The Underworld franchise hasn’t exactly received the most stellar series of reviews from critics so far (none of the trilogy’s films scores higher than 32% on Rotten Tomatoes). However, the films are undoubtedly popular with movie fans, having made almost $300 million combined on relatively small budgets – so naturally there’s going to be a fourth film.

For some fans, perhaps even more important than the plot, director, writers or any co-stars – is whether or not franchise star Kate Beckinsale will be returning. Underworld 4 is rumored to be effectively kicking off a new trilogy which could lead some to speculate that Beckinsale may not return (a clean slate as they say).

However, the rumor mill has been churning for a while saying that Beckinsale will be back for more vampire versus lycan action – and now we have official confirmation that she will indeed return.

Details are scarce on the plot ofย Underworld 4 although actresses are currently being sought to play the daughter of Beckinsale’s Selene. Will the plot involve Selene protecting her daughter or even “training” her? Whatever the plot, at least we know we’ll be seeing Beckinsale back in leather kicking butt and taking names (in 3D, no less).

The film doesn’t have a director attached yet but the script was written by John Hlavin (The Shield) with revisions made by J. Michael Straczynski (Changeling, Babylon 5, Ninja Assassin).

Beckinsale’s husband, Len Wiseman, directed the first and second Underworld movies (only producing the third) – might we see him make a return along with his wife to direct the fourth film (as previously rumored)? It’s entirely possible (perhaps even likely). Either way, Wiseman will produce the film alongside Lakeshore Entertainment’s Tom Rosenberg and Gary Luchessi.

Underworld 4 (I’m sure we’ll get some dramatic subtitle to add to that) is jumping on the 3D bandwagon, although you’ll be glad to know speculation points to it being shot in 3D instead of converted in post-production. Say what you will about 3D, but seeing werewolves and vampires battling against each other with Beckinsale in the mix (and in a tight leather outfit, to boot) is reason enough to pay the extra few bucks ๐Ÿ˜› .

Underworld 4 will begin production in March, 2011 in Vancouver with a release date TBA.