Ol’ blue filter’s back! That’s right, we’re back running with the night as we pick up with Selene (Kate Beckinsale), Michael (Scott Speedman) and all our other toothsome chums as we plunge back into the ongoing war between the Vampires and the Lycans.
Picking up directly where “Underworld” left off, Death Dealer Selene and vampire/ werewolf hybrid Michael are on the run from both the Vampires and the Lycans while searching for the truth behind Michael’s unprecedented abilities.
Freed from the need to establish everything, “Underworld: Evolution” wastes no time in making the most of the rich potential of its complex backstory. Maintaining its allegiance to the aesthetics of “Blade” and “The Matrix”, this sequel assimilates another strand of cinematic DNA as it presents us with a very “Lord Of The Rings”-inspired flashback opening to show us the three great vampire elders (Markus (Tony Curran), Viktor (Bill Nighy) and Amelia) arriving to hunt and capture Markus’ twin brother William, the first Lycan. Confidently, almost gleefully, the film depends and entangles the mythology even more by adding in historical double-crosses and adding in even more texture to Selene’s backstory to give her a more prominent and vital role in vampire affairs.
Everything’s stepped up in this sequel as it builds confidently on the commercial, if not critical, success of the first movie. The sex and nudity quotient is notably increased, as is the violence and gore, none more so than when Markus is introduced as the new big bad by literally tearing his way through poor old Kraven (Shane Brolly), villain of the first movie. It even has time for a bit of fun spoofing the ‘Brides of Dracula’ trope as Selene visits her old friend Tanis while on the run.
Although it’s still needlessly convoluted, it’s more linear than its predecessor and less prone to seemingly endless exposition, keeping the action flowing nicely. When it does need to dump some expository knowledge on you, it at least has the decency to have it delivered in the rich, rounded dulcet tones of Sir Derek Jacobi, topping up his pension pot as the first true immortal Alexander Corvinus.
Elevating the Lycan/ Vampire conflict to a cod-Shakespearian tragedy is actually surprisingly effective and while William, the original werewolf is something of a wild and hairy disappointment, there’s no getting around the fact that Tony Curran’s Markus is a formidable villain. Ruthless and brutal, he gives this film the edge it needs to avoid sequel fatigue. “Underworld: Evolution” sees the franchise loosen up a bit and start to have some fun. It’s still slick, glossy, hollow nonsense of course, but it positively revels in it.