Underworld: Evolution

(Len Wiseman, USA, 2006)


This sequel to Underworld (2003) is pitched, like the Crow movies, to the Goth crowd – and it shares in the frequent humourlessness of that subculture. The war between werewolves and vampires continues to rage – indeed, it seems from the open ending of this instalment that it is likely never to end – and at its centre is Selene (Kate Beckinsale), who this time around gets a smouldering companion in Michael (Scott Speedman), a hybrid of vampire and “Lycan” (which, oddly enough, I kept hearing as “Lacan”).


The narrative of Underworld: Evolution moves in two directions simultaneously. The first direction is relentlessly forward, in space: everyone always has to get somewhere (in a hurry), and someone else is always in hot pursuit of them. The second direction is backward, in time: it seems as if we will never get to the bottom of the revelations about fathers and brothers, creatures locked away hundreds of years ago, and the secret alliances and betrayals which continue to have ghastly repercussions.


Once you have exhausted the movements on these two axes of evil, Underworld: Evolution has little to offer. It is a strange, very contemporary object, obviously influenced by video games (hence the endless chases, labyrinthine passagesways in old castles, and Selene in tight-fitting leather gear), and by the style of digital design popular in rock clips and slick advertisements (everything is rendered, maddeningly, in shades of blue).


Director Len Wiseman (Beckinsale’s husband from 2004 to 2019), back for the sequel, handles every scene in an earnest, histrionic, fiddly way: it is the kind of film in which, if somebody wants their interlocutor to look at something (such as a book or a medallion), they will hurl it dramatically from the opposite end of the room, complete with extravagant wind noises. Only Derek Jacobi as Corvinus is able to lend the appropriately fruity gravitas to this morose business.


In one respect alone, the film is intriguing. Audiences have become used to improbable mind-game movies in which the memories stored in a brain can be “rewound” and viewed like a strip of film. Underworld: Evolution goes one better: once the very bad guy Marcus (Tony Curran) sinks his teeth into a person’s neck, he can see, in super-fast motion and pristine editing, their entire past experience as coded in their blood!


There is no message, overt or covert, in Underworld: Evolution, but it is ultimately a quite conservative film. This is because, when it comes to the crunch, bullets (preferably several hundred of them) make for the best weapon; and – even in a world rife with such multiple-species “evolution” – young, trim, human flesh is the only kind considered suitable for sex scenes.

© Adrian Martin January 2006

Film Critic: Adrian Martin
home    reviews    essays    search