With Screen Gems’ Underworld: Awakening 3D hitting theaters on January 20, 2012 (which is just around the corner, practice writing that new year now so your checks are legit in a few weeks) you might be looking for a refresher on some of the events of the franchise. These films, believe it or not, have been going strong for almost a decade now – and since they focus heavily on the lineage of several specific families and clans viewed though the lens of a highly political war between Vampires and Lycans – they’re not 100% stand alone.
And one thing is certainly different this time as opposed to the prior outing – Kate Beckinsale has returned to the series, reprising her role as Selene. Also changing hands are the reigns behind the camera – the film is directed by Mans Marlind and Bjorn Stein. It also stars Stephen Rea, Michael Ealy, Theo James, India Eisley and Charles Dance.
“Kate Beckinsale, star of the first two films, returns in her lead role as the vampire warrioress Selene, who escapes imprisonment to find herself in a world where humans have discovered the existence of both Vampire and Lycan clans, and are conducting an all-out war to eradicate both immortal species.”
Hit the jump for a quick, Underworld: Awakening 3D sponsored, look back at the first three films.
For starters the entire franchise has strong shades of “Romeo & Juliet” throughout. While there isn’t one central romance that runs through all three films (there are several – with the Selene/Michael Corvin tryst being central to the first two films) the centuries long battle between the Vampires and the Lycans is imbued with dashes of the Montagues and Capulets in the sense that this is a blood feud that has not only killed countless “beings”, but has fractured the internal politics of the franchise’s central family units. A war predicated, in many ways, on secrets, misunderstandings and the vampire enslavement of Lycans.
In Underworld the accepted truth, as Selene knows it, is simply that the Lycans are a menace and that it is her duty – as a Death Dealer – to eliminate them. As she investigates their surprisingly specific targeting of Michel Corvin (Scott Speedman), she discovers that the ancient Lycan leader Lucian (Michael Sheen) is actually still alive and is plotting an attack on the Vampire clan. Not only that, but the reason the Lycans have been specifically targeting Corvin is they believe his blood genetically predisposed to give them the ability to create a half Vampire/half Lycan hybrid that is more powerful than any one species on its own. No one has ever survived a bite from both species but Corvin’s blood just might be the antidote to that little problem.
Kraven, who intends on marrying Selene and making her his queen, is none too thrilled with the investigation. Selene awakens ancient Vampire elder Viktor (Bill Nighy) despite his desire not to be disturbed for at least another 100 years, to explain the impending danger and alert him that Kraven may indeed be a traitor working with the Lycans. Viktor is having none of it, and despite his affection for Selene (he rescued her from a werewolf attack when she was just an infant) demands that she be punished.
Michael, who has been bitten by Lucian and is turning Lycan, has visions of what really happened – there was no Lycan attack on Selene’s family. Viktor was actually feeding on them and decided to spare her because she reminds him of the daughter he burned alive hundreds of years ago for falling in love with Lucian.
This lie greatly informs Selene’s decision in the film’s climax wherein Kraven’s deception is unmasked and Lucian and Michael are mortally wounded. The dying Lucian reminds Selene that since Michael has the genetic component to survive both Vampire and Lycan bites, she can restore him with her power. In doing so she makes Michael Corvin the first Vampire/Lycan hybrid and when it comes time to choose between him and Viktor in their final battle – she kills Viktor.
Underworld: Evolution uses the events and world-building of the first film to create a more contained narrative.
After Selene killed elder Vampire Viktor, only one of the three original elders remains – Marcus. Upon awakening, Marcus (Tony Curran) – who has the ability to grow huge wings with stabbing talons and fly like a bat – learns of Michael’s transformation into a hybrid. As any elder would (remember these Vampires hate Lycans – so they’re definitely not into race mixing.), Marcus goes on the hunt for Selene and Michael.
Selene and Michael visit Marcus’ father, Alexander Corvinus (no accident that Corvinus also has the root Corvin, as in Michael’s last name) to discuss ways in which to stop Marcus. But Corvinus cannot commit to killing his own son – now matter how evil he recognizes he is. Too bad Marcus doesn’t feel the same way about his own father. After arriving on the scene and causing quite the ruckus (and seemingly killing Michael), he mortally wounds Corvinus in order to obtain the key that will lead him to William, a powerful Lycan. Dying, Corvinus forces Selene to drink his blood.
Selene (Michael’s corpse in tow) goes after Marcus via helicopter. By the time she catches up Marcus is in already in process in his plan to take out William and a big tussle ensues between the three parties. Michael comes back from the not-quite dead and together they dispatch of Marcus and Michael. Bonus? That blood that Corvinus made Selene drink has now given her immunity against the sun. She and Michael can keep ‘normal’ hours together!
In some ways, Underworld: Rise Of The Lycans is the Rise Of The Planet Of The Apes of the Underworld series. Clocking in at a brief 90 or so minutes, it’s a brisk and focussed look at the genesis of the Vampire/Lycan war.
Many of the events in the film have been alluded to, shown or whispered of in the previous installments – but here they’re all laid out linearly.
When Viktor happens upon infant Lucian while wiping out a pack of Lycans, he thinks twice about firing his crossbow into the child (I guess this is a theme with Viktor – rescuing infants while out pillaging). Michael Sheen returns to play the adult Lucian, the Lycan slave of Viktor’s vampire clan who slowly moves from obedience into self actualization and rebellion. The Lycans are bred to be slaves after all, chained to guard their Vampire masters as they sleep.
Viktor’s daughter, Sonja (Rhona Mitra – who does remind one of Kate Beckinsale, a necessity outlined by the lore in the original film) takes a liking to Lucian despite his indentured nature (he literally has to wear a collar). In fact, Lucian and Sonja fall in love, a courtship that includes some fairly wild cliff-top romancing if you get my drift. As Lucian learns what it’s like to feel love and equality – his inner Che Guevara begins to take hold.
After he amasses an internal group of Lycan revolutionaries they escape Viktor’s castle and take refuge in the countryside, plotting their new life. But when Viktor discovers the secret of Sonja and Lucian’s courtship he is outrages. He all but disowns his daughter and confines her to her room. He’s also counting on her beckoning to Lucian, drawing him back in so he can exact his revenge when Lucian storms the castle.
After he has Lucian back in his grasp, Viktor chains the Lycan across the room from Sonja. It soon becomes clear that Viktor has planned on sacrificing his own daughter as part of his revenge plot – and indeed when the sun rises and peeks through the opening on the roof Lucian watches Sonja disintegrate and ember into ash.
Lucian transforms and his werewolf army storms the castle – eliminating almost all of the vampires. It’s a temporary victory that marks the beginning of the Vampire/Lycan war – Viktor and the other elders have escaped. We dissolve into the first image with which the series began – Kate Beckinsale’s Selene astride a rooftop, still unaware of the secret knowledge of the war – ready deal death to the Lycans.
Picking up 12 years after the events of Underworld: Evolution the world Selene confronts in Underworld: Awakening has changed greatly. Humans are now aware of both Vampires and Lycans – and they intend to exterminate both species to protect the human race. The key to the ongoing battle lies with Eve, the first Vampire/Lycan hybrid ever. Whomever gets the girl, wins the war. Awakening also will introduce the first ever Uber-Lycans, twice the size of normal Lycans, to contend with. Sounds like it could be a bumpy ride!