America, the near future. After twelve years in cryogenic storage, vampire Selene (Kate Beckinsale) is awoken to find she has a daughter, a vampire/lycan hybrid being experimented on by a rogue doctor (Stephen Rea). She resolves to rescue the child and to determine what happened to her lover Corvin. She battles an ongoing purge of non-humans.
About an hour into Underworld: Awakening, I found myself admiring some of the brutalist concrete locations (Vancouver, apparently). These, and the theme of science-gone-wrong got me to thinking about early Cronenberg movies. Then I blinked, and I was back watching this, the fourth (!) in the Underworld series again.
So Kate Beckinsale is back in leather and lycra (with the occasional long coat and a range of handguns with inexhaustible bullet supplies) after sitting part three out (replaced in a prequel by Rhona Mitra last time). Awakening is very much a cut-down version of the first two movies with much less in the way of warring hierarchies (though we do get a dignified-in-the-circumstances Charles Dance as the requisite vampire overlord this time out) and much the same in terms of Matrix-y running gunbattles, motion-captured chopsocky, bullet-time with plenty of duff CG werewolvery, a car chase and a supposedly cliffhanging ending.
Now, The Matrix movies ran out of style and coherent story about half an hour into the second one, and this fourth series flick feels not so much as a retread as a dull exercise in marking time until the next one comes out, when we'll get doubtless get more of the same, as there's clearly a market for the series. Then again, I'm the kind of person who prefers Canadian urban architecture to guntoting foxy vamp superheroes, so what do I know?
Kudos to Rea for playing his thankless role with his usual hangdog resilience, a kind of evil boffin Droopy, and to Beckinsale for maintaining a straight face throughout. U:A, though, is the worst kind of film: one in which all possible genre elements (vampires, mad scientists, action, doomed romance, a mother's love for her child, responsibility, shit being blown up good) are mixed together without care or attention, ending up producing something which is simply dull. There's one half-decent moment involving a fast-healing beastie and a grenade, but that's about it. For obsessives and completists only.