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In this sequel to the 2003 cult favorite, Beckinsale returns as werewolf-hunter Selene, a vampire now involved with a half-werewolf, half-vampire. They are both on the run, as they are the target of vampires, werewolves and humans.
For more about Underworld: Evolution and the Underworld: Evolution Blu-ray release, see Underworld: Evolution Blu-ray Review published by Martin Liebman on July 27, 2008 where this Blu-ray release scored 3.5 out of 5.
Starring: Kate Beckinsale, Scott Speedman, Tony Curran, Derek Jacobi, Bill Nighy, Steven Mackintosh
Director: Len Wiseman (I)
» See full cast & crew
Underworld: Evolution Blu-ray Review
This admittedly entertaining sequel fails to live up to the quality of the first film in the series.
Reviewed by Martin Liebman, July 27, 2008
All that is certain is that darkness is still ahead.
Vampires and werewolves and lots of guns, oh my! What more could a horror/action movie fan want? Quite a bit, unfortunately. In Underworld, filmgoers were introduced to a war between Vampires and Werewolves, where a Vampire "Death Dealer," Selene (Kate Beckinsale, Vacancy), fights to save a human named Michael (Scott Speedman, XXX: State of the Union) from becoming a pawn in a scheme by the Werewolves to create a powerful Vampire-Werewolf hybrid. Underworld Evolution returns the primary characters who survived the first film, continues the story, and provides historical backgrounds on the Vampires, Lycans, and the war that rages between the species, all the while charting new territory and increasing the action violence several times over from that seen in the first film.
After some historical background on several characters from the year 1202 A.D., including Marcus and William Corvinus and the now-vanquished Vampire leader Viktor, the film returns to the present day as Selene and Michael seek out the Vampire Marcus who, unfortunately for our heroes, has been awakened and seeks their deaths. Selene and Michael's relationship is complicated by the obligatory romance, and only with their combined powers will they defeat their toughest enemy yet.
Underworld: Evolution is entertaining enough fare for a sequel of this nature, but like so many sequels, the film tries very hard to top the first one in style, yet doesn't quite live up to the pace and freshness of the world as first imagined in the original Underworld. This film follows up on the story nicely and logically, feeling like a middle part of a trilogy that progresses the story and delivers excellent action and stunts, but whose tone drags a bit and ultimately doesn't live up to the power of the bookends. Obviously, there isn't a third film yet, though one is in the works (entitled Underworld: Rise of the Lycans) that is said to be an origins story rather than a sequel to the events of Underworld: Evolution.
There seems to be an influx of movies lately that try and be as devoid of color as possible (and just as many that try to over-exaggerate the presence of bright primary colors, particularly reds). The effect sometimes works in both cases, and sometimes it doesn't, particularly if the subject material doesn't completely jive with a more surreal, unnatural look. Such a choice to present the films with an overly dark, almost black-and-white-and-blue color scheme, was absolutely the right one for the Underworld films. Not only does such a look add to the dread of the movie, create an unnerving atmosphere, and highlight both the Vampire nighttime preference and Lycan subterranean living conditions, but allows for the unrelenting violence to be just a bit obscured so as not to become over the top gruesome. The Underworld films certainly don't shy away from pouring buckets of blood onto the set and characters, and the darker tone gives it a more sinister feel without becoming too stomach churning.
Underworld: Evolution Blu-ray, Video Quality
Sony presents Underworld: Evolution on Blu-ray with a 1080p, 2.35:1 framed transfer. I was worried when I noted some serious banding in the Lakeshore Entertainment logo at the beginning of the movie, but was pleased to discover that no such issues were present thereafter. Even in the dark conditions, the intricate detail on the armor worn by the characters at the beginning of the movie is extremely high, all without sacrificing black levels. Excellent black levels are crucial to this presentation, as it is perhaps the darkest film I've seen, with generally only a blue tint or completely lifeless earth tones about the picture in the midst of the blacks, and I am pleased to report that they are perfect, deep and inky, without a hint of grayness or artificial brightening. The make-up is first rate and it's distinctive style looks great on this disc. Marcus' in particular is stunning. A few shots of pale Vampire faces appear soft, but background detail is generally tight and excellent. From grimy white tiles in an abandoned warehouse where Selene and Michael go to escape the sunlight to the texture, stitching, zippers, and other parts of clothing, detail is remarkably high in both the foreground and in the background, and the image is sharp and clear with no signs of edge enhancement or other distractions. Film grain is present, but barely noticeable and definitely not a distraction. Although an early MPEG-2 release from Sony, Underworld: Evolution's video transfer hold up very well.
