And dealing in death is the nature of the Beast!
Regardless of how and why, the sequel promised by that cliffhanger ending did come to pass and with writer/ director Len Wiseman still at the helm. Yes, yes Len and co-writer Danny McBride are most certainly back again to bring us more of the Death Dealer and Lycan characters they originally created (with Kevin Grevioux), to bring us more of the story, more of the action, and to show us more of that skin tight vinyl.
When we last left our bickering Lycan and Vampire clans, sweet Selene (Beckinsale) had unearthed an ass load of treachery within her own camp and had risked everything (including the forlorn family she'd un-lived with for centuries) in favor of a younger man. About four hundred years younger, that is. Michael Corvin (Scott Speedman) in now in the full throes of his new hybrid WereVamp persona, and he's looking like a cross between Glen Danzig and Ika from Quest for Fire. Now, you're smart, funny, cool, all powerful and you've got the hottest girlfriend this side of Rio... life's gotta be pretty good, right? Well, no... While Viktor (Bill Nighy) and Kraven (Shane Brolly) might be doing a pretty damned convincing impression of doornails, our last vision was of Vampire Blood dripping down into the tomb of Marcus, the original BBMFIC. All that and hints, but only hints of a larger mythos to come.
And come it does. While Underworld Evolution is truly a bigger and much more bombastic ride than its predecessor, it doesn't fall short of satisfying fans of the original. Others may or may not appreciate this one, especially as a whole lot of the back story is dispensed with here (after all, who's going to watch this without at least a bit of the old heart for Underworld). Those of you who do show up are probably going to be pleased. The story is continued and elaborated upon (not recapped, per se), leaving little question that the blue-hued original was a tiny little story in a much bigger book. From the moment Marcus (Tony Curran) pops out fully formed (the "weakness" of reborn Victor is dispensed with here) the ride begins. While Marcus seems intent on killing everyone with tooth, nail and black wing, he's actually on a much older and nastier quest, one which brings the hints of the first film to fruition here.
The only ones who can stop the now escalating war are (you guessed it, Mikey) Michael and Selene! Along the way we see a slew of werewolves (in various roles), some greatly appreciated nudity, major plot twisting appearances by Steven Mackintosh and the great Derek Jacobi (yes, really) and a journey-capping climax that works perfectly as a summation of not only this film, but also the film before it. The best part is seeing the evolution of the underworld evil Lucian (Michael Sheen) twisted to his own ends. It's fun to see how the series about feuding werewolves and vampires turns out to have so much more universal appeal than just that one note premise. I do have to ask, though... if it's really bigger than all this, can we really consider this "good" news? I mean, if we do get Vamps and Wolves teaming up... doesn't that pretty much make us meat?
True, this one is really for fans of the first, or of this genre in general. It's also not without its flaws. The lack of background might be confusing for some viewers (the recap is small), even those who loved Underworld (my advice, re-watch your DVD copy first). Further, this film is still trapped in that light-filtered netherworld that feels so unnatural and, well, Matrix-like. Speaking of that world, in Underworld the Vamps and Wolves seemed to occupy some strange mixture of Britain, the USA and Hungary, never fully deciding just where they were. In Underworld Evolution they decided it was France. France with American cops... (Okay, don't re-watch your DVD copy first). For all the over-inflated intelligent design that went into this film, it's noteworthy when some of the continuity errors smack one in the face like a silver bullet. Clearly the makers were much more interested in Action than precision.
In spite of all that, Underworld Evolution is at least as good, if not better than Underworld. This is no mere retread of the first film, and "sequel" means "sequel" and not "remake" here. Three and One Half Stars out of Five for Underworld Evolution, an evolved form of a killer, if derivative, action film. Just have fun and enjoy it. Hey, if you can't believe how hot Kate Beckinsale is in that skin tight vinyl, imagine how incredible she looks when she rips it off for a greatly-to-be-praised sex scene (all her yummy parts manage to be covered, but what you see is worth the admission, amigos)! In coming years we'll all look back on the first decade of this century and the imitators of The Matrix (from X Men to Returner) and the styles will look as out of date as plaid pants on Jan Brady. Will the Underworld movies have enough depth and uniqueness to remain watchable as tastes change? It's hard to say. However, even if these films never become "Classics" they are at their worst "fun to watch" and, yes, well acted in most cases. If that's not enough, there's always Kate Beckinsale, regardless of what she's wearing. Well, gotta run. My wife is about to bitch slap me for this review... See you in the next reel, Katie!
Lightning Crashes, the moon sets, the sun rises,
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