After the slightly tedious and unnecessary detour to the dim(ly lit) and distant past that was “Underworld: Rise Of The Lycans”, normal service is resumed as Beckinsale squeezes back into the corset and catsuit for “Underworld: Awakening”.

The world has woken up to the presence of Vampires and Lycans and the humans are hell-bent on wiping out both species. Selene and Michael are captured and, thanks to their unique physiognomies, placed in cryogenic suspension. Twelve years later, Selene awakens to discover her species has almost been hunted to extinction by the humans. But her escape is complicated by the discovery that she had been carrying Michael’s child when originally captured and that their daughter is not only still alive, but a vital part of the Lycan’s plan for total domination.

If the previous instalment was short on new ideas, this fourth outing certainly makes up for it. With the underworld now ‘overworld’ and wombling free, the human factor gives the franchise a much-needed shake-up. Admittedly, it takes a little while to get going thanks to a lengthy previous three movie footage driven comprehensive catch-up which leads straight into the paradigm changing expository monologue. Once we’re clear of that, however, the film gets going once again. The action is slicker than ever and the violence ramps up another level, especially as it’s now humans in the firing line.

To aid Beckinsale in the fight, the franchise continues to draw in the best of Britain’s serious thespians with Charles Dance and Stephen Rea joining in the fun. While he remains a plot driver for a while, Scott Speedman’s Michael Corvin appears only fleetingly in previous footage and is unceremoniously dropped from the narrative very early on so in his stead, we are given Theo James as David, a vampire who offers Selene assistance.

Thanks, I suspect, to the involvement of J Michael Straczynski in polishing the screenplay, the film actually manages to deliver a decent and clever twist in the ongoing Vampire/ Lycan war, using the introduction of the humans to deliver a few genuine surprises. There’s also a neat subversion of Selene’s role as the Death Dealer becomes a life giver, both figuratively and literally. Speaking of giving life, the subplot concerning Selene’s daughter and her many abductions is a little patchy but eventually plays into one of the better final battles of the whole franchise. If you’re making a list of people whose daughters you’d be wise not to kidnap, Selene’s is pretty much the second name on the list, right after Bryan Mills.

As slick and stylised as ever, “Underworld: Awakening” does exactly what it promises, shaking the series free of the soporific prequel and giving it a new lease of life.



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