Underworld: Evolution

While watching Underworld: Evolution, you get the sense that second time director Len Wiseman has no idea what it was that audiences liked so much about his original movie in the first place. Everything that was wrong with Underworld is back, missing are a lot of the things that were right.

Evolution begins shortly after Underworld ends. After a fantastically well done opening in which medieval vampire knights battle a horde of medieval werewolves in a poverty-stricken village, the sequel drifts into a connective credits sequence that catches the audience up on what happened in the last film, just in case unlike me, you didn't re-watch it before seeing this one. So far so good. Wiseman had me hooked.

The story picks up shortly after the first movie's end, with Selene (Kate Beckinsale) and her smurfy companion Mike Corvin (Scott Speedman) on the run from some really pissed off vampires. Mike you'll recall, has been turned into a sort of vampire/werewolf hybrid, the merging of which has resulted in the strange side effect of turning him blue along with other more positive things like indestructibility and claws. And there dear moviegoer is where this movie turns to suck. For if there was one thing you could have taken out of the first Underworld and disappointed absolutely no one, it's the inarticulate Scott Speedman and his rather boring, poorly thought out, garish monster alter-ego. Instead of taking the best things out of the first film and maximizing them, Wiseman has decided to give us more Speedman, while abandoning the series' cooler elements, you know, like the vampires.

Instead we get more of the super-smurf and along with him a whole host of new characters no one really cares about wrapped up in another tired out, confusing, save the world plot. Worse, Wiseman has abandoned all the intricate, gothic architecture and dark, rainy, city grit of his first film in favor of shifting all the action to a deserted forest, which may or may not be somewhere in Russia. It's the perfect setting for a Wolverine rampage, but with Wiseman's washed out colors and dark gloomy vampires it's simply bland.

Underworld has always been more of an action movie than a vampire movie of course, and there's nothing wrong with that. But Underworld: Evolution takes that idea almost too far and in the process abandons most of whatever identity the franchise might have had to begin with. By the end of the movie there's not a real vampire in sight, instead it becomes a monster brawl in which all the main characters have through some means or another acquired even more super powers than the ones they had before. I guess immortality isn't enough. But bigger isn't always better and though the movie sports a bigger effects budget it wastes it on hokey, overly powerful monsters and ridiculous set pieces rife with conveniently spinning blades. What a bore.

That's not to say this sequel is without worthwhile moments. Beckinsale continues to shine as a tight-leather wearing vampire. Whenever she or anyone else is given the opportunity to actually behave like a vampire, the movie works a lot better. When Selene inexplicably chooses to avoid bringing anything that might easily kill her opponent to the movie's final firefight, it doesn’t.

It opens with a wallop and ends with a confused whimper. Underworld: Evolution picks right up where it's predecessor left off, and then slowly phases out all of the things that made the original movie any fun to begin with. What you're left with is a lot of sound and fury that creates a big entertainment nothing. I'm actually enjoyed the original Underworld. This one is a tepid disappointment.