‘Underworld Awakening’ Review

Published 3 years ago by , Updated November 27th, 2014 at 3:56 pm,

Underworld Awakening starring Kate Beckinsale Review Underworld Awakening Review

As this film proves: sometimes it’s better to quit while you’re ahead.

True to its title, Underworld Awakening (aka Underworld 4) finds Selene (Kate Beckinsale) waking up 12 years after humanity’s discovery and “purging” of the vampire and Lycan (werewolf) hordes living in their midst. Selene finds herself in a world where vamps and wolves are near extinction, and humans keep tight control of things, methodically searching for and destroying the last of “the infected.”

However, before Selene can even get her bearings she is swept up in a rescue mission involving a young girl named Eve (India Eisley), who is more powerful than anyone imagined. It’s up to Selene to protect Eve from those who would harm her – be they human, Lycan, or the vampire coven itself.

Underworld 4 looks and feels like an extended TV episode, rather than a big-budget feature film. This is mainly due to the amateurish direction of Swedish duo Måns Mårlind and Björn Stein, whose primary experience is in directing TV, as it so happens. The film is nothing more than a string of action sequences and cheap set-pieces, often shot at wide angles that reveal the elementary (and by now, routine) fight choreography. Cheap CGI effects make the blood spatter, superhuman feats and supernatural creatures look no better than something you might see on an episode of Supernatural or True Blood.

The directors’ lack of skill is even more pronounced thanks to the 3D format of the film: at such wide angles, a lot of Underworld Awakening looks like a Gothic pop-out puppet show set on a drab stage. At their moderate skill level, Mårlind and Stein really had no business working with 3D cameras: why add bells and whistles when you haven’t even grasped the action movie basics?

Underworld Awakening Selen vs. Flamethrower Underworld Awakening Review

Kate Beckinsale as Selene in ‘Underworld Awakening’

The script for the first Underworld succeeded in creating a rich (if not slightly convoluted) mythology, as well as some interesting and complex characters. The sequel made the mythos a little too convoluted, but this fourth film suffers from the opposite problem: it’s half-cooked and feels more like the pilot episode of an Underworld TV series than the fourth chapter in a movie franchise. A variety of writers worked on the script – including Underworld director Len Wiseman and Thor writer J. Michael Straczynski – but it’s hard to see where that combined effort was spent.

The movie begins with a cheaply-staged and very rushed glimpse at the vampire/Lycan “purge” (which could’ve been a movie in itself) before we jump to Selene waking up, finding Eve, and… that’s about it. The film runs out of steam somewhere in the second act, and settles for a cheaply-staged and predictable third act battle that might impress a TV audience, but is painfully unworthy as a 3D theatrical spectacle.

Underworld Awakening India Eisley as Eve Underworld Awakening Review

India Eisley as Eve in ‘Underworld Awakening’

The film also attempts to throw a “twist” into the third act, but not only is it obvious (as are all of the so-called “twists” in this film),  it largely negates the premise that distinguishes Awakening from its predecessors (vampires and Lycans having a common enemy in humanity). There is almost no development of character or narrative (just a lot of fight sequences), no thematic arcs, and a lot of the plot contrivances are so pronounced and silly that it’s hard to take the movie seriously, even as an Underworld film. While some would say that the door is purposefully left wide open for another sequel, it feels more like this half-cooked story never bothers to explore or make good on the many plot threads it introduces.

Kate Beckinsale is still in her prime as a gorgeous action starlet, and there was a lot of room for her character to experience some real development across the course of the story. Unfortunately, Selene reacts to her new circumstances with such unflinching stoicism that it’s hard to become invested in anything that’s happening. In one scene, Eve actually confronts Selene about how “cold” she is, offering Beckinsale an opportunity to display some true emotion – which she does with such monotone, deadpan delivery that it is hilariously ironic (and not in a good way).

The supporting cast consists of actors hissing through fangs (Theo James as David, Selene’s only vampire ally) or growling through fur and black eyes (Kris Holden-Reid as a ‘super Lycan’), while Eve runs around doing both. It’s all pretty ridiculous, and none of the characters are as rich or interesting as those that have been featured in previous installments.

