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THIS REVIEW DEALS WITH GRAPHIC VIOLENCE AND IS NOT APPROPRIATE FOR CHILDREN.

MPAA Rating
Credits
Genre
Action/Adventure, Sci-Fi/Fantasy, Horror, War, Drama
Cast
Kate Beckinsale as Selene; India Eisley as Eve; Stephen Rea as Dr. Jacob Lane; Michael Ealy as Detective Sebastian; Theo James as David; Kris Holden-Ried as Quint
Director
Måns Mårlind and Björn Stein
Distributor
Sony Pictures
In Theaters
January 20, 2012
On Video
May 8, 2012
Reviewer
Paul Asay
Underworld: Awakening

Underworld: Awakening

Vampires must not sweat. Because if they did, Selene's outfit would be long overdue for a good scrubbing.

The voluptuous vampire has been twirling, gyrating, flipping, shooting, stabbing and eviscerating while wearing the same latex jumpsuit for several centuries … or four movies, depending on how you care to tabulate time. And while I can't claim to know a lot about the care and upkeep of latex, it would seem that the thing wouldn't breathe very well. And there are other concerns too. Wouldn't it chafe during fights? Constrict during 30-foot tumbling leaps? Squeak like a balloon whenever you tried to sneak up on somebody? If I were her, I would've switched to a more practical outfit eons ago. Maybe a black tracksuit or something.

But I am not her. And in fairness, Selene has more pressing matters on her mind.

For centuries, she's been in the middle of a tiresome war between vampires and their mortal enemies, the Lycans (a race of werewolf-like creatures). And for much of that time, their conflict—their very existence, really—has been nothing more than rumor among the clueless humans living right beside them. But we learn at the opening of Underworld: Awakening that the secret's finally out. And do we humans allow these strange beings to just plug along with their own eternal conflict? Of course not. Humankind takes to cleansing the world of them, capturing Selene in the process and freezing her, undoubtedly planning to conduct horrific experiments on her.

Perhaps they send her latex outfit to the dry cleaners too.

You can't keep a good vampire in frigid suspended animation forever, though. Not when there's a movie to be made. Someone breaks Selene out of her scientific ice cube tray, whereupon she quickly slaps on her tried-and-true black latex (considerately left for her by the scientists) and proceeds to spill vats of CGI blood and ponder the strange world she's awakened in.

She doesn't need to kill that many people (relatively speaking) before she realizes that it's been 12 years since she hit the big chill. Humanity has successfully gotten rid of most of the vampires and Lycans, and those that remain are well hidden. She has no idea where her beau—half-vampire, half-Lycan Michael—is … but she does seem to have a psychic link with an 11- or 12-year-old girl—a girl who can get herself worked into a mighty frightening adolescent tizzy when she has a mind to.

Hmmm … 11 or 12? Selene's been out cold for a dozen years … seems like their could be a connection.

Positive Elements

Selene, obviously, hasn't had much of an opportunity to go on mother-daughter outings with her little girl, who's known in the film as Subject No. 2, but listed in the credits as Eve. But she does so want to be a good mom—at least as much as her situation and latex constrictions will allow. To do that, both of them will have to survive to the credits, and she works really, really hard to make sure they do.

Spiritual Content

Vampires and werewolves have been, throughout most of their mythological history, considered spiritual creatures. In the Underworld mythos, however, the two species are simply the products of a virus contracted by some dude (Alexander Corvinus, if you must know) ages ago. His two sons inherited the virus (and its accompanying immortality), but their individual characteristics changed when one of 'em was bitten by a bat and the other was chomped on by a wolf.

I know, I know. The bat thing doesn't make much sense. But don't look at me. I'm just the messenger here.

Sexual Content

Selene mostly wears a formfitting latex outfit, as you well know by now. It's either that or go naked, apparently, and for a short time, she does: We see her frozen in her birthday suit. Critical body parts are covered by her arms or the frost on the glass case she's been stuck in. When she falls free, she lands on the ground in a position that reveals her side and a bit of her backside.

