Underworld: Evolution (2006)

Rating: **
Release Date: 9/18/03
Director: Len Wiseman
Art Director: Steve Wang
Cast: Kate Beckinsale, Scott Speedman, cameos by Shane Brolly, Bill Nighy

Bitterly disappointing. Not even Kate Beckinsale strutting around in black leather and vinyl can save this disaster of a sequel which takes place immediately after the events in "Underworld" (2003). Fearing the wrath and retribution of the vampire community for killing their leader, Selene (Kate Beckinsale) and Michael (Scott Speedman) are on the run and looking for a place to hide. Meanwhile, the originator of the vampire species (Marcus) re-awakens and begins a quest to free the first werewolf (his brother William) from his 500 year imprisonment. Unfortunately, Selene unwittingly holds the key to setting the beast free, making her Marcus' prime target. What follows is a series of increasingly silly action pieces that build up to a final hand-to-hand showdown between Selene, Michael, Marcus, and William. *yawn*

How did this film turn out so badly? First of all, the editing is a complete mess. Whereas the first film was full of grace and beauty, "Evolution" is just a collection of senseless rapid fire kinetic energy with nothing to hold it together. Secondly, there's way too much Scott Speedman and not nearly enough Kate Beckinsale. Speedman was merely a footnote and a plot device in the first film, and I couldn't care less about him. In the sequel, he's a main character with about as much screen time as Kate, and I still couldn't care less about him. The problem is made worse in that Beckinsale's Selene character has been completely compromised in this film. She sheds the tough bitch exterior and attempts to play the role with humanity and sensitivity, which totally invalidates her. She's even involved in a pointless and degrading sex scene. While the original film was completely focused on Selene and her incredible presence, the sequel decides to instead focus on shirtless guys who wear their pants too low. Adding insult to injury, the fight scenes are absolutely awful, and even the gunplay is uninspired and uninteresting. The digital effects are poor and unconvincing, and the music score isn't particularly memorable. While the story is fairly decent, the writing is weak and the film prefers spending more time on frantic action sequences than on plot and character development. The film also falls into serious B-movie territory with unnecessary and lengthy voiceovers and narrations, and uses way too many flashbacks from the original film, as if to remind us of how good it was compared to what we're watching right now. "Evolution" keeps the same look as its predecessor, but it's so devoid of color that it might as well have been shot in black and white. I actually found the muted palette to be rather extreme and would have liked to occasionally see some amount of color thrown in here and there.

While I'm tempted to give the film a one-star rating, it does have some very nice compositions sprinkled throughout, so I'll begrudgingly give it two stars. It unfortunately falls into the same category as so many other disappointing sequels, the likes of "Blade Trinity" (2004), "Tomb Raider: Cradle Of Life" (2003), "Resident Evil: Apocalypse" (2004), and "Charlie's Angels: Full Throttle" (2003). In fact, the best thing about the movie was seeing a trailer for "Silent Hill," which looks absolutely STUNNING. Christophe Gans hasn't let me down yet, so I have very high expectations for it. Let's just hope and pray that he lives up to them...