Underworld: Evolution (2006)

underworld evolution

“I will be a god. And a god has no father.”

The Scoop: 2006 R, Directed by Len Wiseman and starring Kate Beckinsale, Scott Speedman and Tony Curran

Tagline: No tagline.

Summary Capsule: Kate Beckinsale runs around in black PVC shooting things and biting things, and is naked at least once. There are vampires and some werewolves and lots of guns. This is all most of you need to know.

Shalen’s rating: One out of two inexplicably green-eyed vampires.

Shalen’s review: First of all, I admit that my sister owns Underworld on DVD and we have watched it a great many times. I confess this freely, Mutant brothers and sisters, because you already know that I have voluntarily watched both The Kung Fu Colt Master and The Werewolf Vs. the Vampire Woman more than once. So the fact that I enjoy the first Underworld film is no guarantor of its cinematic quality. (Justin, don’t you dare try and remove guarantor. It is a word. It is! It is!) The same is equally true of Underworld: The Inaptly Named Sequel In Which Evolution Plays Little Or No Part. I sat through it with great glee and I will probably go see it again before it’s out of theaters, but at the same time, this film is quality cinema the same way I am an African runway model.

Underworld: Your Race Won’t Evolve If You Never Reproduce starts off where the other one left off, with Selene and Michael on the lam from Lycans and vampires alike. Though I wouldn’t expect to see too many werewolves in this film, if I were you. They’re completely absent as a power in the story, presumably because of the death of head Lycan Lucian in the last film. This story’s conflict revolves around Marcus, one of two sons of Alexander Corvinus. Marcus and the other son William were each bitten by a creature, and each consequently became a supernatural being with inconvenient appetites. Marcus was bitten by a bat, and William was bitten by a wolf.

When some werewolf blood (from an incident in the previous film) dribbles down into Marcus’s crypt in the vampires’ group home/mansion, he turns into a “hybrid” of the two races. Michael, a distant Corvinus descendant who became a hybrid in the previous movie, gained the ability to transform into a sleek and mostly hairless werepire with inexplicably blue skin. (His hair always turns black, too, though he is blond when human.) Marcus, on the other hand, is able to transform into… A damp bluish creature with a flat nose and large wings. Of course! Werewolf genes would completely have that effect on a vampire! But I digress. Marcus wants to free his brother William, who was locked up in a crypt by vampire overlord Viktor because he (William) kept biting people. Viktor felt this was not all right for werewolves, though it was perfectly okay for vampires.

Marcus goes around drinking people’s blood in order to gain their memories, and apparently also because he likes it. I think we were supposed to be turned on by the constant drooling of blood from his lips. Actually, even a fairly morbid individual such as I found this rather disgusting despite his frequent absence of shirt.* Marcus wants to drink Selene’s blood also, because her father built William’s prison and she knows where it is or some such nonsense.

Anyway, there is plenty of excuse for Marcus and Michael and Selene to fight each other several times, and these provide the main action set pieces for the film. They’re not bad action sequences. The cutting is sometimes unnecessary, as with many modern action flicks, but it’s not obnoxious. There is no more sudden slow motion or bullet time, though Selene does get to do the “drop from a great height and land on your feet” routine that looked so cool in the trailer for the first one.

There are a couple of things I find very interesting about this franchise. First of all, there’s the fact that vampires seem much more “alive” than in most cinematic interpretations, perhaps because of the whole “it’s caused by a virus” concept a la the Blade movies. They breathe. (Insert PVC corset joke here.) They can pass out from blood loss and die from ditto. They can have normal sex and apparently produce offspring. The whole sunlight allergy concept appears to have stuck around, perhaps to achieve symmetry with the werewolves’ continued weakness to silver. And few things are more human than shooting guns. You think I’m joking, but how many supernatural characters ever worry about ammo? Right.

Second, there was the new twist on an old Hollywood archetype. The love-interest-who-needs-protection is no longer limited to female characters. Underworld brought us the character of Michael as a pawn in a larger game, and Underworld: Natural Selection Doesn’t Seem To Work more or less leaves him following Selene around like a pet dog. He gets some interesting fight sequences, but almost no character development vs. the long** exposition and flashbacks about Selene’s past.

