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Underworld: Evolution’ suffers from stagnation

Michelle Fordice | Monday, January 23, 2006

Director Len Wiseman’s “Underworld: Evolution,” the sequel to his 2003 “Underworld,” has not, in fact, evolved much over time. Using fight sequences, explosions, and women in leather to sell the film, it fails to remember to build up its plot and characters. While many new things about the franchise’s universe are revealed, the characters still seem to remain as shallow as when they began.

“Underworld: Evolution” literally begins where “Underworld” left off – the first few minutes of the movie include a montage of scenes cut out of its predecessor. As the war between vampires and lycans (werewolves) that was introduced in the first movie drags on through the centuries, Selene (Kate Beckinsale) and Michael (Scott Speedman) are on the run after killing a vampire elder in the first film.

As the movie progresses, the lineage of vampires and lycans is slowly revealed. The two races sprang from a human, Corvinus (Derek Jacobi), who was capable of resisting viruses and his sons, Marcus (Tony Curran), who was bitten by a bat, and William (Brian Steele), who was bitten by a wolf.

Awakened and unleashed, Marcus pursues Selene and Michael. He wants to release his brother who had been imprisoned centuries ago for wrecking havoc on the world. Marcus also has a strange interest in the pendant that Michael took from the lycan Lucian in “Underworld” and in Selene’s memories, which he can extract merely by tasting her blood.

Unfortunately, much of this plot, already filled with holes and struggling to remain logically comprehensible, gets lost in the onslaught of the film’s action sequences. Fans of the first “Underworld” will be disappointed, because while its plot may have been somewhat limited, it was much more direct and understandable. The sequel has so many flashbacks that they begin to become annoying.

Furthermore, advancing the plot in “Underworld: Evolution” requires almost constant exposition, which often enough consists of the characters looking into the camera and talking, often accompanied by another flashback montage. From the first opening scroll to the last voiceover, the audience needs to have the plot dictated to them in order to have any chance of perceiving what is happening in the film.

“Underworld: Evolution” seems to recognize that its best selling feature is its R-rating, as it loads its scenes with less-than-tasteful images. Blood and gore drench the screen and characters swear at every moment, in multiple languages, often over their dead lover’s bodies.

Admittedly, some of the fight scenes are fun to watch, but they don’t do enough to save the movie and aren’t innovative enough to give anything to later films in the genre. The sex scene between Michael and Selene is obviously extraneous and seems to be included only to add another reason for “Underworld: Evolution” to be an R-rated movie.

In an attempt to make “Underworld: Evolutions” more serious many scenes are overly dramatic. The movie would be better if the filmmakers would stop slowing it down to play suspenseful music behind such things as Michael throwing paint onto windows. This forced dramatization is reflected again in the script. The dialogue of “Underworld: Evolution” is saturated with clichés and phrases that seem oddly familiar or laughable – Selene at one point asks Corvinus “What will I become.” His answer? “The future.”

“Underworld: Evolution” depends on cheap thrills and fight sequences to keep its audience interested. Its sequel, so overtly hinted at in Kate Beckinsale’s final voice over, may be better because it can only move in an upwards direction. Still, one must admit that “Underworld: Evolution” is entertaining. I was laughing the entire time.