By Vic Holtreman
Short version: Convoluted and confusing, but with the coolest looking vampire I've ever seen on screen.
Although the first Underworld was not a cinematic opus, it was actually kind of a fun popcorn movie. Kate Beckinsale was fairly impressive in the first film as a female action hero, and she had her moments in Underworld: Evolution as well, although here I thought she got lost in the muddle that was the script and served more as eye candy (yeah, yeah I know, that's why she was hired) than an effective heroine.
Underworld: Evolution opens in the past (to be honest, I don't remember how long ago... 1,000 years?) with a group of men riding on horseback into a town that appears to have been sacked. It turns out that they are vampires and that the town has been attacked by werewolves (or should I say "Lycans", the hip new term for werewolves). The townspeople lay dead all around, and of course the concern is that they will soon "turn" and end up being a handful for the Vampires to take on.
I'm not going to get into naming many of the characters since one of the problems with this movie is that there are too many to keep track of. Viktor, the apparent leader of the Vampire posse seems overly protective of Marcus, who it turns out is the first true vampire. It seems that if Marcus is killed, then all Vampires would die. The problem is that Marcus' brother is William, leader of the Lycans and the first true werewolf.
A very bloody battle ensues once the victims of the attack start turning into Lycans, with quick cut edits so abrupt that it was like watching a video game. Vampires prevail and capture William, who against Marcus' wishes is to be imprisoned for all eternity.
Now one thing I wish I had known about this sequel going in is that it takes place immediately after the first film. I mean beyond the opening sequence, it picks up exactly where the first film left off, and I think it would have been extremely helpful to have watched the first one on DVD a day or so before going to see this one. The reason this would have been helpful is because they give a very confusing recap of prior events, that really didn't help a lot. I had a vague recollection of the characters from the first film, but by the time this one kicked into gear I didn't feel like I knew who was who or stood for what.
In any case, Marcus (the original Vampire) had also been imprisoned (or locked away for his own safety, I don't know which) and he is released close to the start of the film. As I mentioned above, right from the start I thought he was the coolest and most interesting vampire I've seen on-screen. The big-daddy Vampire from Blade 3 doesn't even hold a candle to this guy. Leathery wings that can turn into spider-like protrusions were for me, the highlight of this guy. :-)
Selene (Beckinsale) and her newfound pal from the end of the first film, Michael (who is a Lycan/Vampire hybrid) come on the scene, with him still coming to terms with who he is. Marcus is after her, and for the life of me I couldn't figure out why he wanted to kill her, since if I recall correctly from the first film she was on his side. There's also a side character who makes a brief appearance who was in the first film, and the fact that Marcus' and William's father is Alexander Corvinus, the first Immortal who is still hanging around and has been covertly cleaning up after Vampire and Lycan messes for centuries.
It was at about this point that I decided to just stop trying to figure out all the relationships and settle on Selena and Michael: Good, Marcus: Bad, and try to just enjoy the action sequences and special effects.
I enjoyed the movie most of the time that Marcus was on screen in Vampire form, and of course Kate looks great in form-fitting leather. The scenes where Michael pulled out all the stops and turned into his hybrid self were cool as well, as there was a ferocity there that really came across.
Being rated R, there was some gratuitous nudity to be found (sorry guys, only partial for Kate) with a couple of Vampire "groupies" attending to this movie's version of "Q" from the Bond films.
However in the end, I left the theater pretty unsatisfied and would have given Underworld: Evolution only 1 1/2 stars were it not for the coolness that was Marcus as a Vampire.