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Friday, January 20, 2006

Underworld: Evolution

I must have been completely batty going to the Essex Outlet Cinemas today to see Underworld: Evolution considering I had never seen the original and had no idea what was evolving or why. I got to the theater early and quizzed the staff on hand, but neither Nancy nor Lan had seen the first Underworld, so they weren't exactly Darwin when it came to the "Evolution"-ary assistance I needed. Still, I knew it was about vampires and werewolves, so I figured it couldn't be rocket science to figure out. I mean, who hasn't dealt with those pests in their lives a thousand times already? All you need is a little sunlight, maybe a smidge of garlic and a crucifix to ward off a vampire and if you want to get rid of the critter permanently just nail him with a stake through the heart or lop off his head. Simple. The werewolf? Chop off his head or shoot him with a silver bullet through the heart.

I personally think that making movies like these should incite a picket line from PETA, the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals. I don't understand why they get upset when someone drowns a bagful of kittens but sees nothing wrong with slaughtering an entire generation of werewolves by decapitation. Oh sure, werewolves may be fictional animals, but let's not get too picky.

And not getting too picky is an important part of Underworld: Evolution. I may be too much of a realist for an Underworld: Evolution. Maybe I'm still stuck in the Jurassic period, waiting for Steven Spielberg and his dinos to come riding in and make a good movie out of this mess, but it just isn't going to happen. Instead we get Kate Beckinsale, still wearing her leather undergarments from her days as a Victoria's Secret model, now flying about as Seline, a vampire who has been killing lychathropes, lychans for short, aka werewolves, since the 1200s, because her family was killed by some. Talk about holding a grudge for a really long time.

This feud has been going on for centuries, the result of whatever happened in the first film. Apparently the writers of the sequel didn't think that anyone who didn't see the original would be interested in seeing this one (and they were probably right) so they conveniently glossed over the history of events that set-up the action of Underworld: Evolution in so few flashback shots that it was like watching a foreign film without subtitles or dubbing for most of the first hour. What I was able to salvage was that Alexander Corvinus (Derek Jacobi) was the father of two sons, William (Brian Steele) and Marcus (Tony Curran) who grew up to be the first Lycanthrope and Vampire ever. Dad must have been so proud. What made Corvinus so special I have no idea. Here he just seemed a bit of a recluse, sort of a Howard Hughes of the living dead.

Anyway, in what can only be described as the most serious case of sibling rivalry ever, the brothers spend centuries "breeding" armies of their own kind by biting humans and transforming them and then doing battle with one another's species of superbeing. Eventually Marcus is duped by Vickor (Bill Nighy), one of his own soldiers, and William is entombed in a mummy-like case and stashed in a secret place where he remains stuck for hundreds of years. Despite their war, Marcus never wanted harm to come to his brother and is now determined to free his "little" brother, the 9 foot tall werewolf, Willie. I guess this "war" has just been for the fun of bloodlust and killing humans and Selene's part in it never really seems to make sense other than the fact that she looks great in and out of her corset and boots. She does kick a lot of both lycan and vampire butt along with her hunky sidekick, Michael, played by Scott Speedman. Michael is a hybrid, half vampire and half lycan. He used to be human, so I'm not sure where that half went to, but it is probably with the plot somewhere and is best not worried about too much. As far as I can tell he is there to provide Seline a love interest between the bloodletting. They even share an "R" rated humpty dance about half-way through the action for no apparent reason other than to show off Beckinsale's supple skin and Speedman's round tush. I, of course, found myself wondering why the undead (a vampire) would want to have sex, period, and why a werewolf would want to have sex with an reanimated corpse. Okay, so they weren't in their "gross" mode, but still... Could the lycan give the vampire fleas? Could she be arrested for bestiality? Obviously, the "moment" on film wasn't keeping my attention. Worse yet, I later realized that the director, Len Wiseman, is Beckinsale's husband, which made the whole scene a bit more "oogy" considering him behind the camera yelling directions to Speedman on how to make love to his wife. But I digress....

So Marcus is determined to free his brother William and on that act hinges the entire plot. Corvinus does not want to see either of his sons slain, but he also does not want William freed, so he entrusts Seline with the task (and key) to protect the werewolf's lair. Selene, you see, is the only one still alive who knows where the crypt lies, though she doesn't remember it consciously as she was just a small girl when her father and the other men of her village captured Willie and sealed him up. Fortunately for Marcus, if he drinks of Seline's blood he will be able to recall that memory and find the tomb as (get this) the blood of vampires holds all of their memories intact. I actually like this plot device a lot. I wish it was true in real life. Imagine: You need to find your car keys. Just take a nip out of your thumb and it will come back to you.

So Underworld: Evolution is chock full of blood, gore, and lots of CGI fights and effects that will leave you wide-eyed. If beheadings, burnings, fists through the chest, drain pipes through the chest, swords through the chest, and just about everything else you can think of sent through the chest of one of these creatures sounds like your cup of tea or vial of plasma then you are going to love Underworld: Evolution. Marcus' tracking down of Seline and then of William is only a prelude to the larger battle that is to climax in a deteriorating castle in the Carpathian Mountains (shades of Van Helsing) when Seline and her team do battle against both Marcus and William.

Supposedly Underworld: Evolution is meant to be the second in a triology of the vampire/lycan war. I just hope by the third one I have a better idea of what team I should root for. It seems from this chapter that the vampires are the "good" guys, but I can't quite figure out why. They hardly seem to have endeared themselves to me. At least the werewolves like it if you scratch under their chin and they will fetch if you throw them a ball once in a while.

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