Michael Ealy in Underworld Awakening Underworld Awakening Review

Michael Ealy in ‘Underworld Awakening’

Michael Ealy plays detective Sebastian, a human cop who actually has a bit of depth to him; unfortunately, his role is pretty much relegated to holding a weary stare as he watches the supernatural madness taking place around him. Similarly, Game of Thrones star Charles Dance brings some acting chops to his bit role as “Thomas,” lord of one of the last vampire covens. However, like Ealy, Dance is given little to do with his talents.

If you’re a fan of the first Underworld film, but thought the sequel (Evolution) and the prequel (Rise of the Lycans) were diminished efforts, you won’t find redemption in this fourth installment. However, if you’ve enjoyed all of the films for what they are, you’ll probably get a bit of enjoyment out of this one as well. If you’ve never been a fan of watching vampires and werewolves battling it out, but were perhaps curious about this particular film: don’t waste the time or money, because your curiosity will only be rewarded with disappointment.

As this film proves: sometimes it’s better to quit while you’re ahead.

Underworld Awakening is now playing in 2D, 3D and IMAX 3D theaters.

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Our Rating:

2 out of 5

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  1. Man, that’s disappointing. I was hoping the producers and director had listened to the fans but I guess not. I may still see it but Haywire looks more interesting.

    • I agree. Haywire looks solid. This and the Resident Evil franchise can’t seem to get out of 2nd gear. I suspected it might have been a bad entry when all you see on the TV spots is Beckinsale running around shooting, no compaints here, but they never showed anything that would get my $10.50.

  2. ouch. i was optimistic about this one.

  3. will wait for the bluray release, but only to see beautiful kate in black leather.

  4. Kate beckinsale is still looking good the movie was incredible i really liked it i hope they come out with another one

  5. I completely disagree with this review. This is by far the best underworld movie in the franchise. It gave me the kick-@ss movie I always thought this series was capable of.

    • Not the worst of the series but pretty disappointing. The review was spot on

    • Not everyone will agree with any review. We do have a poll for each one where you can indicate what you thought of it. :)


  6. I was bummed about this one from the very first preview. The end of pt2 left things wide open for some really exciting opportunities and I could tell this one didn’t take advantage of any of them.

  7. hmmm..,must watch it first.

  8. Scott Speedman? Gone? Explained? Why can’t these guys get it right when they have been so close in the past?

    • @Jpizzle – Not quite gone. Not quite there. Definitely not sufficiently explained. That’s all I’ll say.

  9. GUYS DONT LISTEN TO THIS CRAP….this film is probably the best 3d film i have ever seen and i have seen a lot of filmzz….its has an intense and electrifyin film and kate is soooo damn hot …i do agree the story was rubbish but the movie itself was just pure rock on amazin !!A MUST WATCH IN 3D

    • Why should we trust you?
      Give us a few examples of other 3D and action flicks that are (in your opinion) fantastic or crap

      • You should listen to him because he is a real ‘ture’ movie lover.

        • LOL….dude, that’s funny!

  10. to be honest i never got into this franchise, the 1st one was ok at best (for me) and i don’t even remember the 2nd one at all (except the guy getting head sliced in the end), didn’t even bother with the prehistoric one. i don’t understand how they could screw this up, you have vamps, wolves and a R rating, how can you go wrong ?

    if the screen writers from blade 2 (even 3) come back, then blade 4 WILL be epic, i would love to see snipes back in his signature role, he is what made the vamp genre so damn good :D

  11. I couldn’t even really get into the first one when I saw it in theaters back in high school, I saw the second when I was strapped in at the plasma donation center and had no choice, and have made no effort to see the third or fourth. While I’m sure it has it’s fans, I wouldn’t miss this series if it suddenly disappeared.

