Underworld: Evolution

Cast:
Kate Beckinsale as Selene
Scott Speedman as Michael Corvin
Tony Curran as Marcus
Derek Jacobi as Alexander Corvinus
Bill Nighy as Viktor
Shane Brolly as Kraven
Michael Sheen as Lucian
Kurt Carley as Lycan
Zita Görög as Amelia
Steven Mackintosh as Tanis
Scott McElroy as Soren
Brian Steele as William
Georgianna Tarjan as Adr

Review:
The vampire Selene (Kate Beckinsale) and her lycan-hybrid lover Michael (Scott Speedman) are on the run from everyone after killing Viktor (Bill Nighy), the lord of the Vampires. Unknownst to them (but knownst to us) they carry with them the key to freeing William (Brian Steele), the first werewolf; a key that William’s brother Michael (Tony Curran) will do anything to retrieve.

“Underworld: Evolution” picks up mere moments after the first “Underworld” ended, quickly dispatching most of the remaining plot threads of that film and spending the rest of its two hour running time dealing with the one plot point left over – the re-awakened Marcus – continuing on to it’s fairly logical conclusion, while still leaving room for more stories of Selene’s adventures.

One thing that can definitely be said about “Evolution,” it fits together seamlessly with it’s predecessor, making the two parts feel like one story. Unlike many sequels, which often feel tacked on and not very well thought out, “Underworld” and “Underworld: Evolution” are very much of a piece, and “Evolution” benefits from all of the strengths of the original, plus a substantially larger budget, giving director Len Wiseman a chance to really spread his wings and show off some excellent action set-pieces. The finale in particular is much more satisfying than in the first film, and Selene finally gets to really show off her moves.

It is also much improved in it’s acting. Shane Brolly, the bane of the first film, is relegated to a bit part here, leaving plenty of screen time for Tony Curran (“Blade II,” “The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen”) to chew the scenery with relish, and Derek Jacobi (“I, Claudius”) brings a great deal of dignity to the proceedings, even when he’s performing autopsies on vampires. Beckinsale and Speedman (who actually gets to do something this time around) have much better chemistry together, and the scenes where they work together are some of the best in the film.

It also, unfortunately, has the same problems that the first “Underworld” had as well. Screenwriter Danny McBride has worked out a very detailed mythos for his back-story, and he goes to great length to explain that back-story whenever possible. The film starts with a concise scroll setting up the premise, followed by an action packed but ultimately pointless prologue that does the same thing (though it does allow one last moment with the always delightful Bill Nighy) and then later a vampire historian (Steven Mackintosh) lays it out all for us, again. “Underworld: Evolution” alternates between exposition and action, and nothing else. There is no character development, and very little to really hang onto. Exposition explains a story, but it can’t make an audience emotionally invested in what is going on – that’s what characterization is for. The characters in “Underworld” are robots; they do their job, but they’re not really alive.

While it is still plagued by many of the same problems of the first film, “Underworld: Evolution” is generally an improvement over the original and an entertaining diversion.

“Underworld: Evolution” is rated R for pervasive strong violence and gore, some sexuality/nudity and language.

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