#4 in my ranking of the Underworld franchise.
It did not surprise me to read that this movie was going through new drafts even through filming. It feels like a movie built out of at least a dozen different script ideas, each one thrown into the mix after the next because one producer didn’t like that but did like something else. There was no clear direction to take Selene’s journey after the second film, so the third film wisely went in a completely different direction. Going back to her, though, and we see that the franchise is unsurprisingly in the hands of people who can’t take it in anything like a new direction, regurgitating the worst of the series up to this point while adding nothing of value.
The movie begins with what essentially amounts to an extended prologue that very inelegantly deals with the fact that Scott Speedman didn’t want to return to the franchise. So, instead of just pushing him off screen with, perhaps, an off screen death, they recast his role of Michael Corvin with a stand-in who only speaks away from the camera and quickly changes into his hybrid form before being cast into the waters of a port, presumably dead. The story is that humans have discovered the vampires and lycans that live amongst them and have started a purge of them. Selene is going to run away with Michael to safety, but humans get to Michael before her, kill him, and kidnap her. When she awakes from her kidnapping, twelve years have passed and she is in a medical facility in cryogenic sleep. She quickly escapes, killing just about everyone with surprising brutality. I was a fan of this brutality because it seemed to fit her rather well. She awoke to find herself in a strange new world with aggressiveness around every turn, so yes, she’s going to be violent in return.
That’s just about the only thing really going for the film, though, a few minutes of Selene’s attitude. Where the third movie had reset everything in terms of lore, leaving little but the actual story at play, Awakening goes overboard in trying to establish a brand new lore to fill the twelve year gap from the end of the second movie to the beginning of this one. The lycans have been hunted to the brink of extinction by humanity, leaving only the vampires who are living in hiding against the overbearing human response. There’s also the genetics company, Antigen, who are doing some kind of research with Selene’s blood. Her escape is allowed by Stephen Rea’s Dr. Jacob Lane, who runs Antigen, and she’s off in search of the second test subject she assumes is Michael. She quickly meets up with another vampire, Theo James’ David, and discovers that the second test subject is actually a young girl of eleven, Eve, Selene’s daughter she didn’t know she had.
And this points to one of the chief failings of the film on an emotional level. The relationship between Selene and Eve is obligatory instead of emotional. They had never met before the beginning of the film. Eve hadn’t even known of Selene’s existence, told by her handlers that her mother was dead, and Selene didn’t know of Eve, not even knowing that she was pregnant at the beginning of the film. So, this relationship, which buds out in between cartoonish action scenes with werewolves, gets no traction and ends up feeling perfunctory at absolute best. Yes, it feels like one idea from one draft in competition with ideas from other drafts, all duking it out for space in the 88-minute runtime of the film.
David takes Selene and Eve to his father, Charles Dance’s Thomas, who immediately wants Selene and Eve gone, knowing that Selene killed Viktor way back in the first film. Knowing that their survival is dependent on subterfuge, Thomas is enraged that the mere presence of Selene and Eve, at his son’s insistence, brings a lycan attack on the diminished coven that it cannot fight back. After the silly looking and extended action sequence (David wields a whip that doesn’t seem to follow any kind of rule of physics), Thomas allows the lycans to take Eve, and we have our setup for the end of the film.
But, the end of the film is a confused mess. We’re suddenly introduced to Dr. Lane’s lycan son, Quint (Kris Holden-Ried) who Dr. Lane has been experimenting on with Selene’s DNA in some kind of vaccine that makes him immune to silver and much bigger. Introduced so late is all of this, really at the start of the third act, none of it seems to really fit the rest of the movie that came before it. Selene’s pining for Michael doesn’t seem to matter anymore. The mother-daughter story that was never more than nascent gets cast aside for action sequences. Oh, and we have a police investigator that Selene had never met before whom she suddenly shows up to and demands his involvement. This is just a hodgepodge of ideas thrown at the wall because production was closing in on the ending that had never been written.
Nothing matters. It’s all dumb. The franchise that always had more potential than great execution finally descends into complete idiocy and incomprehensible stupidity. Well, at least Kate Beckinsale can still fit into that catsuit.