What parents need to know
Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that this film features incessant, stylized, and graphic violence. Modes of death and injury include decapitation, disembowelment, dismemberment, piercing, crossbowing, impaling, chopping, and shooting, as well as slamming with trucks and jeeps, massive fiery explosions, biting and ripping with fangs, digging into chest cavities, and penetrating limbs, torsos, and heads with spearlike wingtips. Motivations include vengeance and power-madness. Selene uses a truck to slam a vampire into a mountainside repeatedly, a chopper with whirring blades serves to splatter a villain excessively. A sex scene features slow motion naked bodies in softlit profile. Some drinking in a tavern, some blood-drinking in a wineglass, smoking in the background of a couple of scenes; one scene features explicit vomiting. Characters curse occasionally ("hell," s-word, and f-word, one rendered in subtitle).
What's the story?
In this sequel, Death Dealer Selene (Kate Beckinsale) is still trussed up in black latex and still icy-eyed mad at her lot in life. With her vampire/werewolf hybrid boyfriend Michael (Scott Speedman), she seeks information and weapons to use against the vampires who are bound to come after them, since she killed head vampire in charge Viktor (Bill Nighy) at the end of the first film. Currently in charge of evilness is Alexander Corvinus (Derek Jacobi), who directs his S.W.A.T.-style team from aboard a hyper-teched-out ship. Corvinus is looking for Selene and a key and his sons, William the werewolf (Brian Steele) and Marcus the vampire (Tony Curran). The brothers were bitten by different creatures and so became the first of each race, instantly deemed enemies forever. William's imprisonment "for all time" upsets Marcus, who vows to save him when he is himself released from a tomb. To achieve this end, Marcus needs Selene, who has a "blood memory" of the location of the brother's sarcophagus. The film is primarily comprised of fight scenes, almost all initiated by Marcus, who flies around with gnarly bat-wings and spikes his victims against walls.
Is it any good?
Stylized and extraordinarily violent, UNDERWORLD: EVOLUTION repeats the formula of the first film. Nothing that happens this time will surprise anyone. Except, perhaps, the fact that Derek Jacobi has agreed to play the oldest immortal ever. Selene and Michael again try to sort out their identities, and Marcus tries to reunite with wolfy William in order to run the world. Why is not quite clear.
More interesting and never quite examined is the notion of "infectious" race. The vampires see the werewolves as odious for just this reason -- anyone they bite becomes a werewolf. And yet, the vampires are in the same sort of boat. Their similarity is vaguely instructive, races generally being cultural and political concoctions, their myths and backstories functions of power-grabbing and territorial squabbling. But their infectiousness provides the possibility for provocation and perception: race here is not inherent or stable or a means of fixed identity. It is mutable and mutating. All the generic, frankly tiresome bloody war stuff in Underworld: Evolution doesn't quite obliterate this insight.
Families can talk about...
Families can talk about the film's representation of race differences. If the vampires and lycans are descended from the same father, as revealed in this film's mythology, their centuries-long battle seems especially tragic and futile. How might the hybrid characters -- both the werewolf/vampire mix Michael and the new breed Selene becomes -- hold a hope for a future not premised on race-warring? And how does the franchise simultaneously depend on fight imagery: blood, body parts, stomach-churning violence?