Underworld: Evolution
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Sequels have been a part of cinema since the beginning with the various Frankenstein flick as a prime example. While many feel that it is axiomatic that a sequel cannot be as good as the original one needs only look to examples like Aliens and the Godfather part two to see that indeed, a sequel can be good. Now, it seems that almost every action/thriller/horror flick ends with a cliff hanger to open the door should the movie make enough to warrant a sequel. One of the latest in this trend of sequels is ‘Underworld: Evolution’. This spawn of a flawed flick has breed true to its genetics. While it will never be on any reviewer’s top ten films list like its predecessor, does have some fun moments. As with most sequels of its genre the action is increased, the special effect budget has been expanded but the plot remains just about the same. Actually, I had to re-read my review of the original Underworld to make sure that this review does not cause me to plagiarize myself.

As the film opens Selene (Kate Beckinsale) is on the run. As a vampire who was trained as a ‘Death-Dealer’, a killing machine bent on the destruction of their mortal enemies, the Lycans (werewolves). Not only did Selene go against her fellow toothy monsters when she killed the Vampire leader, Viktor (Bill Nighy), she broke the cardinal rule, she fell in love with and ultimately married a Lycan. Her husband, Michael (Scott Speedman) was saved last time out from certain death when Selene used her lovely little fangs on him turning him into a Vampire-Lycan hybrid. While the star-crossed lovers plan their next move Michael uses the time to practice his new found combination powers. As it turns out his claws come in handy with home repair, sort of Home Improvement: Transylvania Edition. Hot on their trail is Marcus (Tony Curran), an ancient vampire. You can tell he is in charge since his wingspan is bigger than anyone else. In the vampire social structure it would appear that size does matter. Also in the mix is an immortal human, Alexander Corvinus (Derek Jacobi). As the story unfolds we learn that Alexander was infected with a virus that made him immortal and that two of his sons became the first vampire and lycan. While there is a little biblical reference here with the sons of Jacob, the allusion is lost in the mire of the rest of the plot. In true soap opera format it also turns out that he is the ancestor of Michael. Alexander is also the head of a group called the ‘Cleaner’, dedicate to removing the threat of this legion of monsters that threaten mankind. Don’t feel bad if you are a bit confused here, I doubt that the screenwriters faired any better.

The film does deliver action in great measure. The first scene is an epic battle set in the 13th century that provides gore enough for anyone. While there are some sequences with exposition most of the film is someone running from someone or something. The run, they fight and then take a break to chat a bit. There is also a little bit of the classic Incredible Hulk television series here. Whenever Michael morphs into his werewolf form all of his clothes except for his paints rip off. This just demonstrates the truth that our mothers drilled into us, always make sure you have clean underwear on, just in case. The plot twist where Marcus can absorb the memories of people by drinking their blood is an interesting variation of the vampire myth but here it comes across as derivative. This film is like going on a roller coaster, you wait in line anticipating the big rush. Now there is nothing wrong with a film whose only redeeming quality is action, just make sure you don’t expect anything different.

The two main characters are, of course, returnees from the first flick. Once again Kate Beckinsale as Selene fills out her form fitting pleather outfit in a spectacular fashion. This trend of placing beautiful actresses such as Halle Berry, Angelina Jolie and Charlize Theron in skin tight outfits for mindless action films may be tedious but there are few men on the planet that will submit a complaint. In this aspect of her job description Ms Beckinsale more than meets the requirements. Unfortunately, this is not the best vehicle to display the acting talents as some of her smaller films did. What she does is an incredible job hooked up to wires kicking, punching and flying around the screen. Scott Speedman reprises his role as Michael, the angst ridden hybrid. He does do well in the action scenes although some of the moody anti-hero scenes can wear thin awfully fast. I was surprised that Derek Jacobi was cast in the role of the immortal Alexander. Here is a man that never fails to give his all no matter what. He is well versed enough in his craft to sell the role of a jaded man enduring the ages. Tony Curran plays the villain with an over the top flair that is fun to watch. If the little girl who plays the young Selene seems to resemble her adult counter part there should be no surprise. The role was given to, Lily Mo Sheen, the daughter of Beckinsale.

For director Len Wiseman this is his sophomore opus, following his direction of the first Underworld. He spent his time well between the two films marrying Ms Beckinsale and starting their family with little adopted daughter Lily Mo. It must be trying to direct your new bride in some of the love scenes with Speedman, especially since there is some nudity involved. At least in this case the director can take the actress to someplace private, show her exactly what is required for such a scene and not get charged with a sexual harassment suit. Wiseman is no stranger around big budget action flicks having served as a prop assistant for both Independence Day and Stargate. In this film he brings on the action right from the start with only a few expository moments to give the audience a little time to rest.

The DVD released by Columbia/Tri-Star through Sony Pictures Home Entertainment. With all the mergers it’s getting difficult to keep track of what studios are associated. In any case, the technical specifications are fantastic. The video is in 2.40:1 is vibrant with perfect color balance and contrast. Even in the many high pace action sequences or dark scenes the colors hold together without a hint of artifact. The Dolby 5.1 audio is extremely well used. The front speakers have a channel separation much better than most films. The rear speakers do more than give a full ambience; they provide room thundering special effects. Since this is the kind of movie where thinking too much is not only not required but may be an actual hindrance, this is the perfect beer and pizza flick.

Posted 5/19/06

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