It’s a rare day indeed, when I will say that a sequel is better than it’s predecessor… but, here we are…
Don’t get too excited, I don’t know if or when I will be in a position to talk more highly of a sequel again. I would consider Underworld: Evolution the exception to my long-standing rule that a sequel can never truly be better than what came before it. Don’t get me wrong, if you read my post on Underworld, you’ll be aware that I do love the first film a great deal, particularly it’s main character, Selene, and to be honest with you, Underworld is by no means a movie that I will pass up watching when the opportunity arises, it’s just that, if I had to pick between it and Evolution – I’d probably choose the latter.
Well, Underworld: Evolution is just (in my opinion) more dynamic, more action packed, more rich with mythology, it’s just more of everything really. It’s taking things to the next level, rather than rehashing what was been done in the first movie (a trap that many recent sequels fall into), it’s ramping up everything – and it’s wonderful.
The thing I appreciate most about Underworld: Evolution is that it picks up directly where Underworld finishes and, although there’s a three year gap between films, the carry over is seamless (props to Kate Beckinsale for managing to maintain the figure for that damn leather body suit). Due to the fact that it’s a clean pick-up, there’s not boring back story to catch up on (how often do you care what characters have been doing between films? Most of the time they’re ruining things anyway and you have to waste half of the plot of the sequel watching them get back on track from where the first film leaves off), there’s no surprises, no character changes, it’s right back into the action. That’s another great thing – all the original players are back on board (except for Michael Sheen, who is clearly superimposed from scenes from the first one, but hey, his baby-mama had just run off with Len Wiseman, the director of Underworld, so he was understandably pissed and I forgive him for passing up a cameo in Evolution).
But, back to the task at hand – which is talking about this glorious film rather than the personal lives of the people in it. Here’s the trailer… which is actually pretty crap (what’s with the voice over?) and if you haven’t seen this movie, I hope you won’t let it colour your judgement (a new hero? GET REAL, there’s only one hero in this franchise and it’s always been Selene:
Which brings us to spoilers: I am going to discussing plot points below which will ruin this if you haven’t seen it, so if you’re one of the uninitiated, go and download it illegally, or buy the multi-pack with all 4 movies in it, or whatever it is that tickles your fancy. As always, I’ll wait here – luckily for you, I have nothing better to do.
** I was talking to Lauren about this post, and the one for Underworld, last night, because she admitted that she too is a massive fan of Selene, although surprisingly, she confessed that she prefers the first film to the second. I don’t know why that is surprising, but it was and I’d be curious to know which one of these you all preferred. I guess I might be wondering if our differing preferences here aren’t generational, which I find is the driving influence behind our ongoing Angel versus Spike debate (more on that in the future) …
Another reason that I like Evolution above Underworld is mainly due to the back story it gives regarding the origins of the vampires and the lycans. As a viewer, you get to find out more about Amelia and Viktor (who didn’t survive the original, but still make an appearance in the sequel) but you also get to find out about Marcus, who you only see in the final seconds of the first film, as he is waking up. It’s really Marcus that is the glue to the whole universe in these films, and his story rounds out the great mythology established in the initial instalment. I want to mention Tony Curran specifically for his excellent delivery of dialogue. He gets the best lines in the film (followed closely by Derek Jacobi, who plays Alexander Corvinus – Marcus and William’s father and ‘the father’ of all immortals) and he is compelling in every scene he is in.
In much the same way as Viktor, Marcus is actually a pretty bad guy. That’s another element I love about the vampires in these films,they’re not like your modern day vampire: undead, but with a heart of gold…. just a big blood sucking teddy bear… really! These guys are carrying around centuries of ill will towards the world, the lycans and each other. They come from an era in which life was hard and bloody and they all seem to have some kind of military background, so you know, they’re messed up. They don’t eat humans (most of the time), but they’ll kill them without flinching if they get in the way, and they’re not above killing their own kind either. Being a vampire in this universe is all about blood and guts and good old fashion slaughter. If you’re into soft hearted vampires that just want to be loved and understood, these are not your guys. For me, it’s nice to see the undead being undead and unrepentant about it.
