UNDERWORLD: AWAKENING (3D): I’m Not Going to Complain About 90 Minutes of Kate Beckinsale in a Catsuit …

Underworld: Awakening (2012; in 3D) – Directed by Måns Mårlind and Björn Stein – Starring Kate Beckinsale, Sandrine Holt, Theo James, Michael Ealy, India Eisley, Stephen Rea, and Charles Dance.

… but I will complain about nearly everything else in this dreary, tired shoot ‘em up.

UNDERWORLD: AWAKENING does not do for 3D what it does for catsuits.

Look, I’m never going to get tired of Kate Beckinsale. Ever. Even if she wasn’t jumping around looking all bad ass in her leather and latex catsuit, she’s one of the most stunningly beautiful women walking. That’s awesome, but that’s not enough to make a movie awesome, and unfortunately UNDERWORLD: AWAKENING is just not a very good movie.

I don’t really want to talk to much about the movie, and not just because there’s not a lot to talk about. The film jumps the story 12 years into the future because … well, because that’s the number someone pulled out of a hat. There’s no real discernible difference in this world. There was a “Purge,” where humans went all crazy killing all the vamps and wolves they could and driving the rest underground. They put Selene (Kate Beckinsale), Michael (Scott Speedman, who’s not in the film, but whose face was used to make it look like he was), and their daughter Eve (India Eisley) in cryogenic suspension and do all kinds of tests on them to come up with evil science-related stuff. Selene and Eve escape and then …

Then the shooting starts. It stops an hour or so later.

When the film does the franchise’s trademark shots of Kate looking sexy and bad-ass (usually in shots involving smoke, slow-mo, and her icy-blue enhanced eyes), AWAKENING is a reasonable enough facsimile of the first two movies to not be a waste of your time, but even the action sequences here seem tired and dated. Selene can walk around in the sunlight now, and the film takes advantage of this by … *grumble* … by having two scenes take place in the sunlight. One takes place in a car when the film establishes that Selene being in sunlight is a big deal. The second is when she gets out of the car and walks into a building.

That’s it.

What’s the point of her having these new powers if you don’t take advantage of it?

What’s worse is that most of the action scenes take place in dingy, cramped, dark settings: a vampire coven’s underground lair, an abandoned building, a pier, a rooftop, a science lab, and the big finale takes place in … a parking garage.

Honestly.

All of it creates a claustrophobic feel to this film, a feeling made worse by the 3D.

Which gets me to what I really want to talk about: 3D. I haven’t seen a 3D movie since Captain EO. Yeah, Captain EO. And after watching AWAKENING, I really don’t have a lot of desire to see another one.

Now, I am completely aware that UNDERWORLD: AWAKENING does not represent the finest and highest quality 3D technology the world is capable of producing. And were a film (like Hugo, for instance) made to take advantage of what 3D has to offer, I would gladly pay my money to see it, but AWAKENING does nothing with the technology that makes the use of it seem the least bit worthwhile. I mean, big deal, some shards of glass fly at my face. A werewolf sticks his snout in mine.

It doesn’t add anything to my experience.

In fact, it hurts the experience. Perhaps my “Real D 3D” glasses are to blame, but I’ll take a crisp, bright image in 2D over a muted, dull image in 3D any old day of the lunar calendar. At several times during the film I actually took the glasses off and just watched the film without them. I kept waiting for the sequence where it would all pay off, but it never arrives. I’m sure the extra $2 I paid (well, that the person I went with paid) to watch the 3D version helps the bottom line, but a bad experience hurts the bottom line of every film that comes along after this that has the 3D option.

I’ll offer two caveats to this: One, when we left the theater there was a massive line waiting to get in. My guess is that those people were there to see the 3D version of Phantom Menace because what else is in the theaters right now that could get that many people to wait in a huge line in the middle of a day (even a Saturday) in Reno? Perhaps my dissent puts me in the minority. There’s no shortage of 3D movies being released, so obviously there’s an audience for them, but a movie like AWAKENING just feels like a 2D movie with 3D tacked on.

The second caveat is that the 3D trailer for Wrath of the Titans looked much better than anything offered in AWAKENING, so it is completely possible that I just happened to sit through one of the worst examples of what the current tech can do.

All of the above being true, I didn’t have a completely horrible time. No, AWAKENING isn’t a good movie, but it is a mildly diverting one. I don’t know who thought it was a good idea to give Selene a kid to worry about (for the fifth film, how about we give her nothing to worry about and just let her kick ass?) and I’ve completely had it with the vampire/lycan hybrid angle, but if you’re either a fan of the franchise or a fan of catsuits, there’s nothing else in the theaters right now that offers both. AWAKENING isn’t anything it doesn’t advertise itself to be, but that doesn’t mean it’s automatically good.

But, hey, 90 minutes of Kate Beckinsale. I’ll see anything she’s in, catsuit or not.

Well, anything except Pearl Harbor.

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