is a total fun ride with lots of action, and interesting story and continuing the journey through the cool world they have created so for that I do think it’s a success.

DVD Extras:
  • Feature Commentary with Filmmakers: producer Richard S. Wright, producer Gary Lucchesi, executive producer & visual effects supervisor James McQuaide and directors Måns Mårlind & Björn Stein. I really enjoyed listening to this commentary, and 5-person commentaries can sometimes be a challenge but it's really clear they enjoyed working on the film and enjoy the Underworld universe so there is lots of notations about about it's fits in visually or story/character wise with the other films as well as great stories about working with the cast and crew plus also a great technical perspective in terms of the effects, 3D, what's CG vs practical/suits, the locations and editing. I loved hearing them talk about the editing and the choices made and different variations that they tired and why they went with that they went with, that was fascinating. The talk a lot about the 3D (and 3D films in general) and what was shot in 3D and what was 2D vs 3D in the film, and the challenges of the film including introducing new characters to the audience, keeping mystery of the story of the film, the shots they love in the film including favourite blood spatters which is hilarious. Also touch on examples of good hommages, the balance of using violence in film, the advantage of have Len Wiseman who directed the first two films as a producer on this film, the changes and development of the character of Selene in this film, the neo-goth look of the film, the moments and shots that were in the trailer and working with the cast especially Kate Beckinsale along with Charles Dance, Theo James & Michael Ealy.

Underworld Awakening is available on DVD, BluRay and 3D BluRay on May 8, 2012. Check it out over at Amazon.ca (DVD, Blu-ray and 3D Blu-ray) & Amazon.com (DVD, Blu-ray and 3D Blu-ray)

Shannon's Overall View:
I enjoyed it
I'll watch it repeatedly
I'd recommend it to fans of the series & vampire/action film fans

See also
Return to Film Reviews or see more DVD Reviews

© Shannon Ridler, 2012
Originally reviewed for Theatrical Release - February 12, 2012

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