Here’s Marcus delivering justice to Craven: The blood memories of this wretched creature have shown me that your treachery knows no bounds… Great line.
The most glaringly obvious difference between the first two Underworld films is that the special effects are much better in this instalment, but then again, they needed to be considering that it is in Evolution the audience is introduced to Marcus – a freaky hybrid and the first true vampire. This guy needs to be impressive.
I think it is in the special features on the DVD that the producers discuss spending an epic portion of the budget on the fight scene with Michael and Marcus, which is in the first 30 minutes of the film, because they wanted to make a strong impact on the audience in regards to Marcus being unlike any of the vampires in the first film. Even 9 years later, the special effects have held up pretty well and, to their credit, I don’t think the funding imbalance (which they lament) ruined the rest of the film at all.
Additionally, I appreciate the comfortable chemistry between Beckinsale and Speedman in this film, which I guess is built on the back of their time working together on the original. But, I also love the fact that, despite falling in love (if you want to call it that) with Michael, Selene doesn’t surrender any of herself, she is still a fighter and ultimately, she is still alone when push comes to shove. She doesn’t give up, she just fights on. And once again, Speedman manages to play Michael as a really strong alpha male, but also with a vulnerable side. He submits to Selene’s authority all through the film (except for early on when he tries to eat human food despite her warnings – and pays for it). Don’t get me wrong about the vulnerability, I don’t doubt that Michael is a force to be reckoned with, but I also don’t mistake him as the hero, because he isn’t, this is still Selene’s story, he’s just invited along for the ride.
And yes, we finally get the Michael/Selene hook-up that we were all hoping for in the first film. Do they love each other? Do they not? Is this just an attraction of convenience? After this, there’s little doubt…
You might be fooled into thinking that because Selene has Michael backing her up and because they’ve now consummated their relationship, she loses some of her toughness or surrenders her heroine status, but you’d be wrong. Once again, Michael proves to be the weaker of the two, still in need of Selene’s support and still learning the ropes as far as being undead. He certainly does attempt to get in on the action, and yes, he does deliver some impressive beat downs all on his onesie, but it’s still Selene in charge… like when they go to find Tannis – Michael might fix the pick-up, but she’s driving, because she is in charge. When they do find Tannis, it’s her that he is really afraid of, even though Michael comes through the window at him, and when Tannis sends them to meet with Alexander Corvinus it’s Selene that does all the tough talking. At one point, it even looks like Michael is dead – and Selene has no choice but to continue on without him, which she does do, in traditional ass-kicking fashion, showing that she is a true feminist heroine for the ages. At the end of the day, even though Michael is a fancy new hybrid with unparalleled strength and the ability to (seemingly) rise from the dead, Selene is ‘the future’.
Selene fighting on to save the day after Marcus slays Michael. Oh, he also impales her thigh and arm, but you can’t keep a pissed off death dealer down. In fairness, I’d be livid too if he was peeking into the blood memories of my sexy times with Michael and trying to steal the repressed memories of my childhood.
Of course, Michael isn’t dead and he has that awesome reappearance in the final scenes, where he dives out of the helicopter, through the hole Selene has just blown into the roof of the castle. He then goes on to battle William, Marcus’ brother and the first hybrid lycan, but it’s really a secondary battle to the showdown going on between Selene, Marcus and the helicopter, which is in itself, amazing.
Now, I promised Lauren that I would refrain from yapping too much about the gloriousness of Michael… and look, I think I’ve done well, but I just can’t help myself…..
Because… this moment at the end…. which gives me warm fuzzy feels and makes me wish I was a 700 year old vampire, seeing her first sunrise as an immortal and getting to have a kiss with Scott Speedman and his abs –
I’m so happy, let’s express this wave of emotions without words –
Vampire love. It’s a wondrous thing. I would go so far as to say that this is more impressive than the sexy, sexy sex scene.
Okay. I’ll get back in my box now that I have that out of my system.
Be you a lover of sci-fi or of action, this movie will appeal to you on many levels. From start to finish. If you haven’t seen it, or haven’t seen it in a while, I would urge you to give it a spin over the weekend. Actually, why not watch both movies back to back? And do let Lauren and I know which you prefer.