  12. Heavy sigh.

    I hope this is one of those films where Kofi’s review and mine (once I get to see the thing) differ. I had such expectations for this film after the last one was such a let down. I just checked out the score at Rotten Tomatoes and the audience has UNDERWORLD 4 at %89 while the film critics have t at %20, more in line with Kofis take. That means there’s a chance that UNDERWORLD 4 will be one of those films that the regular joes enjoy but the critics don’t.

  13. It was Underworld 4 what did you expect some drawn out boring drama script like Titanic? It’s an action movie about vampires and werewolves and still smoking hot Kate Beckinsdale in 3D. Drop your Emmy glasses and enjoy a much anticipated movie that fans have been asking for for years. I enjoyed the film, it answered questions from the previous films and built a solid foundation for taking the plot in a new direction. Criticize if you want, but I guarantee this movie will bring in a ton of money and appreciation from it’s fan base.Please keep ‘em coming Wiseman!

  14. Did they at least explain what happened to Micheal in this installment?

    • They didn’t, in my opinion, explain much, but they set them selves up for the next installment. I think that’s about as much as one can say without spoiling too much.

  15. Movie was great if you like the other ones youll love this one if you didnt like the others you wont like it.I loved it.

  16. Seconding the question about Michael. Is he in the film or do we at least get to know what happened to him?

  17. Thought it was a good movie… The review is write will little development in the mythology and history of the series but definitely makes up for it in solid action scenes. I thought it was a good little add on to the film series with more action then any of the other movies. Any true Underworld fan would like it. Looking forward to the next one already.

  18. And yea to the Michael part.. He is in the film in the very beginning and at the the very end.

  19. I thought it was pretty good story line wasn’t that intersting but the fight scenes were friking awesome. To bad Michael was only shown in beggining and at the very end. And was hoping for Scott speed man to return but o well. I give this 5/5 for awesome action and Kate beckinsale in leather outfit :)

  20. Like this movie, awesome…. 5 stars

  21. I give a damn about the movie, I just would go to watch it to see Kate. I still want an “Underworld” with she and Rhona Mitra somehow together. Wishful thinking.

    • yeah in a fight and then a love scene…suck my blood ladies.

  22. I liked the flim and thought it was a good follow up to the second one. If anyone knows, who the h… played michael for i cannot find the actor’s name…like in one review before i read this… in no way he looked liked Speedman

    4 stars i give, hopefully Ghost Rider will keep me entertained as much as this did

  23. I liked the first one a lot. Barely remember the second one. However I was extremely surprised about rise of the lycans. I thought it was great.

  24. We saw Underworld Awakening on Friday night and we were VERY impressed. While this is not our typical type of movie to see, we found that the production values, special effects, stunts, Kate Beckinsale and India Eisley are DEFINITELY worth seeing!!!!!! Without a doubt, this IS SO MCUH BETTER than the cheesy Twilight movies.

  25. Kofi
    Respectively I must disagree. I thought the movie was excellent. A great start of te year for movies. :) I thought the story was incredible and the chracters were told and developed nicely. Obviously we disagree and to each his own. I thought the movie was grey and Kate was a great as ever in it.

    My one con to it though was Scott speedman and his chracter. Why not just get the actor back to portray him instead of some small guy that could maybe resemble him. Just didn’t make sense to me.

  26. I just went to see this and I will say it was extremely disappointing, at one point I almost walked out of the movie. I can find cheap action scenes a thousand places, likewise I can find a “hot chick” in probably more places then that. the last Underworld movie opened up so many possible routes for expansion that could have been explored here but was ignored, in fact using the term depth or for that matter dialogue at all may have be a bit of a stretch.

  27. Honestly I loved the movie great action scenes good story line development the only con is character development but id say its def worth seeing

  28. Watched it yesterday,and thought it’s good !
    If you liked the other Underworlds you will feel right back at home.
    And if you like Movies like Blade 1 & 2 then go and watch !
    Recommended !

  29. It was a blast to watch. Go into this movie to watch a movie and enjoy it for what it is, dont go expecting the next blcokbusting action drama movie. It was a good fun movie.
    It leaves the series wide open for another and does a good job. The 3D was well used in most if not all of the movie it felt as if the directors had fun with it.