1/22/2012

REVIEW: 'Underworld: Awakening'... or... Kate Beckinsale IN 3D


Did I choose to go see Underworld: Awakening just so I could post a picture of Kate Beckinsale on the blog? ... Maybe. Did I go and see it because I wanted my faith in Vampires and Werewolves to be restored? ... Quite possibly. Did I see it because my cohort had warned me in advance that  he planned on reviewing Haywire? ... I'm gonna have to say that this is my final answer, Regis! Now, lets break this bad boy up, and hit my thoughts on the movie.

So, like Josh, I am a bit of a movie lover. Hell, for a while I even tried my hand at writing reviews, back in the dreaded days of Myspace. I mention this because I want you to be warned, that if there is ever a slow week, and I feel the urge that something needs to be posted, I just might bust out one of those old ones, and plop it up here so you can laugh at me!

Back during those dark times, I saw a movie, that made me swear that I would never again watch another Underworld movie. In fact, at the time, I was prepared to write to the studio and demand that they reimburse me for my time and the psychological counseling that would be required for me to regain my will to live. Yeah, I thought Rise of the Lycans was that bad, and in fact I still think it was a horrible idea. This movie however restores some of my faith in the franchise while simultaneously destroying parts of that same faith.

Allow me to explain.

Underworld, for me at least, has never been a franchise dependent on such petty things as "story". The series makes itself on visuals, with some story elements thrown in to tie together the various visual elements. I mean, ask yourself did you watch any of the Underworld movies and get blown away by the depth of story, or the amazing dialogue? No. Nobody was. However, almost everyone can agree that Kate Beckinsale looks fantastic in her outfits, and she can do some amazingly choreographed fight sequences.

So, I've never put the story on a very high pedestal when I watch these films. I go in with low expectations, and hope for the best. These movies are generally eye candy of the highest order. An assault to the senses that either captivates you, or gives you the type of throbbing migraine that makes you want to curl up in a dark room, and cover your eyes until the pain dies. That is the nature of the beast.

However, with all of that said, story is still there. There is the sort of basic forbidden love aspect that permeates the first three films. A story that at points is akin to the story of Romeo and Juliet, without the whole "tragedy" aspect. I can dig that, and I can give the series at least some credit for sticking to their guns on that respect, and carrying that general theme through three movies. However, the fourth film completely looses the star-crossed lovers aspect, and replaces it with a rather awkward mother-daughter relationship. Yeah, we are expected to believe that a vampire and a vampire-werewolf hybrid conceived a child... Don't think about it too much, or that migraine I mentioned earlier will strike. I only mention the loss of the love story aspects, because oddly enough this is a detriment to the movie, something I thought I would never say. The one thing that the third movie actually did right, was to offer up a love story that in many ways mirrored the other films. It provided a nice bit of symmetry to an otherwise awful movie. Removing that thematic element provides a certain dissonance to the overall story that just seems a bit jarring.

However, if you manage to ignore the weakness that is the story, and pay attention to the visuals instead, your eyes will thank you, as will your brain. The movie has a dark aesthetic, with a certain beauty that can be missed if you're paying too much attention. The action is blessedly over-the-top, without quite reaching Bay-esque levels. There is gore aplenty, although most of it appears to be CG, rather than practical. Kate Beckinsale manages to stun in just about every scene she is in, whether she is just walking down the street, or getting her ass thrown through a wall. All in all, the action sequences were fun, and provided something that the third movie lacked, while providing a welcome distraction from the very weak story.

Recommendation:
This is the type of movie that plays well on a big screen, because with everything larger than life it is easier to ignore the flawed story, and the lackluster dialogue. However, if you loved the first two Underworld flicks, but hated all the love story aspects, this will definitely be the film for you. If however, you believe that all movies have to be the next Citizen Kane, you'll be sorely disappointed.

Is this film "theater-worthy":
Every fiber of my being WANTS to say no. The 3D gimmick isn't all that impressive, and the cost of a 3D show is entirely too expensive. However, I will give this proviso, once it hits the cheap theaters this would be worthy of a look. As I said, the big screen helps polish off some of the inadequacies. Otherwise, it is probably best just to steer clear.

My final thoughts:
This is one if those films that I'm somewhat apathetic towards. Yes, it has some great visuals. But it also has a weak story that really makes itself known in moments when the action dies down for a bit. But, all in all if you can ignore the majority of the story, you should have a good time.

Slamfist Rating: 6.75 out of 10

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