After 2009's lame prequel UNDERWORLD: RISE OF THE LYCANS hits an all-time low, you would have figure that the once-favorable UNDERWORLD series has finally exhausted its vision. Instead of calling it a quit, here comes UNDERWORLD: AWAKENING, a direct sequel to 2006's UNDERWORLD: EVOLUTION. The good news is, this fourth installment is back with the same exciting vibe previously seen in the first two UNDERWORLD movies (namely plenty of slow-motion and stylish action sequences) and of course Kate Beckinsale, who returns in her iconic role as the half human/half vampire Selene. The bad news is, as always, is its half-realized plot, expository-laden dialogues and one-dimensional characters. So if you are looking for mass improvement in this latest UNDERWORLD series, you will be walking away disappointed. UNDERWORLD: AWAKENING is basically offering more of the same die-hard fans always come to expect.
Picking up where UNDERWORLD: EVOLUTION last left off, Selene (Kate Beckinsale) and his lover Michael (played by a body double substituted for Scott Speedman who declines to return this time around) are now on a run. During this time, the government and the public has finally learned about the existence of the vampires and the Lycans where an all-out war starts taking force. In an ensuing escape from the law enforcers, Michael is being shot to kill and plummets into the sea. When Selene attempts to save him, a bomb is being thrown and explodes into the water which blows both of them apart. By the time Selene regains her consciousness, she finds herself in a cryogenically frozen state for 12 years at the mysterious Antigen Laboratories. She is of course, subsequently escapes the lab facility and gradually discovers that the Antigen is spearheaded by Dr. Jacob Lane (Stephen Rea), a mad scientist who has a bigger agenda of his own.
In the meantime, another subject named Eve (India Eisley) has escaped as well, a 12-year-old hybrid who holds the all-important key to end the ongoing war between the two immortal species. At the same time, Eve is also happens to be Selene's long-lost daughter. Both Eve and Selene are eventually reunite while facing constant danger all around. With the help of Detective Sebastian (Michael Ealy) and a young vampire named David (Theo James), they are ready to risk their lives fighting against an army of the now-evolving Lycans.
As mentioned earlier, familiarity makes a welcome return and that sense of deja vu is all around. Despite enlisting a pair of new directors in the form of Swedish filmmakers Mans Marlind and Bjorn Stein (the first two original director Len Wiseman opted out for writer and producer credit instead), UNDERWORLD: AWAKENING is still all about style and little substance. At least for the half-hour or so, the movie does crank up a few notches above with relentless pace and nonstop action (the opening run-and-fight scene against the law enforcers and the street chase between the three hybrid Lycans and the van are especially spectacular). With considerably more violence and creative gore than ever before, the first half of the movie is nevertheless one of the most ridiculously entertaining set pieces ever made so far in the UNDERWORLD series.
Unfortunately the movies gradually loses steam once it reaches the halfway mark. This is where tons of heavy-handed exposition takes over, and even the subsequent action sequences starts to wear off quickly. While it's a refreshing approach that the filmmakers has finally ditched the awful Romeo and Juliet-like subplot previously dominated in the three UNDERWORLD series, the story here plays more like an afterthought. The cast is also more of the same -- Kate Beckinsale remains graceful as ever with her sheer athleticism and sexy appearance dressing up in her iconic skintight black leather jumpsuit. Likewise, her performance doesn't improve much but die-hard fans wouldn't mind anyway as long as she kicks plenty of butts and looking good the entire time. The rest of the actors are strictly caricatures at best, and it's a shame that veteran actors by the likes of Charles Dance who plays the head of a vampire coven named Thomas and Stephen Rea, are reduced to thankless performances.
Technical credits are standard as usual, with the trademark blue-gray filter all attached. The additional 3D element is quite a novelty at first, but doesn't really add much to its so-called dimension especially when the movie often takes place in the gloomy and dark settings.
Once again, UNDERWORLD: AWAKENING comes to an (even more) abrupt end with more possible sequel in the future. The biggest question is, how far can this series goes? If there's really a fifth installment, I'm sure hope that the filmmakers can come up something new the next time around rather than sticking to the same old formula too many times.