Underworld Evolution is a film for fans of the genre - if you like it,
prepare for two hours of undiluted pleasure or, if not, then I suppose
all the epithets along the lines of 'boring, derivative, banal,
underwhelming tosh' are fully justified. Read on: if you are put off by
the description that follows, maybe this film is not for you and I've
done my job. If you enjoyed the first film in the series, or (as one of
the uninitiated) these tantalising glimpses of high-tech goth makes it
appeal, then read on - for the more you know about the mythology first
the better (since the film itself wastes little time explaining
Underworld is a dark domain where age-old enmity between Vampires and
Lycans (werewolves) is played out with terrifying fury. Normal people
are fairly peripheral to the plot (vampires have emergency blood
transfusion type supplies to save the need to attack humans). Both
sides are armed not only with traditional blood-sucking and
flesh-tearing fang-capacity, but with all the gadgetry of customised
guns and other scientific paraphernalia with which to track and kill
each other. Here is no disneyfied world of a timid picture-book
'Dracula' hidden in a battered old coffin somewhere - these guys exult
in state-of-the-art locking crypts, massive stone fortresses, and raids
conducted with military precision. The film unashamedly boasts an
adults-only certificate and has consummate amounts of nastiness, gore,
head-ripping and scary battles as well as realistic dollops of sex.
Apart from the actual mechanics (such as reaction to sunlight, ways of
causing death), the vampires of Underworld have little in common with
their namesake in literature - a fascinating creature that slowly saps
its victim of strength. Several other fables are instead interwoven,
perhaps the most obvious being a Romeo and Juliet type love affair
between the beautiful Selene (Vampire heroine, played by Kate
Beckinsale) and Michael, the Lycan hybrid. There is also a Beauty and
the Beast charm since both these characters display very human
qualities at times, such as their tenderness towards each other and the
desire to minimise suffering. We long for them to rise above the
terrible disease that pumps in their veins. There is a 'Mad Scientist'
type underlay with the development of specialised weaponry and the
search for the pure strain (giving rise to Matrix-style battles) and,
last but not least, Underworld borrows from the X-Men idea of mutations
and stylistically from more polished films of a not dissimilar ilk such
The Crow or Blade.
The name Selene means the moon goddess, who was known for her countless
love affairs and also her purity. Her sister was Eos, the dawn. Michael
is a Hebrew word meaning 'he who is like God'. But we're hardly
interested in the psychology of plot structure and name-conundrums at
this point, are we? The thrill comes from watching Beckinsale (Selene)
in a leather catsuit kick ass all the way to the nemesis, or seeing the
potentially very scary (and equally photogenic) Scott Speedman
(Michael) show his gentle side as he gets her kit off, or actors of the
calibre of Derek Jacobi and Bill Nighy play really cruel, vicious,
malevolent creatures that haven't been toned down for the
under-18yr-olds, or the inventive and bloody battles in fabulously
Gothic settings. There's lashings of blood every few seconds; sex mixed
with blood for the pervy; and tasteful, delicate sex to remind us we're
watching something artistic and not downright depraved (even if we
are). If anything, Underworld: Evolution delivers in spades what the
first film only hinted at, yet keeping some of the best elements
(Beckinsale's acrobatics, car chases and great sets) that set the
The plot is far from simplistic, so here's a reminder of what you need
to absorb in the first few minutes in case you miss it or forget to
Vampire heroine Selene (Kate Backinsale), after dedicating most of her
life to exterminate Lycans (who she believes slaughtered her family
when she was a child), discovers she has been betrayed by her own kind.
She teams up with Michael, a Vampire/Lycan hybrid (a human who has
become infected with both viral strains). While on the run with her,
Michael has to struggle to accept and understand his powers, and he
longs to end the war between Lycans and Vampires.
Other important characters include:
Viktor (Bill Nighy) - a haughty, ostentatious vampire overlord with a
very dark side (Selene awoke him prematurely from a long sleep to tell
him of a Lycan offensive).
Marcus - the last surviving Vampire Elder, a Medieval Warlord. Mutated
into a vampire from the bite of a bat. Felt compelled to raise Vampire
warriors (such as Viktor) to control the Lycan horde. As he was awoken
by the blood of a Lycan scientist ('Singe') however, Marcus has become
one of a terrifying new breed.
William, brother of Marcus. He mutated into a werewolf (Lycan) from a
wolf bite and thence populated the region with the violent Lycan
Alexander Corvinus (Derek Jacobi) is the first immortal, the genetic
father of both Lycan and Vampire. The pestilence of the Great Plague of
Europe had mutated within him to become the Mother Virus, which
eventually became two separate diseases (Vampire and Lycan), as it was
passed on to his sons Marcus and William.
The film traces the evolution of these characters but you do need to
concentrate to get the significance of the heavy battles that are
heaped one upon each other. The real question is, what will happen to
Selene and Michael? The ending packs an emotional punch and paves the
way for even more spectacular (and hopefully bigger budget) episodes.
Stay to the end of the credits for some great heavy metal music.
Underworld: Evolution offers escapism that explores dark lusts, power,
overweening ambition, blind dedication, and the purity of vision to
surpass these. Just don't expect Shakespeare.