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A Terrific Addition to the Franchise
on March 22, 2012
There is really only one film franchise out there that continually has me salivating for more, and that's the gritty, paranormal reality of "Underworld." While shorter than the other installments in the series, "Awakening" is one of the finest installments yet.
Where once vampires and lycans lived in secret, the war between them has escalated and the truth is out. In a desperate attempt to maintain the upper hand, humans have enforced martial law and are hunting down both species, identifying it as a "virus" without a cure. Their assault on the two races that have lived among them unnoticed for centuries forces individuals on both sides into hiding, but before Selene (Kate Beckinsale) and her hybrid lover Michael (Scott Speedman) can escape, they are hunted down. Twelve years later, awakening from stasis in a laboratory, Selene is determined to find out what has happened to Michael -- and to discover the source of her hallucinations, which permit her to see through another creature's eyes. Her desperate escape introduces her to David (Theo James), a member of one of the few remaining Covens, and then to the little girl that both humans and lycans seem to want -- Eve (India Eisley).
After she is badly wounded during a lycan attack, David takes them both to the Coven -- much to the disapproval of his father (Charles Dance), little realizing the consequences this will have for them all. If you have any familiarity with the franchise, you will know what this series is all about: the battle between vampires and lycans (werewolves) as it evolves in a futuristic society. The most successful installments have revolved around Selene and although I was not keen on the idea of this film back when it was announced (to be honest, I was disappointed they didn't make another prequel showing the rise of Lucian), the end result is marvelous. Changing the backdrop and introducing Eve could have backfired but it doesn't; we accept that the world has altered and are still rooting for our leather-clad immortal heroine to save the day in whatever way she can. And in this one she does, with her usual flair and undoubted style. Everything we loved about the earlier films is present here, from the jaw-dropping action sequences to the twirl of her coat as she kicks some lycan butt.
Even though it is violent, there's a lot to like about this film series and this film in particular. It explores an alternate reality in which the heroine is unconventional, a vampire seeking to protect her own from a lycan clan that would gladly kill Eve to harvest her abilities. I'm also fond of its consistent use of talented British actors in the roles of vampire elders -- in the original and the prequel we had Bill Nighy, in the sequel we had Derek Jacobi, and now we have Charles Dance. Throw in an incredible remix of an Amy Lee Evanescence track over the ending credits and you have a movie series that may not strive to be intelligent, but it is always entertaining. But putting all that aside, its immense success comes down to one rather trivial truth: it's just plain cool.