Comparable as it may be in many ways to the beleaguered ‘Resident Evil’ series, the ‘Underworld’ franchise has been in a steady free-fall of quality since the halfway respectable first installment.  Now, by the fourth film, ‘Underworld: Awakening’ is there any life left in this beaten horse that has been dead for an eternity?

Humans go on the offensive against vampires and Lycans, driving both to the brink of extinction.  Eventually, they capture head ‘death dealer’ Selene (Kate Beckinsale) and her vampire/Lycan love, Michael (Scott Speedman).

After twelve years, Selene, who is kept in a frozen state, is released by an unknown force.  She escapes from the facility in which she has been held and vows revenge after being brought up to speed.  She also wants to break back in to free Michael, but it seems that there is something running around the streets with a link to her.

What is this creature lurking the streets and how is Selene related to this thing?  Where are the Lycans and why are they so angry at the vampires?  Don’t they have a common enemy?  These beasts couldn’t combine their powers to take out more humans than they do?  A lot of questions come up during the film.

The first two minutes of the already short (roughly 88 minutes, including credits) film is a collection of scenes from the first two films which lazily refreshes peoples’ memories.  From there, we are left with a  half-hearted retreat back into what people watch these movies for: guns, black leather, vampires, werewolves, and watching Kate Beckinsale wield guns while wearing black leather, being a vampire, and fighting werewolves (along with humans).  That last point is actually valid.

With this back to basics approach comes a dilemma of how to keep things interesting.  One thought here is to make humans antagonistic even if it seems like that gets abandoned pretty quickly.  That’s…something new I guess.  Also, if Lycans are bad, why not throw a huge Lycan into the mix?  That will mix things up.

None of this is to say that there aren’t a few mildly cool action sequences or stunts.  There just aren’t that many memorable parts.

Things hinge entirely on the maternal angle of the plot which will surely carry over into the future.  Will future installments be as uninspired as this?  Probably.  Maybe even worse.

Since the film was shot in 3-D, it probably looked halfway decent in theaters.  On your home entertainment system, a lot of the effects are sub-par.  Overall, it doesn’t look terrible, but 3-D films rarely translate well.

Special features include: a few previews.

Like nearly every unnecessary sequel, ‘Underworld: Awakening’ is transparent in its attempt at profit.  That would be acceptable if this film didn’t cut a lot of corners plot-wise to just mindlessly churn out a product in as short a time as possible.  Even if it wasn’t the case, the product feels like it was rushed.

Consider this an especially low point in a franchise full of them.

Rated R             88 minutes             2012

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When J.J. Ellis isn’t writing as the Allentown DVD Examiner, his Decent Exposure Radio can be heard on the air every Friday night from 10:30 to midnight (EST) on WXLV 90.3 FM or wxlvradio.com!

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