The fourth film in the Underworld franchise sees Kate Beckinsale back in the boots and long coat of her trademark Selene character after the sidestep of the third film, the prequel Underworld: Rise Of The Lycans. Selene awakens from cryogenic imprisonment to discover twelve years have passed since the events of the second movie (Underworld: Evolution), vampires and Lycans have been revealed to the world and a massive purge of them has begun, wiping out thousands of each supernatural creature in the process.
Selene discovers that a second prisoner was held captive beside her, the young girl Eve, a hybrid child with a greater link to the film's vampiric heroine than she can initially believe. Selene escapes from captivity and seeks out Eve, and a new battle begins as the remaining Lycans chase them down to take the prize that Eve holds in her DNA.
Underworld: Awakening is an interesting place to take the franchise after the first two films and the prequel, as instead of directly continuing from what has gone before it takes a leap into the near future, which adds a strange dynamic to the mythos and its continuing action. I found it to be thoroughly enjoyable, albeit far from what anyone could call high art. However, going to see an Underworld movie negates expecting more than what you are presented with – i.e. a noisy, action-packed genre movie which is lots of fun throughout its brief running time.
There are some quieter moments throughout the film, the best being those moments between Selene and Eve (the young actress India Eisley, who puts in a great performance considering the duality of the character), but many viewers will be aching to get to the next action scenes. The good thing is, there are plenty of deafening, eye-melting action sequences, but they are well-integrated into the story and help the plot to hurtle along as a satisfyingly breathless pace.
There are mad scientists, underground Lycans, a likeable police officer/sidekick for Selene (Detective Sebastian, played by Michael Ealy), insane battle sequences and the finest production values since the first film. The Lycan transformations have never looked better, and aside from a couple of moments when effects don't seem to have been rendered properly the whole film looks amazing.
The cast is above par for current genre fodder, with Stephen Rea and Charles Dance adding some dramatic weight to a script that could have gone very awry otherwise. The star of the whole thing is undoubtedly Kate Beckinsale herself, as not only is she on top form in her action scenes, she gets to further explore a new side of the Selene character with some very sombre scenes that add a roundness to her persona.
One thing that I must raise: I saw Underworld: Awakening in 3D, and while there are few moments in the action sequences that used the 3D well, for the most part the 3D aspect of the film is utterly pointless, and I felt more than a little cheated by that. I really enjoyed he film, but the 3D almost spoiled it for me. 3D works best in films which have a bright colour palette, not the largely blue/monochrome palette of the Underworld universe.
That quibble aside, I had a blast watching Selene and Eve ripping Lycans to pieces and making stuff explode. Money well spent. Incidentally, the soundtrack album is amazing, but you'll struggle to hear any of it during the movie aside from the end credits. The trailer: