Underworld: Awakening (review)

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Underworld Awakening Kate Beckinsale

Come On Now

The fanboy-wank-material franchise continues! Kate Beckinsale runs around a dank, rainy, gothy, first-person-shooter generic urban landscape — in slo-mo! — in skintight leather! or some sort of pleatheresque rubber at least! — killing werewolves and never ever combing her hair! Cuz that’s sexy, if you’re a 14-year-old boy. And the blood and brainmatter splatters out at you in 3D! Please to have a cinemagasm!

Behold The Cleansing — also known as The Purge — when humanity finally discovers the existence of vampires and lycans and engages in some martial law and some flamethrowing in order to wipe out the monsters. Is this fascist fantasy meets fantasy horror of any narrative consequence? None whatsoever. The Biggest Thing Ever for planet Earth and human civilization is dispatched in mere minutes at the opening of Underworld: Awakening, though not before Beckinsale’s (Whiteout, Nothing But the Truth) badass lady vampire warrior Selene lets us know she’s going to “escape” with her hybrid vamp/wolf lover Michael. To where? I dunno: the Moon, perhaps? Who knows? Why, it’s almost as if the writers — there’s a remarkable number of them for so content-free a story — knew that Selene and Michael would be captured, before they could “escape,” by humans who want to experiment on them and stuff for lulz and whatevs.

So now it’s 12 years later, and Selene wakes up from cryofreeze to discover that her pleather corset and her rubber bodysuit and her The Matrix boots have been carefully perserved behind glass — right in the cryolab! — for just this very moment. Lest the fanboys have any worry that Selene might possibly be rendered an actual person, if an undead one, in this fourth installment, rather than reverting to her wanktastic role as a fetish object, never fear. She continues to serve no purpose whatsoever beyond pandering to adolescent male horniness, as she pulls on a leather overcoat in slo-mo.

That’s why we’re meant to be cheering for the vampires here, and not the humans. This mystified me for a bit, during the Cleansing bits, what with all the human soldiers Selene dispatches without a thought, they faceless behind riot helmets in case we might accidentally sympathize with our own species instead of the one that preys upon us. Selene is not a vampire: she’s an embodiment of male teenaged sexual terror, a woman who will rip your, ahem, head off as soon as look at you. Also, although it’s clear that vampires can be killed, Selene is somehow special, almost invincible — she survives things that we see kill other vampires. She’s not just dangerous, she’s unstoppable. Oh, yeah, baby.


This is exciting, apparently. It looks pretty stupid to me, and it isn’t helped by her utter lack of personality, or the fact that her face has been CGI’ed into plastic smoothness. She’s a living doll intended to simultaneously turn the viewer on and make the viewer shit himself in terror. (Me? I just gotta laugh at the obviousness and tedious predictability of her existence. And also at the fact that no one ever went broke pandering to adolescent male horniness.) Conversely, I wonder if the reason she sorta looks like a character in a videogame is to impart the viewer with a sense that, for all her strength and all the panic she is meant to inspire, she could also be easily controlled?

Selene’s meta purpose renders mute all complaints that the story is nonexistent, that it occurs in a preposterous bubble world that is cheap and small and bears little resemblance to reality. How can human society be so absent from the still-ongoing vampire war with the lycans? (The “big” plot point here? The inter-undead tensions are exacerbated by the presence of a young hybrid child [India Eisley], also escaped from the cryolab at the same time as Selene. Naturally, the girl is Selene and Michael’s mad-science-begotten child.) How can it be that vampires don’t turn into lycans, or hybrids, when bitten? How can Selene be out of silver bullets in the middle of the climactic battle, and then have reloaded in the next bit, when there’s nowhere on her skintight-rubber-clad body she could have possibly have been carrying some spares? How can it all be so silly with its humorless solemnity?

It’s all my fault, really, that I’m even noticing these things as problems in the first place. If only I could learn to see movies as they were meant to be seen — through male eyes — I’d have a much better time with it. Stupid girl.

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