Underworld: Evolution (2006)



Starring Kate Beckinsale, Scott Speedman, Tony Curran, Sir Derek Jacobi, Bill Nighy

Directed by Len Wiseman


Chances are that you have yet to read a review about this film as for some reason it was decided to not let press see it until a day before theatrical release. Or at least that's how it was in the NYC area. The usual rule of thumb is that when a film is just released onto the public with little or no coverage, it’s a terrible film. This is not one of those films.

I didn’t enjoy the first Underworld all that much. For a film based on a war between vampires and werewolves, it was a little on the slow side, and the whole Romeo and Juliet story crammed into the middle of it did next to nothing for me. Also, on a personal note, I’m not all that into vampire movies in general if for no other reason than that over the last decade or so filmmakers seem to think that all vampires need to be clad in Matrix style vinyl with trench coats flowing in slow motion. What? Why? What is the logic behind this? You live a couple thousand years and you figure that mallrat Goth kids will inherit the Earth or something?

Underworld Evolution starts with a flashback to ancient times where apparently the original werewolf has infected a town with lycanthropy. The vampires have to wipe out the town and destroy all the wounded townsfolk who have transformed into werewolves. This opening scene alone is better than the entire first film. Here we learn a little about vampire/werewolf history. And the reason and need for the continuing war between the two races.

Cut to present time where, from possibly a day or two after the last film ended, Selene (Kate Beckinsale) and Michael (Scott Speedman) are on the run from assassinating Viktor (Bill Nighy) after learning of a conspiracy involving him starting the vampire/werewolf war. Which leads of course to the current storyline, where the entire vampire community is completely unaware as to why Selene would kill Viktor and sets out for revenge. The plotline of Selene’s budding romance with Michael (the first of a new breed of monster, half vampire/half werewolf) is kind of thrown on the back burner, which is where the sequel sets itself apart from the original. Instead of being a semi Gothic romance film, Evolution is about survival and dirty fighting -- and then slightly later about hopefully being able to stop Marcus (Tony Curan), a reintroduced character from the first film, from releasing a plague of uncontrollable werewolves across the face of the earth.

Though there is a lot to enjoy in Evolution, there are some problems with it. If you have not seen the first film, at times the plot is a bit convoluted. It tries to bring you up-to-speed about what happened in the original, but even so, I found myself asking, "Who did what now?" from time to time. There is also an unneeded sex scene (yeah, yeah, I know; I’ll be expecting a pitch-forked mob outside my house soon) between Selene and Michael. I am not opposed to sex scenes when done right (see A History of Violence for a prime example), but for the most part in R-rated films, the sex scene is as exciting as socks on Christmas and grinds things to a halt for about three or so minutes.

Honestly, this is not a horror movie. Nothing jumps out and scares you or creeps up or lurks or whatever. This is an action flick. Of course there is nothing wrong with that, nothing at all. People just need to be aware when they enter what they are getting into.

Additionally (and this might just be me), the violence is inconsistent. Like for instance, why would being shot in the face not kill you, but being stabbed in the face does you in? Just little things to ponder. Even so, it is more violent than the first film (not that that should terribly matter), and the director, Len Wiseman, has leaped in his directing ability. Everything about this film was an improvement from the last. It would be interesting to see him tackle a non Underworld project next.

Underworld Evolution is a surprising ride. It’s not the greatest film ever, but by the time the end credits rolled, I had fun. There's no reason to be pissed at the people who made it for having a cop-out ending or for making a film that is embarrassing or disrespectful to the genre that we hold in high esteem. Don't expect too much and you just might have some fun also.

3 out of 5

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