Review: Underworld Awakening Won't Make You Sleepy

There's a song by a band called Underworld entitled "Born Slippy" that appears on the Trainspotting soundtrack. Underworld: Awakening isn't that, because that's just a good song. However, what this latest installment of Underworld is, a competently done fourth film (in an occasionally uneven franchise), is worthy of praise too. Kate Beckinsale is back and dealing out death, rocking a black leather suit as hard as it has ever been rocked. You certainly can't accuse (j'accuse!) them of false advertising here, it's Vamps vs. Lycans vs. Humans for all of the bloody marbles.

When we last left our heroes they were upending the entire Vampire ruling class, killing off elders with impunity. You might recall that Selene (Kate Beckinsale) started the series as a Lycan hunter, evolving into something more once she met Michael, the first Vampire-Lycan hybrid. The fourth film (though really no one counts the third one, a prequel) starts off quickly with Michael and Selene on the run from the now fully aware human population. Lycans and Vampires are being hunted en masse, and Selene and her beau are attempting escape from a furious pursuit. Selene gets close enough to see Michael and glimpse happiness, only to realize they're surrounded by humans with guns. A battle ensues, an explosion, Michael and Selene being torn apart, fade to black.

More than a dozen years later our heroine finds herself in a deep freeze, but she's slowly waking up. Vampires have been pushed to the brink, and Lycans are even worse off, exiled to the sewers, rarely seen by human eyes, considered to be extinct. The detention facility that houses Selene is in chaos as she awakens, something (or someone) else is attempting an escape. Selene sees through the eyes of this escapee, just as she could with Michael all those years ago, and just as quickly as she can dispatch copious amounts of lab support staff she's off to find her long lost Vamp-Lycan lover.

But things are not as they seem, and Underworld will again navigate the politics of the human-vampire-lycan condition. A new group of Vampires are found, and a new group of Lycans are becoming a problem. As for the humans, they've become a tremendous source of trouble since they gained sentience regarding the centuries old battle waging around them. Selene will have to 1) Find Michael 2) Stay alive and 3) Solve a few mysteries before our 90 minutes together are up.

Underworld: Awakening thrives during the action scenes, thankfully comprising more than half of the film. A tenuous sort of plot framework is established, but it mostly leads to wondering when the next battle will start, with the "why" not feeling nearly as important. A little girl named Eve plays a prominent role, as does a detective hot on the trail of some human corruption. Kate Beckinsale's "Selene" remains one-note, but it's a wildly entertaining note, her crystal blue eyes bathed in the blood of her enemies. There are great Lycan moments too, as a new strand has been developed which can only be described as "much bigger and angrier than Jacob from Twilight".

The places where Underworld: Awakening falters are hardly the point in the vast new release wasteland that is our January schedule. Lack of plot, largely minimalist dialogue, and no real beginning or ending are not to be held against the latest Underworld, because the rest of it is big fun. Death, blood, chaos, mayhem, and lovely leather vengeance are the watchwords of this particular world, and the film does well to keep them front and center. We don't know precisely why we pull for Kate Beckinsale, other than that the camera mostly follows her around, but we do. We definitely do.

Grade: B-