The Underworld franchise kicked off in 2003, made by studio Lakeshore Entertainment, starring Kate Beckinsale as a black leather clad vampire, Selene. Based on the trailers and the looks of the star, it became a hit among teenage boys and took over $90m from a budget of $22m, which set the wheels in motion for a series that releases a film every three years like clockwork. The sequel, Underworld: Evolution and the prequel, Underworld: Rise of the Lycans did as well as the original and like an unstoppable money-making machine it rolls into its fourth instalment in the form of Underworld: Awakening.
Selene (Beckinsale returning to her most iconic role having skipped part 3) awakes from a 12 year cryogenic snooze having been caught during the purge six months after the end of Underworld: Evolution. She follows the spirit of her missing lover into a room that contains a young girl called Eve, who it transpires is her daughter and holds the key in her blood to giving lycans unimaginable power. Hunted the two must try and avoid capture in their search for the truth about Eve and the mysterious medical corporation, Antigen.
It's difficult to truly appreciate how sub-standard the Underworld series is unless you've seen it all. Like the lame brother of the Resident Evil franchise (itself fairly terrible across the board), Underworld relies on the fact that teenage boys will pay to see Kate Beckinsale in leather fighting against vampires and werewolves. Luckily for the studio, the success of the films has not been impacted by the quality of action, script or acting. Like the previous instalments, the acting is terrible as a host of recognisable names have appeared to claim a paycheque and nothing more.
Beckinsale, who cleverly avoided the dreadful Underworld: Rise of the Lycans returns to don the suit that sells the film. As with films one and two her posh-lilted English accent completely botches the heavy-hitting action lines given to her in the script and the result is a lack of any engagement or believability. This is not the main problem, but it's a fairly terrible start, the real issue comes with the other big selling point of the franchise. The vampire-on-werewolf action.
As with all the others, the action, shot in a haze of blues and blacks is a complete mess. It's difficult to tell what is attacking who and visa versa and in pretty short order you stop caring. The endless expositional dialogue that define the premise make it look ill-conceived and ultimately pointless and the action that could have distracted becomes even more tiresome.
Clearly just an opportunity to make money by churning out further mindless nonsense, the Underworld series goes from mediocrity to soul-crushing boredom with each release. If the early box office is anything to go by there'll be a fifth and on and on until they've exhausted this shameless cash cow, but fingers crossed someone involved in the production might come up with a good way to execute what could potentially be a huge series. Seems unlikely at this point though.
Rating: * 1/2
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