Friday, January 27, 2012

Underworld: Awakening (2012)

Though I've left out a lot of important details, there are minor spoilers for the first act or two of Underworld: Awakening in this post.

Well, I was right. Awakening takes place twelve years after the events of Underworld: Evolution, just enough time for Selene to have had a baby and for that baby to have grown into India Eisley. At least on paper. Eisley is 18, and though she can pass for younger than that, she can't pass for 12. That's just one of the problems with the Twelve Years Later timeline.

My biggest issue with it is that it reboots the world, derailing for a while the momentum of the story that Len Wiseman and Danny McBride were building in the first two movies. Not that there was a clear direction where the series should have gone after Evolution. That movie ended in a way that left the story possibilities wide open, so skipping ahead twelve years is as valid a choice as any. It's just that the world has changed so much between the two movies that it took me a while to catch up. And until I did, I felt like the film was cheating a little. Like they didn't know where to go next, so they punted. By the end of the movie, I'd adapted to the new premise and now I'm eager for more; it just took the whole first act to get me there.

If you haven't seen the movie yet, the change I'm talking about is that shortly after Evolution, humanity discovers the existence of vampires and werewolves and immediately goes to war on them. Martial law is declared, there's a huge Purge, and even Selene and Michael are affected. Selene is captured by the humans (led by Stephen Rea, the leader of a scientific think tank that's trying to cure/eradicate the supernatural) and Michael's fate is unknown for a while. Twelve years after her capture, Selene is woken from cryogenic sleep and initially believes that Michael was the one who rescued her. She quickly learns though that it was actually a young girl and that that girl is her and Michael's daughter.

A quick sidebar about Michael: I was pleased that they found a lookalike actor to play him in Scott Speedman's absence. I was afraid that Michael's fate would happen off-camera and we'd have to learn about it through exposition. So though there's not a lot of Michael in Awakening, there's enough to keep me from feeling cheated.

I won't reveal Michael's actual fate here, but as far as Selene is concerned, he's dead. The rest of the film has her struggling with her grief while also adapting to the knowledge that she has a daughter. Selene's never been all that emotionally demonstrative, so the best part of the movie for me is watching her deal with that. There's a cool, powerful scene where the daughter (she's named Eve in the credits, but I don't remember anyone actually calling her that in the film) is concerned that Selene is being cold towards her and Selene explains what's going on. That's the heart of the movie and it's enough character development for Selene to keep me satisfied until the next movie.

There's also some development in the world-building. Rea's think tank wants Eve back and as Selene tries to prevent that from happening, she teams up with some sympathetic cops and eventually uncovers Rea's true motives and a massive conspiracy behind the Purge. That revelation builds the engine that'll keep the series going for another film or two and as long as Selene continues to get the treatment she deserves as a character, I'm on board for the ride.

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