Sushi, Without the Extras

How do you think he got the ideas for the Prince? From his cat, of course.

Monday, January 23, 2006

Underworld Evolution

Let me preface these remarks with the statement that this is not a good movie, but that's not why we like it. This is not a film that will redefine a genre or radically impact the way in which we think about cinema, but it is an entertaining film.

Let me start with what I didn't like about this film, so we can get the bad news out of the way. Call me old-fashioned, but I do tend to like dialogue in my movies. When the characters talk, they tend to get a lot of what we like to call plot out of the way. Underworld Evolution seems to eschew this idea. In fact, the script for this movie cannot possibly have exceeded eight pages, and Scott Speedman must have thought to himself upon reading it, "Oh, good. I don't have any lines to memorize." Once again, Michael Corvin takes a back seat to Selene, even letting her drive in most of the sequences involving transportation. Selene does most of the talking as well, by the way, what little there is of it, and interestingly enough, Michael experiences the problem more traditionally reserved to female scifi/horror characters: he can't seem to keep his clothes on his body. I'm not complaining, mind, but I am a tad disappointed. The brief character development sequence comes at the very beginning of the movie when Corvin and Selene are in a safehouse. She tells him that he needs to drink blood to survive and apologizes, while he quickly forgives her and agrees to let her go on to the Evil Vampyre Mansion (I'm sure those pretentious bloodsuckers spell it with a "y"). Personally, I think it's a shame because there's something so interesting about the vampire/lycan hybrid, and I would have appreciated more than the nod in the direction of the traditional angst of the newly turned vampire. Corvin tries to eat something and then manages to throw it all up as his body rejects normal food, but after that, we don't really see much more of Corvin's need to feed.

The film also features a creature that's a cross between a bat and some sort of insect, that we're supposed to accept as the last remaining elder vampire. He just happens to be a power-mad twin who's trying to rescue his brother so as to create an army of hybrids and DOMINATE THE WORLD even BECOMING A GOD. Here, I have to ask...why do all the male vampires get to be rather greasy and nasty looking while the female vampires have to be lovely? Beckinsale, despite the bad hair and fondness for pleather, makes quite the attractive vampire, and the woman who plays the silent Amelia is quite a stunning creature. Markus just looks homely in comparison. My other driving question is "When did bats develop stabbing probosci?" Markus' hybrid package comes with wings, a bat-inspired head, and random appendages that exist for no other reason than to stab his intended victims while he woodenly delivers some badly scripted threat.

Derek Jacobi also makes an appearance as Alexander Corvinus, the tortured father of the film's two monsters: Markus and William. He and Selene have a brief spat over Corvinus' unwillingness to stop his sons, and that is apparently what passes as the film's pathos. Despite Jacobi's ability to breathe brief life into what is otherwise fairly paintful dialogue, he just can't save the film's text. Unfortunately, he perishes as Markus reveals his Secret Evil Plan and aspirations to godhood. Then, poor Jacobi delivers the lamest line of the film, something to the effect of, "You'll never succeed." He also gets the second lamest line of the film, by the way. Selene asks, "What will I become?" Corvinus answers, "The future." How's that for writing?

The next sequence involves very little dialogue and a whole lot of shooting, as Selene pushes on to save the world. It even features a physics-defying helicopter crash sequence that serves as the impetus for the film's bloody finale. Selene's transformation is hardly significant. There seem to be some hints at her greater strength, and apparently, the shift in contact color is supposed to be significant. Normal vampire eyes are electric blue, but Selene manages to go from blue to white. Boo yah.

Now, what did I like about the film? Wiseman managed to avoid the desire that strikes most directors making a sequel with a larger budget than the preceeding film, which is to needlessly elaborate on costumes. Selene wears her same outfit, and well, Michael doesn't manage to wear enough clothes throughout the film for it to really apply to him. The bodies of the elder vampires all feature the same outfits they wore. Of course, I personally think he was just conserving money to spend on the gallons of red paint the film required, but that's it.

You do get all the monster gore you could possibly ask for, though, and fans of werewolves will be pleased to note that Wiseman creates and maintains a very animalistic fighting style for Corvin. He tends to claw, grip, and rip important limbs from his victims as any self-respecting werewolf should. This film contines the escalation of violence seen toward the end of the first movie, taking it to new, graphic levels.

We do get the backstory for the development of the races in the second movie, but unfortunately, it's not nearly as interesting as the first.

Also, while most of his role can be summed up in the word "ROAR!", Speedman does provide some nice eyecandy as he spends most of the movie shirtless. I still don't understand why he feels compelled to remove his shirt before going all monstery on us since he doesn't really change size the way his lycan brethren do, but I'm not complaining. Kate Beckinsale also does her turn in the buff, as during the love sequence, her flat stomach features rather prominently. I feel a tad bad for poor Speedman, however. Surely when Wiseman and Beckinsale pitched this to him, he must have been thinking "Wait, you want me to have sex with your wife while you film it? I'm not sure this is the kind of movie I signed up for."

I similarly appreciated the fact that in this film, you see vampires and lycans juxtaposed with human characters, meaning that the audience has a greater appreciation for just how powerful these beings are. That was something decidedly lacking in the other film but for the sequence where Selene hoists Corvin over her head. There is some minimal exploration of Corvin's strengths and weaknesses as a hybrid, and he does manage to save Selene on two occasions, which would seem to create a bit of balance between the two, which was not present in the first film.

I like the fact that Selene has a dominant role in the film without emasculating Corvin's character. It's logical for Selene to drive as she knows where most of the film's landmarks are located, and Corvin's comfortable with that reality. There are moments where he's capable of decisive action, so Speedman seems to be doing a good job with acting through his actions more so than his words. Frankly, that saves Michael Corvin from being a complete wallflower during the film.

Finally, there's a curious strangeness to the location of the film. During the first film, shot in an unnamed city, there's no real feel to the actual city. Wiseman takes that a little further by suggesting oceans, mountains, and forests for the second film; the castles clearly indicate that the story takes place in Europe, but it's exact location is unknown. Corvin stumbles into some sort of workers camp where the language is clearly something slavic, and Beckinsale's knowledge of Russian comes in handy when she steals a truck. However, not long after, we find her speaking French to a dock guard. In part, some of this could be chalked up to bad writing and the convenience of Beckinsale's knowledge of languages, but I prefer to think of it as Wiseman's way of indicating that the world shared by the vampires and lycans is not our own. It's a world that's separated from the everyday world of mortal man, a species which figures even less prominently in this film than it did in the last.

Overall, I liked the film. I didn't find it as effective as the first, but neither do I wish for the two hours of my life spent in the theatre to be given back. Will this be added to my personal DVD collection--only if someone gives it to me as a gift, or if it's really cheap...


Blogger Robert Farley said...

It took me longer to read this post than it would have to watch the movie.

I feel violated.

8:13 PM  
Blogger Meow said...

No one said you had to read the post.

There's a reason I don't post this drivel to the class blog.

6:32 AM  

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