" introduced viewers to Selene (Kate Beckinsale), a tough, leather-wearing, no-nonsense vampiress out for revenge against the Lycansa werewolf race that killed the rest of her family hundreds of years ago. By the end, it had been discovered that the Lycans weren't the culprits at all; in fact, it was her master, lord of the vampires Viktor (Bill Nighy), who was responsible for the murders. Even more, the two species were actually in cahoots with each other to make vampire/werewolf hybrids, whose abilities would presumably be limitless. Their test subject? Selene's new human lover, Dr. Michael Corvin (Scott Speedman).
" was a sleeper box-office hit upon release, and where there is money to be there are sequels to be had. To be fair, the picture in question actually was set up from the get-go as a multi-film saga. Unfortunately, while a slight improvement over its beautifully gothic, hopelessly empty predecessor, "Underworld: Evolution" retains many of that picture's problems in the pacing and characterization department. Interest mustered from the protagonists' internal conflicts is fleeting, more or less dissipated by the thirty-minute mark to pave the way for frenetic, mostly tedious, and usually forgettable action sequences.
Opening precisely where the first movie left off, Selene has just defeated Viktor in a bloody battle to the death, forcing her and Michael to go on the run, hunted by the vampire and Lycan communities alike. At the head of the hunters who want these two outcasts dead is the just-resurrected Marcus (Tony Curran), the sole remaining elder of the vampiresactually a winged hybrid himself who might be the most powerful creature on earth. As Selene and Michael grow closer together, they prepare for battle against their most formidable foe yet.
Made by the same writer (Danny McBride) and director (Len Wiseman) of the 2003 original
, "Underworld: Evolution" is practically seamless in its transition between films, reintroducing viewers to what has already happened and what is about to come. Nonetheless, the plotting is needlessly confusing (what, for example, is archvillain Marcus' reason for going after Selene and Michael when he agrees from the start that Viktor deserved to die?), there are too many characters to keep everyone's name in order, and the radical shift in setting (from a rainy metropolis to a desolate and snowy mountain area) is nonsensical since no one appears to have traveled between films.
Also continuing to leave something to be desired is the love story between Selene and Michael, a one-dimensional "Romeo & Juliet"-like pairing with a supernatural twist. When the inevitable sex scene arrives, bordering on soft-core porn and edited in cheesy slow-motion, these two are about as passionate and charismatic as a pile of driftwood. Kate Beckinsale (2004's "The Aviator
") and Scott Speedman (2005's "xXx: State of the Union
") have more to do this time around as the put-upon coupleBeckinsale finally gets to show shades of vulnerability and emotion behind her bad-ass exterior, while Speedman is more pro-active than just being the male equivalent of the heroine's bitchbut a lot of these details quickly get lost amid a flurry of action, special effects, and convoluted story developments.
Better is the first half-hour, featuring the most exciting sequence of the whole film (set on a cliffside road between a driving Selene and a flying Marcus) and some potentially enthralling character elements (i.e. Michael trying to adjust and coming to terms with his new self as a hybrid) that are dropped soon after. The maniacal Marcus, acted memorably via a thick cake of makeup by Tony Curran (2003's "The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen
"), is a physical knockoff of the Creeper character from 2001's "Jeepers Creepers
," but effective nonetheless. Finally, the climactic mano-a-mano
between Selene and Marcus (and involving a helicopter blade) boasts some gory, gleefully over-the-top showmanship. All else is disposable and lacking in innovation.
Like the first picture, "Underworld: Evolution" is sumptuously atmospheric to sit back and look atperhaps more so since the snowy setting isn't quite the cliché that a rainy one isbut dead on arrival from an emotional standpoint. There are no scary moments, the Selene-Michael relationship is as dull and inert as ever, and the middle section drags to a crawl with fruitless exposition. Upon exiting the theater, one gets the sense that the take-it-or-leave-it outcome of these two "Underworld" installments aren't quite at the ambitious level of what director Len Wiseman had in mind.