By and large, if you enjoyed the first film, you’ll enjoy this one. It doesn’t suffer from much sequelitis, though it doesn’t provide much new material either. Don’t expect to be surprised, though you may occasionally be confused. For example: if Marcus really wants to spawn a hybrid race, wouldn’t it make more sense to find some compliant vampire or werewolf women and start banging like a bunny? He could then worry about protecting his offspring until they mature instead of running around biting people in the hopes that they will turn instead of die from the “deadly” vampwolf viruses. The viruses are the whole reason Michael had to be found in the first place: supposedly only a descendant of Corvinus could survive the introduction of both strains. So how, exactly, are Michael and Marcus’s kind going to pass anything on when there are so few descendants of Corvinus? I would have liked to see this explained a little more.

The switchblade effect of Marcus’s new wings was terribly cool to watch, and some of the fight sequences were very entertaining. I consider this more or less balances the murky yet predictable plot and humdrum cinematic styling. And there is a reason why this film outgrossed the Golden Globe winners this past weekend:

If you’re going to have angst, it really helps to have guns and leather also.

*Michael spends a lot of time sin camisa also, so it’s not as if they didn’t try to appeal to both sexes.
**Sometimes too long. This is why Viktor is on screen so much, despite having been killed in the first one.

PoolMan’s rating: If they make an Underworld 3, it may just be the end of my marriage.

PoolMan’s review: My wife, bless her heart, is a woman of incredible patience. She’ll put up with an awful lot from me (God knows I give her a lot to put up with). I’m not nearly as neat and orderly as her. I have a memory like a sieve. I eat about twice as much as she does. I’m assured I’m an accomplished snorer. I’m sure I try her patience on a daily basis, no matter how much I try and avoid it. But she bears it all with remarkable aplomb.

Last night I told her I was going to see Underworld: Evolution. I think I’m in trouble.

Now, it’s not like I traipse around the house singing the praises of the original Underworld and its scantily clad star. But whenever the name of the movie or of Kate Beckinsdale comes up, a cold wind blows through my home, and I’m immediately regarded with calculating, cautious eyes (never mind her endless “Siiiiiigh… Ewan” every time Down With Love plays on our TV). And so it was when she learned of a new Underworld movie. This must be what it feels like to have an affair.

Anyways, if I’m going to get in trouble for this movie, it better be good. And like you’ve probably heard elsewhere, if you liked the first one, you’ll do fine here. But there’s more to be said than that.

Now I’ll get this out of the way first: this review has spoilers for the original Underworld, but not spoilers for Evolution. So ye be warned. If you were thinking of getting into the series for the first time, go watch the first one now and come back later.

Now, hopefully by this point we’ve got nothing but Underworld veterans (or people who don’t give a crap about the series). Evolution begins literally hours after the first one left off. Vampiric Death Dealer Selene is still on the run with newly minted vampire/lycan hybrid boyfriend Michael Corvin. The lycan doctor’s bleeding body is still lying on vampire Elder Markus’ tomb. Kraven is still trying to convince any hot young women who’ll listen that he’s actually Trent Reznor. We have a quick flashback to 800 years prior to set up some new players, and then off we go.

The new characters in question are Markus (the vampire who was awoken right at the end of the first movie) and William, the twin sons of Alexander Corvinus, who if you’re playing along is the great great great great (etc) grandfather of Michael and the first immortal. Markus is the only Elder left (with Viktor and Amelia both dead by the end of the first flick), while William is the very first Lycan, one of immense power but robbed of his ability to take human form. Viktor had him entombed all those centuries ago (still living) to keep him under control, driving Markus to try and free him so they might rule the world. Markus quite quickly clears the board of any extra pieces (I wouldn’t worry too much about spoiling that Annoying Character #1, Kraven, is killed almost immediately) and sets to work.

Evolution works hard to further elaborate this new take on the vampire/werewolf mythology, sharpening perspectives here but fogging them there. For instance, we get a new ground rule; temporary exposure to the sun for a vampire is painful but nonlethal. If you get out of the sun quickly enough, the damage actually heals up quite quickly. Good to know. But then comes the issue of how one is turned into a vamp or wolf to begin with… in the first movie, Michael gets bitten by both and eventually becomes both. In the sequel, doing the biting (or actually, just drinking infected blood) gets you new powers. Buh?