Underworld: Evolution Blu-ray, Audio Quality
Underworld: Evolution takes a bite out of your home theater with an engaging PCM 5.1 uncompressed soundtrack. The bloody, opening confrontation between Vampires and Werewolves is a thing of sonic marvel. It truly sounds as good as any action movie soundtrack I've ever heard at the better multiplexes I've been to. Every speaker is full of awe-inspiring sound effects and music. The subwoofer kicks into overdrive for every breaking down of a door, scream and howl of a Lycan, clang of a sword, and footstep of a horse. Surround speakers carry as much activity as the fronts for a crisp, realistic, and frightening experience. Later, gunshots ring out with a powerful authority and accuracy. Even the deep voice of Marcus rattles the subwoofer a bit when we first hear him speak. Directionality is superb throughout the movie; a helicopter fly over in chapter four is natural and exciting. Its rotors pierce both the night sky and your home theater room as it travels from front to back, effortlessly. Dialogue is always audible and clear. Thunder sometimes rolls in the rear, and there is a nice sense of realism with some solid atmospherics throughout much of the film. There are a few moments where bass seems a bit muddled and undefined, but as a general rule, this track is spectacular.
Underworld: Evolution Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
Owners of Underworld: Evolution on Blu-ray can sink their teeth into a handful of extra materials. A feature commentary track with director Len Wiseman, production designer Patrick Tatopoulos, second unit director Brad Martin, and editor Nick De Toth is first. Wiseman delves into the making of the film and proclaims his desire to provide actual insight into the making of the film rather than just recapping what's happening on-screen. Knowledgeable fans who are intricately familiar with both Underworld films will eat this one up. There is a good discussion about re-used and re-edited shots from the first film to save money on this film and plenty of other pertinent information that fans need to hear. Bloody good stuff, as the cast heavy with British talent might say, and Vampires everywhere, I am certain, will agree.
Six featurettes are next. Bloodlines: From Script to Screen (480p, 13:26) is first, a solid examination of the story, casting, and the like. It opens with a brief recap of the first film and delves into a series of clips from the film and interviews with cast and crew. The Hybrid Theory (480p, 13:00) examines the grand scale of the visual effects seen in the film. Making Monsters Roar (480p, 11:56) is a look at the creation of the prosthetics and costumes used for the first movie and the improvements made to them for this sequel. The War Rages On (480p, 9:54) is an interesting piece that takes us behind-the-scenes of the creation of the various stunts seen in the movie. Building a Saga (480p, 12:57) focuses on the world of production design and the grandiose scale of this movie that dwarfs the first film. Finally, Music and Mayhem (480p, 11:50) is a fascinating look into the extraordinary work of the sound designers in the film and the importance of creating unique sounds for the characters. Also included is a look at the work of the film's composer, Marco Beltrami (3:10 to Yuma). I found this to be the best featurette of the bunch. Concluding the supplemental package is the music video Her Portrait in Black (480p, 3:54), by Atreyu and 1080p trailers for Resident Evil: Apocalypse and Stealth.
Underworld: Evolution Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
Underworld: Evolution plods along with plenty of blood, violence, and history for fans of the series to gobble up, but offers little substance along the way. Much like the film's color scheme, action over substance sometimes works (as was the case with Doomsday), but the approach fails here. I found it nearly impossible to immerse myself in the story, care about the well-being of the characters, and look forward to any revelations. The action kept the movie full-steam ahead, but I found no other redeeming values. Nevertheless, those who do enjoy this film, and the Underworld universe as a whole, will find a lot to like about this disc. With a transfer that is both drab and handsome, an excellent uncompressed soundtrack, and a decent helping of extras, anyone wanting more Kate Beckinsale in their lives can do a lot worse than this disc.
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