Underworld: Evolution (2006)

If there’s one thing the world didn’t need, it’s a sequel to 2003’s vampire-lite gothfest Underworld. The first time around, the supernatural bobbins of vampires and werewolves being engaged for centuries in a secret war seemed ludicrous enough; inflicting more of the same on an unsuspecting public is just sadistic.

Underworld: Evolution starts with a text crawl, which is long-established movie shorthand for lazy storytelling. It then proceeds to throw us onto what appears to be the set of Van Helsing for some ye olde werewolf hunting, the purpose of which seems only to be to set up the relationship between Markus and Viktor. The film seems determined to overturn some assumptions the audience has been making since the first movie, which is commendable in itself, except those assumptions are just replaced with awful, awful rubbish. Every time something daring seems about to happen – like, say, the death of a fairly major character – it’s instantly revoked and forgotten about.

One problem is that there are very few humans in the movie. As a result, none of the monsters seem particularly monstrous. There are so many conceits set up that could be fun to play around with, but Underworld insists on missing all its opportunities. There’s perhaps one decent joke in the whole thing – exiled vamp Tanis, who’s supposed to be suffering in his prison-like castle for all eternity, like an immortal version of standing in the corner to think about what you’ve done, is actually cavorting with a harem of vampire whores. For all of maybe five minutes, he seemed to be the only immortal living the dream and enjoying himself, but then it all goes wrong, mostly due to Steven Mackintosh’s inability to act. Considering the quality of the script, though, he should perhaps be given the benefit of the doubt. The winged monstrosity that is Markus is a welcome reprieve from the standard Underworld “vampires” (Leather? Check. Gun? Check. Any actual supernatural abilities, tendencies towards evil or even drinking blood? Not so much.) but it’s nothing we haven’t seen before, and to much better effect. For such a nonsensical premise, Underworld takes itself far too seriously. Instead of being an energetic romp through a dark and evil nightmare world, it’s just some people wearing black and feeling sorry for themselves. (That latter phrase probably sums up Underworld’s target audience, though, so maybe it’s not too far off base.) To the general movie-going public, this must surely be far too dull, especially because a large proportion of Underworld Evolution is made up of flashbacks: to the previous film, and even to earlier parts of itself. Perhaps anyone who saw the first movie couldn’t be expected to see the second one, and that’s why they felt the need to recap everything; the flashbacks to things that only happened ten minutes ago are inexcusable, though.

It really is the lack of fun that does Underworld in. Since the first movie, director Len Wiseman and actress Kate Beckinsale have married, which might explain why the sex scene is so incredibly stilted. Considering we’re talking about sex between a vampire and a vamp/werewolf hybrid, you’d think it’d be interesting on some level – these are beings who have super strength, super speed, and super agility, and we’re still talking missionary? Pathetic. There are shots that seem to make it clear that Scott Speedman has no genitals – apparently he was taped up for the scene, which explains why he’s so wooden there, though you’d think he could’ve unstrapped himself for the rest of the movie. Even before the film gets that far, though, there’s a moment in which Selene has to feed Michael her own blood, which really should’ve been the truly erotic moment, but again, it’s just devoid of all emotion.

I can only imagine that the 18 certificate is because no-one under that age could sit still through 105 minutes of this rubbish. The Anne Ricean finale, where everyone becomes so powerful that nothing could ever threaten them again, doesn’t bode well for the inevitable (straight to video?) sequel. Underworld Evolution lacks bite; it doesn’t even have much bark.

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