“Underworld Awakening” doesn’t live up to predecessors

Trisha Sprouse

In a world where humans have discovered the existence of vampires and werewolves,  and launched a genocidal “cleanse” against them, what’s a Lycan-slaying Death Dealer to do?

Exactly what she’s done in the previous “Underworld” films — shoot lots of guns, of course.

Kate Beckinsale reprises her role as the vampiric heroine Selene in “Underworld: Awakening,” the fourth installment of the undead franchise. Captured during “The Purge” and cryogenically frozen in a laboratory facility called Antigen, Selene awakens 12 years later only to discover that humans are the enemy now, and both vampires and Lycans border on extinction.

Back on the streets after a convenient escape from the research lab, Selene lurks around, confused by what’s happened to her and slaying all who cross her path. After she encounters a handsome vampire named David (Theo James), the two join forces to protect a young girl named Eve (India Eisley), a vampire-werewolf hybrid who was also frozen in the same lab.

What’s back from the prior “Underworld” films are the bluish-hued gloom, Selene’s black latex bodysuit, the expository voice overs and the ubiquitous gunfire. What’s new to this sequel are the 3D special effects and an entirely different cast of characters.

Beckinsale’s performance is equivalent to that of the previous flicks, that is, somewhat monotone but convincingly tough. The addition of James seems like a convenient replacement for Scott Speedman as the film’s sidekick hunk. Eisley’s transformation from angelic ingenue to killing-machine monster hybrid is not very convincing. Her characterization seems more suitable for “The Exorcist”  than an “Underworld” film. Stephen Rea plays Dr. Jacob Lane,  a mad scientist type and the film’s main antagonist, while Michael Ealy rounds out the cast as the unneeded Detective Sebastian.

Sometimes, less is more — but the minimal dialogue in this story leaves the audience bereft of care or concern for any of the characters. There simply is no connection or rapport established between any of them.

I give the film 2 out of 5 stars. Co-directors Mans Marlind and Bjorn Stein maintain the action and violence of the former films with myriad werewolf vs. vampire fight scenes and car chases. The Lycans have been super-sized, and the weapons seem fancier.

But the mythology is missing, and so is Michael Corvin — the central link between the vampire and Lycan war. And the 3-D effects do not make up for the lackluster plot. It’s basically a search and rescue movie that ends rather abruptly. Expect a fifth film.