The vampire has come under fire due to infighting that has created factions in which hostility is exhibited toward each party’s differing perspectives. Some become infatuated with the idea of an immortal creature of the night that matches the profile of a perfect romantic partner. Others infuse the monstrous icon with choreographed action sequences and visceral disembowelments. And there are even a select few genuine works of art that do not receive as much attention as they deserve.
As a result of this balkanization, vampires are having a difficult time maintaining the popularity they once possessed, much less finding methods to improve their public image. The possibility of reunification to end the discord among the covens is improbable at this point, considering that moviegoers are more interested in pursuing disparate preferences instead of centralizing the vampire mythos. Well, if that is the game we humans choose to play, then the vampires will have to do the same thing in order to maintain their respective territories.
With the “Twilight” saga spearheading the first coven’s lovesick dominance, and with nobody eager to take the reins of the understated third minority, the “Underworld” series seem to be the only one willing to command the killing machines of the second group.
Ever since its debut in 2003, the series has made appearances every so often to remind audiences of the action-oriented vampire tales’ perseverance, totaling up to four entries so far. In addition, the cult following that these films have garnered proves there are still people who remain loyal to the coven they have come to enjoy and appreciate. It may seem ridiculous for something to have a dedicated but specific fan base when it is not regarded by most as high art, but hey, when was the last time a cult following did not sound strange?
The arrival of “Underworld: Awakening” is, essentially, a means to demonstrate what the series’ followers expect from its family name to deliver, and deliver it does.
All of the key components — the heroine’s frosty English disposition, the stylized Gothic atmosphere, the mythology surrounding the conflict between vampires and Lycans (werewolves), an abundance of bloody brawls — are present once again for the fourth time, which should satiate the appetites of hardcore aficionados. Plus, there is no way any “Underworld” devotee would attend a screening of the fourth installment if the leading lady was not decked out in her black latex catsuit.
Story and character development are irrelevant here; neither has been the series’ driving force, and this film is not about to emphasize one or both of them and risk alienating the fans.
Kate Beckinsale is as deadly and sexy as she was when she first started slaughtering vampires and Lycans alike nine years ago. A combination of eye candy and ruthless efficiency, her Selene knows exactly how to destroy opponents while keeping her looks in good condition. I was pleased to see Beckinsale return to the very creation that solidified her capability for action heroine roles; even with Bill Nighy and Michael Sheen having their moments during the first three installments, she is the person who imbues “Underworld: Awakening” and its predecessors with a special spark.
As far as the supporting cast goes, I felt they were mainly there for plot purposes, given that the series’ veterans are no longer needed. However, new players are still able to participate in the bloody action, reputations notwithstanding. Michael Ealy and Theo James function as allies for Beckinsale, the former a human and the latter a vampire. Stephen Rea’s scientific director character is a generic antagonist, but he does do what the film asks of him. The one cast member that stuck out a little more than the others was India Eisley, who plays the mysterious being known as Subject 2. Even though she is considerably smaller than her co-stars in stature, she manages to get her own share of taking part in the fight scenes.
If you are an “Underworld” fan, you will most definitely receive your daily portion of blood and body spectacle for the day. If you do not fit this description, then you might want to look anywhere but here.
Rating: 3.5 out of 5