Maybe I'm getting old...
Or maybe my standards for what defines a movie as "good" have changed over the years. Whatever the case, I can't for the life of me understand why Underworld: Awakening (3D) was rated as favorably as it was. When the Underworld series started in 2003, it had something very cool in it's hands. A secret war lasting for centuries between Vampires and Werewolves spills into the human world. Personally, I ate it up. It took a fresh look at subject matter that had been done to death before. There was a society, a caste system, new mythology and structure to devour. The characters were interesting, just human enough to be flawed, but monster enough to make things exciting. Throw in the new Vampire/Werewolf hybrid that looked like the lead singer from Creed, and they were good to go! They had me, hook line and sinker.
Three movies later, I couldn't care less.
Underworld: Evolution expanded on the already great Underworld, taking the mythos even deeper after the interesting cliffhanger (that if I remember correctly, didn't really amount to anything). We got to go further into the history of the war, and some major events happen to the characters. The film took what was great about the one prior, and made it better. Unfortunatley, I was still unable to tell the difference between Scott Speedman and Scott Stapp.
The third Underworld movie, Rise of the Lycans proved to me that writer Danny McBride was commited to this story. He further established the story by doing his version of a period piece, moving the setting back into the dark ages to show how the current feud between Vampires and Lycans (werewolves) came to be. An interesting note was that the protagonist of the first to movies, Kate Beckinsale's Selene, wasn't present at all. This said to me that the writer wanted to take the time to add another dimension, and validity to the story we had already seen. This installment also proved that it wasn't necessary to wrap the series in the same clothes it had on in the past two movies to be successful. After The Matrix, a number of gun-toting, leather-clad action movies came out that I felt lacked substance. Rise of the Lycans totally changed the game by taking us out of the comfort zone, adding new perspectives on older characters, and made the world that we were introduced to ever so much more vast. Underworld: Awakening took all that was done to grow that world, and marginalized it.
When I first saw the trailer for Underworld: Awakening, I was hopeful. The series had been going well so far, and this one was going to open up the war to humans some more. Unfortunately, I found that Awakening took a turn for the worse. Instead of utilizing the deep mythos of the past, and the hierarchical structure that the Vampires had before, it focused on more leather and more shooting, but without any real purpose. In a barely-there introduction that took about 40 seconds to bring new viewers up to speed, one of the main characters is seen for possibly half a minute, and never heard from again. Cut to twelve years later, and our heroine wakes up to a world that she's a stranger to.
Selene finding her footing in this new world was boring. Humans know about Vampires and Werewolves, and even "have routine checks at points inside the city", yet Selene puts on a coat, and is instantly incognito. No one questions who she is, no checkpoints are seen. She even has a short conversation with a guard, who is none the wiser of her fangy ways. Throughout the story, she meets other vampires who announce their presences pretty much exactly like that. "Hey, it's ok. I'm like you. Check out my flashy blue Vampire eyes". Selene, convinced by Mr Glowey Eyes then go back to his coven only to meet his father, who in a lovely cliche is also the leader of that particular group of Vampires. He of course plays the card, "why did you bring them here, you've doomed us all!" Of course, action ensues as he's proven right.
If you couldn't already tell, Awakening left me with the impression that rather than raise the bar like they did with the previous three movies, they tried their damndest to hold onto the status quo. They introduce Subject Two. A young girl Vampire/Werewolf hybrid that we're told is Selene's daughter, although there is absolutely no reason to believe so. For some reason, she's important to the plot, but I found myself forgetting about her, waiting for something more intriguing to come along. There's a human detective who plays a minor role who is equally forgettable, no matter how badly the writer tries to shoehorn him into a position of importance.
Without spoiling any more, I'll say this: At the end, nothing has changed. Nothing was resolved, no greater goal was achieved. There are still Vampires, Werewolves and humans. Selene still goes around shooting stuff, but now she has a little hybrid with her. Nothing was surprising, as the movie followed a very cookie-cutter formula. I was so disappointed with the fact that after such build-up and fleshing out of this world, the writer did so little to use it. I almost wish that this movie was condensed into a few webisodes, and the feature was something more substantial.