Dir: Marlind and Stein
I keep giving the Underworld series a pass, and I'm beginning to wonder why. I guess it's because I find the essential idea - hundreds of years of war between clans of Vampires and Werewolves - pretty damn cool and I enjoyed the relentless, but generally decently choreographed, action scenes. It's always been rampagingly stupid and horribly written and acted though, and frankly I think I have finally lost patience with the series.
The film begins - AGAIN - with the opening shots of the first film (no, seriously) and a recap of the story so far (though passing over much of the last film, prequel Rise of the Lycans). We're also introduced to the premise of this film - humanity has discovered that Vampires and Lycans exist and is trying to destroy them (oh God, the Underworld series is attempting to be about ethnic cleansing). Selene (Kate Beckinsale) and her Vampire/Lycan hybrid lover Michael Corvin (played in the first two films by Scott Speedman, and here, judging by fact he's not listed on the film's IMDB page and never speaks, by a pile of pixels) are on the run. Selene is captured, and 12 years later she wakes up in a lab, immediately escaping and going on the run, while also hunting for the creature that helped her escape; a hybrid child known as Subject 2 (India Eisley).
Underworld: Awakening is one of those moves that pulls off the odd trick of being both head-slappingly simplistic and idiotic and massively complex and convoluted. So it makes less than no sense. To attempt to solve some of this issue every last line of dialogue is exposition (actually, I don't know that Kate Beckinsale has spoken a line in the whole series that wasn't exposition, or delivered as if she'd just woken from a coma, come to think of it). This tactic fails, largely because the dialogue is unspeakable.
The performances are woeful. Beckinsale has nothing to offer from an acting standpoint. The basic tools of acting seem to me to be intonation, expression and physicality, but Beckinsale never uses the first, and while Selene does have a particular physical presence that's largely thanks to Beckinsale's constraining costume. It's an incredibly boring performance, and a real problem given Selene's connection to Subject 2. Among the other performances, India Eisley is a perfectly blank counterpart to Beckinsale and Theo James as vampire/plot device David is so wooden that you could build a very nice chair out of his performance. The only actors who contribute anything resembling effort are the wildly hamming Charles Dance and Stephen Rea. Rea at least has the good grace to look mortified.
I might be fine with all this if it weren't for the 3D, for 3D is the destroyer of action. I was fine with the last three Underworld films because, really, who cared if they were stupid, the action was fun and bloody. Unfortunately you can't see much of the action this time as the mix of an overtly dark look, reasonably fast motion and cutting and frenetic action with (terrible) 3D means that the whole thing becomes a smeary, indistinct, mess.
I'm not going to waste more time on Underworld: Awakening (and I doubt I'll waste any on the sequel it signposts. Even if you're a fan (or as I am, a grudging enjoyer) of the franchise, this will disappoint, and if you're not, well, it's more of the same shit, but this time you can barely see it.