Blood becomes very important, for many reasons. First off, it’s the only form of food either race can take. Then you’ve got the whole “this is how the curse spreads” aspect. Finally, as in the first film (sort of), memories can be transferred by blood. So all a vamp needs to see your inner secrets is a little bit of your AB positive. And if you thought it odd that the first movie was about vampires and werewolves that subsist on blood and yet there was relatively little of it, relax. It’s everywhere here. Every single character at some point gets shot up, bitten, or impaled on something, and few lucky ones even get to explode in great meaty chunks of the gore that was strangely lacking in the original until the final frames.

Despite all the careful and clumsy setup, though, this remains an action fan’s vampire movie, a modern blend of The Matrix’s stylings with the trappings of the bitey whities (I’ve been waiting all review to dig that phrase up again). A very great deal of the plot is overly convoluted and self contradictory, which makes you wonder why they go to so much trouble to lay it out when the movie plainly wants to get to the action. And the action is very good, particularly with the introduction of Markus, who can fly and use his wings to great effect.

And if all you’re going for is to see the eye candy of Kate Beckinsdale and Her Amazing Vinyl Suit, you certainly won’t be disappointed. If you’ve ever been curious to find out if Ms Beckinsdale has any interesting tattoos, you’re certainly going to see for yourself. And just to keep the ladies interested, Scott Speedman’s Michael gets just as nude (and topless to boot every single time he wolfs out).

In the end, like I said before, it’s true that if you liked the first one, you’ll like this one. But there’s more to it than that. The Underworld universe is fleshed out a little more fully, the characters get a little more to do than just shoot each other with guns, and the world broadens beyond the vampire’s coven and the sewers. That said, I don’t think we really need a third one (no idea if it’s planned yet). I think the run’s been had.

So if you’ll excuse me, I’m off to buy some flowers for PoolGirl. Trust me, it’s for the best.

Kyle’s rating: Shalen, you can claim Kate Beckinsale is naked if all the good stuff is carefully obscured. You owe me $2.99 plus whatever California sales tax is.

Kyle’s review: Ha ha! My rating was just a little light-hearted ribbing: I’ve already seen the Kate Beckinsale “nudity” online. For creating the World Wide Web, Al Gore is the greatest person ever. Only Bono is more deserving of Peace Prizes and high praise; am I right?

Oh, Underworld: Evolution. Let me tell you something: I’ve tried to watch the original Underworld a bunch of times, and it’s cool to look at but also kind of like “Wha?” I get that it’s The Matrix with vampires and werewolves and Beckinsale in tight form-fitting black outfits. But I couldn’t enjoy it even as mindless fun. Which is weird, because I do read Maxim and watch sports. Odd, eh?

I’m just glad Beckinsale supposedly took herself out of the running for Wonder Woman, because if that film gets made, casting one of the most boring “most beautiful women in the world” actresses around would be a huge mistake. Has she been worthy of her hype in any film on her CV? I can only hazily recall her in Van Helsing (which I can only recall hazily as well, thank god), and truly the only standout film I can think of with her is Laurel Canyon and I think her tight body is all that allows her to play ball with Christian Bale, Frances McDormand, and Alessandro Nivola. Tell me I’m wrong.

I will admit that Underworld: Evolution was a blast to watch, because I literally had no idea what was going on. Not a ****in’ clue. Some stuff was easily deduced, some stuff remained foggy, and mostly I just ignored a nagging need for coherence and enjoying bloody set pieces and lots and lots of fired guns.

So, yeah. Go rent this! It’s one of those movies that you can watch and finish not knowing what you’ve just seen or what the ultimate message or meaning is, but feel like you’re having a great time while it plays. Kind of like watching MTV and just catching some pleasant vibrations and subsequently wasting some time on the couch, watching whatever and laughing heartily inbetween handfuls of cheesy snacks and Mountain Dew. Underworld: Evolution is like finding a winning lottery ticket on the ground that’s only redeemable for a couple bucks, and spending those winnings on losing tickets. Nothing really ventured, nothing really gained, and if you really need to see Kate Beckinsale naked, it’s just a Google search away. Hooray!

