Underworld: EvolutionReviewed By Peter Sobczynski
Posted 01/20/06 17:16:28
Only a couple of weeks ago–can it really be that long?–critics everywhere were pouncing on Uwe Boll’s misbegotten “Bloodrayne” and trying to outdo one another in their efforts to declaim it one of the worst films ever made by human beings. Although there is no arguing the fact that it was a terrible film–what else would you expect from something that presents viewers with such sights as a visibly hung-over Michael Madsen, Sir Ben “A Sound of Thunder” Kingsley wearing what appeared to be a plastic toupee, Meat Loaf wearing what appeared to be a wig left over from the shooting of the “Rock Me Amadeus” video and a “special appearance by Billy Zane”?–it wasn’t nearly as apocalyptically awful as some of the snider critics made it. Not only was it not the worst film ever made, it turns out that it wasn’t even the worst hot-vampire-babe-in-tight-clothing-killing-other-vampires-via-crappy-CGI-effects movie to be released during the month of January, 2006. That honor goes to the bewildering “Underworld: Evolution,” a film with an unusually apt title since there is nothing even vaguely approaching an intelligent design on display during its seemingly endless running time.The film is a sequel to 2003's “Underworld,” a film seen by many (at least enough to warrant a follow-up) and loved by few. In it, you will recall (and if you don’t, it simply means that you probably still have enough happiness and joy in your life to keep you from watching horrible movies), a war has been brewing for hundreds of years between vampires and werewolves for bragging rights to the world. Kate Beckinsale played Selene, a vampire “death-dealer” who finds herself protecting Michael Corvin (Scott Speedman), an ordinary dope who, it turns out, is a direct descendant of the first werewolf or some damn thing like that. At the end, it turned out that Selene’s vampire buddies had been lying to her for centuries about the true reasons for the conflict and she and Michael, who was somehow transformed into a vampire-werewolf hybrid, found themselves on the run and hunted by both groups.
This time around, things kick off with both an extended prologue and expository title cards meant to supply some of the backstory to the saga. As far as I can tell, it seems that an immortal named Alexander Corvinus (Derek Jacobi) had two twin immortal sons, Marcus (Tony Curran) and William (Brian Steele), and, during a visit to what I can only assume was the most poorly-run petting zoo in the 12th century, the former was bitten by a bat and became the first vampire and the latter became the chew-toy of a werewolf and became the first werewolf. Both brothers were betrayed and locked away until the end of time. Now, Marcus has escaped and is hell-bent on freeing his brother and turning all of mankind either into slaves or snack packs and only the latex-clad Selene and Michael can possibly stop them.
Of course, I could be wrong in that description since there was never a single point during the film in which I had even the vaguest idea what was actually going on. The problem is that director Len Wiseman (who directed the first film and who is Mr. Kate Beckinsale in real life) and screenwriter Danny McBride (who wrote the first film and whose relationship with Ms. Beckinsale is unknown at this time) are so in love with their increasingly convoluted backstory that they spend more time dealing with that–either by utilizing endless flashbacks or by having characters standing around explaining things–than they do in telling the story proper. For those two, I am sure that this film makes perfect sense because they are perhaps the only two people with a working knowledge of what is going on–unfortunately, they haven’t figured out how to transmit that information to the poor saps in the audience in a coherent manner and so we are left scratching our heads while trying to figure out what the hell is going on at any given point.
Then again, you could say the same thing about the actors as well, all of whom are required to stand around in weird outfits and speak weirder dialogue while reacting to effects that are never quite as spectacular as their reactions would otherwise suggest. Although Beckinsale still looks fabulous in her outfit, she still comes off as one of the more bloodless vampires in film history; instead of embracing the goofiness around and having fun with a role that is inherently ridiculous (as Milla Jovovich did in the “Resident Evil” films), she clomps around with a dour expression that makes her seem more like an exceptionally glum fetish model than anything else. However, she is Ms. Personality when compared to Speedman, who is so aggressively bland (even when he is tearing out throats in full werewolf mode) that he makes Willie Aames look like Christopher Walken by comparison.Closer in tone to a cheapo direct-to-video sequel than anything else, “Underworld: Evolution” is a pointless and murky (visually as well as narratively–the cinematography so dark, presumably to lessen the impact of the cheesy special effects, that it may prove to be literally unwatchable in theaters where they turn the projector bulbs down to save a few pennies) exercise in naked greed masquerading as a horror film–the closest thing to a frightening moment comes during a closing scene that blatantly tries to set up an “Underworld 3.” As far as I can tell, the two films, taken together, have come up with exactly one good idea–the notion that our memories are carried in our blood and that a vampire can receive those memories (especially ones that help conveniently reveal plot points) while feeding on a victim. In other words, if some lissome vampire babe ever decides to drain me of my blood one day, I can at least die knowing that she will be suffering just as much as I once she gets to the memories of seeing this film.
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