Directed by Len Wiseman
Produced by Tom Rosenberg, Gary Lucchesi
Written by Danny McBride
Director of Photograpy Simon Duggan
Music by Marco Beltrami
Cast: Kate Beckinsale, Scott Speedman, Derek Jacobi, Bill Nighy, Tony Curran

2006/106 mins/Color/Dolby Digital 5.1
2.40:1 anamorphic/English/USA/NTSC Region 1

Review from the Sony Pictures Home Entertainment DVD

The idea of a movie sequel may seem pretty straightforward, but there are actually two kinds of sequels. (That is, if you discount sequels which have nothing to do with the original film and a simply a movie with a number slapped on them.) Some sequels are a continuation of a story which began in a previous movie. Other sequels tell a new, separate story using the same characters and ideas from an earlier film. UNDERWORLD: EVOLUTION falls into the former category and may be the ultimate example of this, for if you haven't seen the first movie, then you won't understand a single frame of the sequel.

(SPOILER WARNING: There's no way (at all) to describe (any) of UNDERWORLD: EVOLUTION without divulging events from UNDERWORLD, so if you haven't seen the first movie, then read at your own risk.) UNDERWORLD: EVOLUTION opens following the events of UNDERWORLD. Having dispatched of Viktor (Bill Nighy), vampire assassin Selene (Kate Beckinsale) and vampire/werewolf hybrid Michael (Scott Speedman) flee London. Meanwhile, freshly spilled blood has awakened slumbering vampire Marcus Corvinus (Tony Curran). This ancient creature is the original vampire, whose brother, William, was the original werewolf. Having slept for years, Marcus is determined to find his brother and reclaim their rightful position over the legions of vampires and werewolves. Unfortunately, Marcus doesn't know where his brother is located. He soon learns that Selene may hold this information and begins to pursue her relentlessly. As Selene and Michael search for information concerning Viktor's betrayal of Selene and knowledge as to what Marcus is after, they find an odd mixture of enemies and allies along the way.

As I prepared to watch UNDERWORLD: EVOLUTION, I realized that I didn't remember much about the first film, save for the fact that Kate Beckinsale's character was always jumping off of something. However, I also didn't remember that plot being all that complicated, so I simply watched the last 10 minutes of UNDERWORLD before sitting down to view the sequel. That was a big mistake. I cannot stress this enough: Do not watch UNDERWORLD: EVOLUTION unless you have A) just watched UNDERWORLD again, or B) you're some sort of UNDERWORLD freak and have the first film memorized. UNDERWORLD: EVOLUTION takes the story from the first film and turns it into a mythology. Suddenly characters and ideas that seemed only vaguely important in the first movie are thrust to the forefront and one must pay close attention in order to follow what is going on.

Again, if you don't know UNDERWORLD intimately, the sequel can definitely throw you. I found the first 20-30 minutes of the film to be confusing and uninteresting. But once the story began to coalesce, the movie became much more entertaining. The motivation of Marcus wasn't always crystal clear (and the fact that, to me at least, Marcus looks a lot like the Lucian character from the first film certainly didn't help), but other than that, most of the last 2/3 of the movie is fairly straight-forward. (Although, I'm not sure I was ever clear on how the action made it's way to Eastern Europe.)

This isn't to imply that UNDERWORLD: EVOLUTION is an incredibly well-written movie. Other than the reveal of an important new character, there aren't many twists and turns in the story. The dialogue is often stilted and serves only to motivate the story and doesn't add much emotion to the film. The first film did introduce some quasi-original ideas into the vampire and werewolf mythos, but the second film is noticeably lacking in new ideas.

But, there is one thing that UNDERWORLD: EVOLUTION does well and that's the action scenes. Although we've seen a resurgence of horror films over the last decade, we still don't see many monster movies, so it's great to see the vampires and werewolves go at it in the UNDERWORLD films. This movie has several set-pieces which offer very nice fight scenes. This movie contains less werewolves than the first movies, but when they appear here, they look good. The other notable thing about these scenes is that the film doesn't shy away from the gore. Say what you will about UNDERWORLD being homogenized or uninspired, but this movie doesn't shy away from violence, as it features beheading, savage bites, and at least two scenes in which werewolves have their heads torn in two. I was honestly surprised at times that I was watching the R-rated version.

UNDERWORLD: EVOLUTION is definitely a mixed-bag. The story is at the same time needlessly complicated and involved and rather simplistic. It certainly won't win any awards for great writing. On the other hand, if you are looking for a violent monster movie which doesn't pull any punches, then UNDERWORLD: EVOLUTION should satisfy. But, let me say it one more time: If you want to have any hope of understanding the movie, see the first one first!

UNDERWORLD: EVOLUTION vamps onto DVD courtesy of Sony Pictures Home Entertainment. The film has been letterboxed at 2.40:1 and the transfer is enhanced for 16 x 9 TVs. The image looks very good, as the picture is sharp and clear -- free from overt grain and defects from the source material. As with the first film, UNDERWORLD: EVOLUTION is a dark film, bathed only in blue light, but the image only looks too dark in a few scenes. It's difficult to comment on the colors in the film, because everything is so damn blue. I can say that the framing appears to be accurate and I noticed no problems from edge-enhancement. Now, as for the audio. There are times when I begin to wonder about my receiver and/or speakers, as I don't hear a lot of surround sound or bass while watching movies. The UNDERWORLD: EVOLUTION DVD let me know that my system is fine. This DVD contains an awesome soundtrack which is chock full of great surround sound and subwoofer action. The movie sports a great sound design and every roar comes through great here. There are several scenes with helicopters in the movie and these sound great. Oh yeah, the dialogue sounds fine as well.

The UNDERWORLD: EVOLUTION DVD contains a small, but interesting assortment of extras. We begin with an audio commentary featuring director Len Wiseman, Patrick Tatopoulos production designer, Brad Martin second unit director and stunt coordinator, Nick De Toth editor. Wiseman promises to focus on the making of the movie, and for the most part, the group is successful. Some of the stories are a bit dry, but the talk is casual and there are some funny moments. (My favorite occurred when one participant pointed out an error in the film and someone replied, "You know what? Take it to the internet." The DVD contains a series of six featurettes, each covering a different facet of the film.

Each featurette offers a great deal of behind the scenes footage and comments from multiple cast and crew members. "Bloodlines: From Script to Screen" (13 minutes) explores the origins of the film and Wiseman explains how a conscious decision was made to split the story into two movies. "The Hybrid Theory" (13 minutes) looks at the visual effects in the film and shows how CG effects and practical effects were used side-by-side. The creature effects, including building the werewolf suits, teeth work, and design changes from the first film are highlighted in "Making Monsters Roar" (12 minutes). With "The War Rages On" (10 minutes), stunt coordinator Brad Martin gives an overview of the stunts on the film and we see some behind-the-scenes footage of stunt practice and wirework training. The look of the film compared to UNDERWORLD and the overall production design get noticed with "Building a Saga" (13 minutes). The sound design and score are brought to light in "Music and Mayhem" (12 minutes). The only other extra on the DVD is a Music Video for the song "Her Portrait in Black" by Atreyu. (Now, if only I had the video for "Ex's and Oh's" on DVD, my collection would be complete.) Given Sony's habit of double-dipping and the fact that there aren't deleted scenes or a gag reel here (Wiseman mentions bloopers several times on the commentary), one can't help but wonder if there will be a future re-release of this title.





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Review by Mike Long. All Right Reserved. 2006. ©