Violent Content

Vampires hate Lycans. Lycans hate vampires. Humans hate vampires and Lycans. Since almost everyone thinks everyone else is sub par and not worthy of living, all kill one another with something close to glee. I'm sure some harried screenwriter hoped that this kind of wanton destruction might call to mind a sobering allegory about racism or diversity or whatnot, but clearly the allegory was forced to run for its life before it could pipe up—ducking its head under a shower of severed body parts and silver bullets.

Thanks to a "story thus far" montage at the film's open, we see about 20 or 30 people get killed before Underworld: Awakening even truly begins. People are shot, stabbed (sometimes in the head) and chopped (one man has part of his skull diagonally cut away from the rest of his body). Then we witness a sequence devoted to the human-initiated purge, where vampires and Lycans are pulled out of their homes and either gunned down or set out in the sun to burn. Usually, a horrifyingly painful spray is used first to determine their infection status, making the creatures scream in agony.

By this point, audiences have been sitting for just about five minutes and have eaten only a quarter of their popcorn. The real slaughter has yet to begin.

Selene slides through a phalanx of about eight guards, cutting the throats of each one as she passes. She shoots several people and Lycans in the head, often sending sprays of blood and brain matter against walls and leaving mangled craniums in her wake. She snaps someone's spine. She causes someone else to immolate himself. And she drops a man from a skyscraper, despite his desperate pleas for mercy.

"I'm the one who let you go!" he tells her.

"Now we're even," Selene says.

On the receiving end of things, Selene is regularly thrown against walls and hurled into cars. She plummets through elevator shafts.

Eve—who, you'll remember, looks like a 12-year-old girl—is attacked multiple times by Lycans. She's bitten by the creatures, almost bleeding to death from one of the attacks. She's pummeled and gored. It's rather disturbing to see a little girl hurt like this. But is it any more disturbing than watching her literally tear a Lycan in half with her bare hands? Or, while tossing out an ironic one-liner, rip out the throat of another, leaving what appears to be the beast's spinal column exposed?

The troubled girl also harms herself—cutting her forearm deeply. (Her wounds heal preternaturally fast.)

Two times Selene jams her hand into an exposed torso, creating a gaping wound as she gropes around amongst the organs inside. Once it's to save a fellow vamp's life. The other it's to plant a silver-plated hand grenade inside a particularly large foe. The grenade explodes, turning the thing into a sloppy firework of blood.

Several vampires cut themselves to offer blood to others. A mutilated corpse is inspected. An arm is broken, and we see the bone sticking out of the guy's elbow. Claws are cut off (and regenerated). A Lycan's face is shredded until quite bloody. Bodies are shot and stabbed and gassed and skewered and decapitated and strangled and eviscerated and mangled. There are car crashes and dizzying falls. In some ways, Underworld: Awakening bears more resemblance to an outlandishly grotesque M-rated video game than it does a major motion picture.

Crude or Profane Language

With all that killing, the characters here don't have a lot of time to talk. Still, audiences hear at least two f-words, three s-words and one "h‑‑‑."

Drug and Alcohol Content

Eve takes a long sip of blood from a willing doctor's vein. A human endures several injections—including one to his eyeball.

Other Negative Elements

Nefarious scientists want to take Eve back and harvest her organs for research.

Conclusion

Underworld: Awakening illustrates a bizarre paradox in the entertainment world. The franchise it belongs to is so shallow, so silly and so bombastically grotesque that one has to believe that its main audience must be teen boys with little supervision and way too much time on their hands. And yet its R rating is designed to preclude these selfsame boys from seeing the thing.

So why, then, do they keep making Underworld movies? Are there enough 15-year-old boys sneaking into theaters to make this one of Sony's most profitable, most enduring franchises? If not, are their parents accompanying them, as willingly as that onscreen doc gives his blood to Eve? Or are whole dinner parties of adults eschewing late-night drinks and dancing in favor of spending the evening watching various eviscerations?

I don't have the answer. But whatever it is, it strikes more fear in me than any of these oversized Lycans do.

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