*** (out of 5)
January 20, 2006
Kate Beckinsale as SELENE
Scott Speedman as MICHAEL CORVIN
Bill Nighy as VIKTOR
Shane Brolly as KRAVEN
Michael Sheen as LUCIAN
Tony Curran as MARCUS
Derek Jacobi as ALEXANDER CORVINUS
Studio: Screen Gems
Directed by: Len Wiseman
BY KEVIN CARR
Listen to Kevin’s radio review…
To anyone who knows my tastes in films, it should come as no surprise that I hated the first “Underworld.” I really hated it. It even made my top 10 worst films of 2003 (#10, in fact, right after “Kangaroo Jack”).
It’s not that I don’t like vampire or werewolf stories. I just didn’t like this vampire and werewolf story. To be honest, I like the concept. The idea of blending the two species together was great, and it opened the door for some really interesting things. However, the first film was so poorly paced and assembled with raging holes in the plot, I couldn’t stand it.
So, when I first saw the posters for “Underworld: Evolution,” I was ready for that great sucking sound to start. But then again, I went in with such low expectations, I couldn’t help but like this one better.
And it is better than the first. In fact, it was quite a bit better.
Some of the problems I had with the characters – like the fact that the werewolves are enslaved by the vampires but never go out and kill them during the day – doesn’t really show up in this episode. Of course, early in the film we see more wimpy vampire exploits as a battalion of vampires in armor with weapons on horses can’t defeat a host of naked werewolves.
In the new film, werewolf hunter Selene (Kate Beckinsale) continues on the run with the werewolf/vampire hybrid Michael (Scott Speedman) to find the origins of their bloodlines. We are introduced to new characters in the beginning – two brothers who became the first werewolf and the first vampire. Marcus (Tony Curran) is the ancient vampire, awakened and transformed by werewolf blood. He plans to free his brother William, the first werewolf and rule the world.
There are still plenty of problems that plagued the first film that rear their ugly heads in this one. Director Len Wiseman takes his work way too seriously again, slathering the intense gazes and shots all over the place. This time around, he was a little more generous photographing Beckinsale, his wife, but she’s still got problems all her own.
Sure, Beckinsale’s pretty, but she’s disastrously thin. Give me the girl 10 pounds heavier from “Van Helsing” or even 20 pounds heavier in “The Aviator.” Also, she really needs to lay off the Botox because her face fails to make any worthwhile expression throughout the film.
There were times in the film that I rolled my eyes, but there were also times where I had a lot of fun. This sequel has much more action and stunts than the first one. It moves faster, but does plod along at times. (Remarkably, this seems to happen whenever Scott Speedman is on screen.)
If you haven’t seen the first one, or haven’t seen it in a while, it’s worth a second look just to get your story and characters straight. While Wiseman does some really heavy-handed flashbacks throughout the film, there are still plenty of things that don’t make sense unless you really pay attention.
Overall, “Underworld: Evolution” was a huge step up from the first film. But then again, there wasn’t really much room to get any worse.