Underworld: Evolution Really Bites


“Underworld: Evolution” stars Kate Beckinsale and Scott Speedman, reprising their roles as Selene and Michael from cult hit, “Underworld.” If you didn’t see the first movie, you may need a little background detail to get you started.
Selene, you see, is a vampire who, prior to meeting and falling in love with Michael, used to be a death-dealer (it’s similar to being a drug dealer but with less repeat custom) bent on assassinating as many lycans (werewolves) as possible, all while wearing skin-tight rubber, corset, and black leather storm trooper boots. Meanwhile, Michael is a doctor who doesn’t realize that he is the direct descendant of a man whose wacky genetics spawned both the lycan and the vampire bloodlines. Michael subsequently becomes a bit of both but Selene loves him anyway and the couple proceeds to irritate both lycans and vampires, jealous of this unnatural love affair.
Unwilling to sit down, have a friendly chat, and work out their problems with this inter-species coupling, the vampires and lycans become a little boisterous in their objections and Selene and Michael are forced to do the only decent thing left, which is to shoot, stab, slice, dice, shred, disembowel, eviscerate and decapitate as many of them as possible. The course of true love never did run smoothly, even for blood-sucking immortals, and so the first movie ends with Selene and Michael facing an eternity of squabbling in-laws intent on making the lovelorn duo a tad uncomfortable.
Ah, love. It’s a classic tale, a bit like Romeo and Juliet with fangs, and the star-struck duo are undead in the end.
So there’s the background. However, if you didn’t see the first movie, don’t worry because “Underworld 2” repeats everything you need to know in a series of grainy flashbacks and “blood memories.” What’s more, it only takes ten minutes!
What “Evolution” doesn’t explain, however, is how the story shifted from a gothic American city to a rural Eastern European setting replete with communist-type soldiers. Nor does it explain why Selene is still wearing the same stunning outfit that looked great on the dimly-lit mean streets of underworld America but which must be a little chilly in the snowy mountains of Czechoromangary. (Not that I mind, of course.)
Instead, the sequel starts six hundred years before the end of the first movie. Apparently, the sequel-that-starts-as-a-prequel is meant to introduce some new characters, including Willie the Werewolf and Marcus the Big Bad Bat, the ill-fated brethren spawn of simpering Alexander Corvinus, and to explain the deeper reason why Selene and Michael are going to be having a spot of bother for the next 90 minutes.
Setting the scene for the rest of the movie, “Underworld 2” opens with a battle between the lycans and vampires. The lycans are as scary as semi-claymation animatronics can be, while the vampires are real actors but less lifelike than the lycans. The blood and gore is so overdone it becomes laughable within the first 15 seconds. The comedy does not stop there, however. In one shot, a lycan jumps from a roof, completely misses his target, and then appears to feel somewhat foolish about the whole affair and walks away shaking his fuzzy head as if wondering if he can catch a gig in a John Carpenter movie instead.
The role of a simpering Alexander Corvinus is played by great Shakespearean actor Derek Jacobi, who seems a little embarrassed to have been caught with his hand in the Hollywood cookie jar. Marcus the Big Bad Bat, the son of Corvinus, is played by Tony Curran. I used to work for a builder named Tony Curran. I think he was more menacing than Marcus. Even though Marcus has incredibly dexterous wings that do double duty as implements of torture, Tony Curran had a fiery Irish temper, an assortment of fierce-looking tools, and a randy daughter named Maria who was secretly teaching me the building trade in her own inimitable way!
Willie the werewolf, Marcus’ brother, is played by… Oh, I really don’t care by this point. He’s hardly in the movie anyway and he has a fuzzy face. You’d never recognize him in the street so it really doesn’t matter.
I won’t ruin the plot because the writer, Danny McBride, and director, Len Wiseman, have already done that. Wiseman and McBride were responsible for 2003’s”Underworld,” a sleek, stylish and subversively sensual work that delivered an interesting twist to the vampire movie genre. The sequel, unfortunately, is a formulaic exercise in special effects and overkill, overt sexuality rather than implied sensuality, and finding as many different ways as possible to terminate the in-laws.
“Underworld: Evolution” really is a bad movie. However, that’s not to say that you won’t be entertained. The action is spectacular, the unintentional humor keeps you giggling when you’d normally be yawning, and the rapid pace keeps you gobbling the M&Ms and Starbursts until finally you think you’ve seen everything: a helicopter pulled from the sky, two spectacularly inventive deaths that cause the audience to applaud rather than gasp, a flying vampire being outmaneuvered by a Soviet truck traveling at five miles-per-hour up a mountain road, and Michael emulating Jackson Pollack. Quite what the symbolism is behind pulling a chopper into a cavern through a very tight hole followed by ripping someone’s head off, I’m not really sure but I’m glad I suspended my disbelief before the movie started or I’d have been tempted to rip my own head off before I’d even finished my candy!
There’s even a gratuitous sex scene that somehow manages to be less sexy as the clothes come off. Wiseman and Beckinsale married after the first “Underworld” movie so maybe he just didn’t want her to look like she was enjoying her sexual tryst with Michael too much while still putting his wife’s nudity on display to a paying audience. “Look what I found! That’ll be $8.50 please!”
“Underworld: Evolution” is a truly awful movie. The acting is terrible, the story is silly and convoluted, character development is non-existent, and the plot has more loose ends than a half-eaten bowl of spaghetti. Will I be going to see it again? You bet! Why? Because Kate Beckinsale is outrageously sexy and spends another fine 90 minutes dressed in the kind of outfit normally reserved for aficionados of underground fetish clubs or mistresses of TV evangelists.