Underworld: Evolution (2006)

Evolution is glossier, gorier, and even goofier than the first Underworld film. The improvements are almost entirely surface-level, but that’s all that one realistically hope for in a movie like this. This is the kind of franchise where switching from oppressive blue color grading to oppressive teal-and-orange color grading not only signifies an aesthetic improvement, but passes for emotional resonance.

underworld-evolution-2006-poster

This flashback-heavy sequel jettisons or retcons many of the specific details of the Underworld mythology while going even deeper down the lore rabbit-hole. The emphasis on mythology (and a noticeably higher budget) lets Evolution pilfer from the fantasy/horror of Peter Jackson in addition to the usual post-Matrix action movies. Like the creatures at the center of its plot, the film is a hybrid that swipes inspiration and power from multiple sources, seemingly makes up its own rules as it goes along, and doesn’t make a whole lot of sense. It’s admittedly ludicrous, and even more self-serious than last time around, but I have a healthy tolerance—or, possibly, a fatal weakness—for exactly this sort of thing.

The action is notably improved, at least if you can accept heavy use of wire-fu, CGI-fu, and just-go-with-it-because-it-looks-cool-fu. Everyone involved seems to have figured out how to block and cut around the awkward moments far more successfully than in the first film.

underworld-evolution-2006-artThe overall level of acting is more even: fewer highlights and bright spots, but at least this time the supporting and bit players aren’t quite so distractingly wooden. Beckinsale takes full advantage of the greater (if still shallow) emotional depth and expressive latitude afforded to her. Speedman continues to look great with his shirt off, even in full makeup as The Incredible Uruk-Bro.

To be sure, this is not a good movie, but it’s much more in line with the sort of disposable entertainment I was hoping for from this franchise. Onward to Rise of the Lycans!

[Originally posted on Letterboxd.]

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