Letter From The Editor - Issue 59 - October 2017

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Writing Fantasy

  
At The Picture Show
February 2006

The land down 'Under' returns: And it still stinks

Underworld: Evolution
Screen Gems
Director: Len Wiseman
Screenplay: Danny McBride, based on a story by Len Wiseman and Danny McBride
Starring: Kate Beckinsale, Scott Speedman, Tony Curran, Bill Nighy, Derek Jacobi and Steven Mackintosh
Rated R / 1 hour, 45 minutes
Opened January 20, 2006
(out of four)

It must be tough for Kate Beckinsale. It's plainly obvious to anyone who has seen both of the Underworld films - in particular this dreadful new sequel - that the mastermind behind the series, Len Wiseman, is a pretty lousy filmmaker. But poor Kate is married to him - so no matter how many of these movies he decides he wants to make, she has to keep saying yes!

It has been reported that Wiseman plans to make this a trilogy, meaning we will probably be subjected to at least one more of these things before it's all over and done with.

Now, I'm of the opinion that Kate Becksinale wearing tight-fitting black latex is never a bad idea, under any circumstances. But in a movie this bad, I can't help but feel sorry for her. The original Underworld was pretty bad, but it did have its moments. This one, on the other hand, not only proves that Wiseman doesn't have any interesting ideas whatsoever, but also that he's just not a very good director. Underworld: Evolution may please those who like nonstop gore and a heavy dose of sexy vampresses, but won't do much for anyone looking for a cohesive storyline, originality, humor or charm. It doesn't even have camp value.

This practically witless sequel picks up right about where the original left off, with Selene (Beckinsale), a vampire "death dealer," having just killed off the esteemed elder, Viktor (Bill Nighy), her mentor and father figure who evidently (I simply can't remember, and don't care) betrayed his people. Nighy's role is limited to a simple cameo, seen in a series of clumsy flashbacks (many taken from the first film) that vainly attempt to mask the fact that Wiseman has no idea how to tell a story.

With Viktor now out of the picture, there is naturally a new antagonist and a new plot for Selene to deal with. And basically, what Underworld: Evolution boils down to is just another one of those movies where a diabolical villain tries to take over the world. I hate it when that happens.

What's next for the third film in the series? A mad scientist threatening to release an unimaginable evil on all mankind? Or something? I wouldn't put it past Len Wiseman, let me tell ya.

Anyway, Selene and her friend/lover, Michael (Scott Speedman) - a half-vampire, half-Lycan (werewolf) - are on the run from...well, someone, when our villain Marcus (Tony Curran) enters the picture.

Marcus has a beloved brother, William, a Lycan, who has been entombed for about 1,000 years - and big brother is none too happy about it. Marcus' extremely elaborate plan involves freeing his brother, killing their father, Corvinus (Derek Jacobi), and creating a new, master race - not human, not vampire, not Lycan - to, you know, take over the world and stuff, with Marcus as their king.

Selene is helped along the way by Tanis (Steven Mackintosh), a vampire she imprisoned hundreds of years ago who is in cahoots with Marcus (I think) and has a few dirty little secrets - mostly involving advanced weaponry - that Selene will stop at nothing to discover.

What ensues is basically a nonstop menagerie of poorly edited fight scenes, dubious special effects and really loud noises, all of it wrapped up just before it becomes completely unbearable, and just in time to set up the intrigue for the inevitable third movie.

The Underworld series is one of great confusion to me. Does the vampire genre reach an underrepresented demographic or something? Is there not enough blood and gore at the multiplexes to satisfy the 14-year-old boy in all of us? Yes, I'm including myself - this stuff can make for great escapism, but Underworld: Evolution is a poor excuse. This sequel is on its way to becoming even more financially successful than its predecessor, which was a modest hit, which tells me...well, it's gotta be the Kate Beckinsale-in-latex thing. There's no other explanation.

Read more by Chris Bellamy


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