January is always a weak time for movies. The Christmas and award seasons are over and the studio decides to release all the fluff and non-award contending movies now. During this dumping period, Screen Gems has decided to release its first film of 2006: “Underworld: Evolution,” the sequel to 2003’s “Underworld.” Directed by Len Weisman, this film is a vapid and inane story that is neither entertaining nor engaging. With wooden acting provided by Kate Beckinsale (“The Aviator,” “Pearl Harbor”) and Scott Speedman (“Felicity”), poorly choreographed fight sequences and a drystory full of one-liners, “Underworld: Evolution” is the new standard of spring films that help to prove why the movie industry is losing money. The film continues the story that its predecessor left off. The war between the Death Dealers, an aristocratic race of vampires, and the barbaric werewolf race, the Lycans, continues. “Underworld: Evolution” traces the feud back to 1202 A.D. as Selene (Beckinsale), a vampire heroine, and Michael (Speedman), a Lycan hybrid who somehow has the ability to bring himself back from the dead, try to trace back their history and learn about themselves, their history and the dispute.
The story seems simple enough, but here is the problem; the script is so poorly written that the main concept is nearly impossible to grasp. Full of one-liners and throw-away lines, it seems like the film was written to be a trailer for a longer movie. Strewn into the inane plot are dense flashback sequences told by the vampires when they suck the blood of other vampires. This is a poor use of symbolism. Blood is used to symbolize life, but to be able to see someone’s memories by sucking their blood seems too far-fetched, even for a fantasy film like this one. To help carry the plot are returning stars Beckinsale and Speedman. Beckinsale makes for nice eye candy but that is all.
“Underworld: Evolution” should actually be a relatively easy role for her to pull off seeing as she has done “Underworld” and the similar film “Van Helsing.” Alas, her performance remains stale and leaves much to be desired, but I feel as though I must give her the benefit of the doubt because it is not like this is a film in which she can show off a great deal of range. She is a seasoned actress who we have seen do much deeper films. It could be the script’s fault, but the recent trend of brilliant actors compensating for bad writing knocks Beckinsale down a peg.
The director seems to be one of two directors who have an ability to turn actors into cardboard cutouts. It seems as though Les Weisman did not give his actors much direction. Another problem with the film is the way it was shot: the fight scenes are filmed really close-up and were always choppy. Fluidity was thrown out the window and thus the viewer is left confused and disoriented about what is going on.
Throughout the movie’s one hour and forty-five minute running time, I was always waiting for something more to happen, but it never came. Thrown in are the awful special affects that channel the movies of Roger Corman. “Underworld: Evolution” is a true example of a modern day “B” movie. Weisman could be compared to Corman in his inability to direct a compelling story and enthrall a viewer. This is something not worthy of sinking your teeth into.