Blu-ray Review: Underworld: Awakening

Underworld: Awakening Blu-ray boxSTUDIO: Sony | DIRECTORS: Mans Marlind, Bjorn Stein | CAST: Kate Becksinsale, Stephen Rea, Michael Ealy, Theo James, Charles Dance
BLU-RAY & DVD RELEASE DATE: 5/8/2012 | PRICE: DVD $30.99, Blu-ray $35.99, Blu-ray 3D: $45.99
BONUSES: commentary, featurettes, blooper reel, music video
SPECS: R | 89 min. | Fantasy | 2.40:1 aspect ratio |7.1 DTS-HD audio | English, French, Spanish subtitles

RATINGS (out of 5 dishes): Movie | Audio | Video | Overall

Underworld: AwakeningWhat started as a refreshing new take on the vampire genre, the Underworld franchise should have quit while it was ahead. This fourth movie in the series is pure confection. If the original film was Godiva, Underworld: Awakening is a marshallow peep — not much substance, but it’s enjoyable enough in small doses.

The no less than four screenwriters (not including others who are credited for characters) didn’t so much bother with story as they did with action. The movie does have a plot, but it’s only there to loosely tie together the big action sequences — kind of like horror porn.

The movie takes the characters into the future when humans have discovered that vampires and lycans exist. The humans begin slaughtering the creatures, but Selene (Kate Beckinsale, Contraband) is captured and frozen. When she awakens 12 years later, she finds out she has a daughter (India Eisley, TV’s The Secret Life of the American Teenager). They escape, starting a war between … you guessed it, the vampires and lycans again. Hmm, haven’t we been here before?

Stephen Rea (Blackthorn) joins the cast, along with Michael Ealy (For Colored Girls) and Charles Dance (TV’s Game of Thrones). The fine actors are wasted in the movie, but they add some cache and are fun to watch.

All the action — fight scenes, explosions, leaps off tall buildings — look fine in the high-definition Blu-ray. There are a lot of blacks, and they’re dark and deep, and Beckinsale’s vampire blue eyes pop off the screen beautifully. The sound — with its screams and scrapes, gun fire and punches — is equally clear, giving subwoofers a nice workout. 7.1 DTS-HD is always welcomed.

The Blu-ray has plenty of special features, but unfortunately, they take themselves far too seriously. In the featurette “Selene Rises,” Ealy, Eisley, producers and anyone else the interviewers could get spout off about Beckinsale’s amazing talent. Nothing against Beckinsale, but can we have more depth in these featurettes and less butt kissing? The most interesting part is when they discuss her plastic costume, but it’s fleeting.

“Casting the Future of Underworld” finds the actors talking about their characters’ motivations and has the feel of a promotional featurette.

“Resuming the Action” is perhaps the most interesting piece. Although there’s plenty of “Beckinsale (or fill in the blank) is a genius,” the beginning focuses on the stunts of the film, which is more fun.

“Building a Better Lycan” looks at the making of the werewolves and how the filmmakers felt they pushed the makeup beyond the previous movies. I didn’t feel they achieved that in the film, but the featurette is interesting to see how the werewolf suits were made. We even get to see suit performer Dan Payne getting into costume while making jokes.

And the final featurette, “Awakening a Franchise, Building a Brutal New World,” explores the 3D filming, including getting a new type of camera from Red to shoot 3D scenes. The filmmakers are obviously fans.

The Blu-ray also has a forgettable blooper reel, the music video for Lacey Sturm’s “Heavy Prey” and a commentary by the directors, producers and special effects supervisor. The group are enthusiastic about their film and keep their track entertaining with lots of behind-the-scenes tidbits, including that one shot was actually an actor’s audition tape. At one point, they wonder if anyone’s listening. I encourage you to give it a try.

 

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About S. Clark

Sam Clark is the former Managing Editor/Online Editor of Video Business magazine. With 19 years experience in journalism, 12 in the home entertainment industry, Sam has been hooked on movies on since she saw E.T. then stared into the sky waiting to meet her own friendly alien. Thanks to her husband’s shared love of movies, Sam reviews Blu-ray discs in a true home theater, with a 118-inch screen, projector and cushy recliners with cup holders.