“And now, my Rohirrim, we will slay the Orcs! …Wait… What do you mean we’re in a vampire movie?”

Intermission!

  • The historian Tanis has green eyes, suggesting he may be Amelia’s offspring: she is the only other green-eyed vampire we see.
  • Marcus and Alexander Corvinus (remember Sir Derek Jacobi, the Shakespearean actor? I’m guessing he’s short on money, though he adds some much-needed dignity here) are allowed to have “C” in their names, unlike Viktor and Kraven in the previous film. Perhaps it’s because they are older.
  • The IMDB credits say Lycans Pierce and Taylor are in this film, but I can’t for the life of me figure out where. Anybody?
  • Where are the werewolf women? Or is this why the male Lycans are so cranky?
  • Michael doesn’t come across as a guy bright enough to have gotten through med school, does he?
  • Kate Beckinsale’s one facial expression? Wide blue eyes plus parted lips = lust = rage = sorrow = anxiety.
  • Those wing effects really are wicked. I want some wings like that.
  • Helicopter blades keep right on going after the helicopter crashes.
  • How, no matter how cheesy it may seem, one character just can’t quite stay dead?
  • Spirit of the West fans take note: that IS John Mann as Alexander’s right hand man!
  • But that ISN’T Robert Eddison from Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade playing Alexander. I actually had to go home and check IMDb to be sure.
  • They really trump up the importance of blood in this one
  • Markus: sloppy eater of the year
  • The poor horses! Sue’s going to hate this.
  • I guess the food’s not so good in the pub there, eh Michael?
  • Interesting attire on Tanis’ vampire brides
  • Some of the rock from the cave ceiling floats in the water
  • Wounds (particularly the shotgun blast at Selene’s midsection) have a way of disappearing
  • Michael really hasn’t seriously fed since he became the hybrid, and yet he keeps going and going, including standing up to a vampire Elder
  • It is stated that Markus is a hybrid, but how exactly did this come to be?
  • The vampires of the 1200’s were apparently huge Lord of the Rings fans
  • Had a 71-day shooting schedule.
  • Kate Beckinsale’s chair had, instead of her name, “My Sweetie” on it surrounded by tiny hearts.
  • While filming a scene where Selene and Michael look at each other longingly, director Len Wiseman surprised the cast and crew by playing Bryan Adams’ song “Everything I Do, I Do It For You,” at which everyone started laughing.
  • The little girl playing young Selene in the flashbacks is actually Kate Beckinsdale’s daughter, Lily Bo Sheen. In other news, some heartless monster named their child Lily Bo Sheen.

Groovy Quotes

Selene (to Michael): Your powers could very well be limitless.

Corvinus: Quickly, child, before there is no legacy left in my veins.
Selene: What will I become?
Corvinus: The future.

Marcus: I will be a god. And a god has no father.

Tanis: You don’t scare me, Selene.
Selene: Well, we’ll have to work on that, won’t we?

Markus: Why do you flee at the very sight of me?
[Tanis looks over at his guns and other weaponry]
Markus: Now that’s just rude.
Tanis: Sorry.

If you liked this movie, try these:

  • Underworld
  • Blade II
  • The Matrix

4 comments

  1. I only had time to read Shalan’s review and all can come up with is: Get over it(or yourself. Not sure.)

    Its a vampire movie, bloody lips after biting someones neck should be more than expected. and pretty much everything else youve commented on was on the technical side of the film but you haven’t said a word about the story.
    I get that there are dangerously low standards for modern films but underworld shouldn’t be described like this. Its script was better than most action movies (and some others), aside from the werewolves the animation was pretty good, there was depth to the story that I haven’t seen in a while and I’m completely lost when you say “humdrum cinematic styling”. When have you ever seen a vimpire movie with lavish colours and wide open scenery? After all they century old corpses allergic to sunlight.

    And you said yourself that they could actually give birth and it makes sense that if he hybrid and the vampire get together, their children would most likey be more than just a vampire hence Underworld *Evolution*

  2. I would have left this out but I can’t help it.

    Stop saying things inexplicable. If the vampire has green eyes, its because whomever made the film said so. Theres no law dictating the colour of the eyes, skin or hair of a fictitious creature. Its like putting a restriction on the height of a giant.

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