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Underworld: Awakening 3D (a J!-ENT Blu-ray Disc Review)

April 26, 2012 by  



If you love vampires and werewolves and love popcorn action films, “Underworld: Awakening” will definitely interest you.  But the highlight is the fantastic 3D experience of this Blu-ray and its fantastic, immersive lossless soundtrack.  “Underworld: Awakening” is definitely one of the better live action 3D Blu-ray releases I have watched!

Images courtesy of © 2012 Lakeshore Entertainment Group LLC. All Rights Reserved.

TITLE: Underworld: Awakening 3D

FILM RELEASE: 2012

DURATION: 89 Minutes

BLU-RAY DISC INFORMATION: 1080p High Definition (2:40:1), English 7.1 DTS-HD MA, French 5.1 DTS-HD MA, English – Audio Description Track, Subtitles: English, English SDH, French and Spanish

COMPANY: Sony Pictures Home Entertainment

RATED: R (For Strong Violence and Gore, and for Some Language)

Release Date: May 8, 2012

Directed by Mans Marlind, Bjorn Stein

Screenplay by Len Wiseman, John Hlavin, J. Michael Straczynski, Allison Burnett

Story by Len Wiseman

Characters by Kevin Grevioux, Len Wiseman, Danny McBride

Executive Producer: David Kern, James McQuaide, Skip Williamson, Henry Winterstern

Produced by Gary Lucchesi, Tom Rosenberg, Len Wiseman, Richard S. Wright

Music by Paul Haslinger

Cinematography by Scott Kevan

Edited by Jeff McEvoy

Casting by Deborah Aquila, Tricia Wood

Production Design by Claude Pare

Art Direction by Martina Javorova, Gary Myers

Set Decoration by Shane Vieau

Costume Design by Monique Prudhomme

Starring:

Kate Beckinsale as Selene

Stephen Rea as Dr. Jacob Lane

Michael Ealy as Detective Sebastian

Theo James as David

India Eisley as Eve

Sandrine Holt as Lida

Charles Dance as Thomas

Kris Holden-Ried as Quint

Jacob Blair as Officer Kolb

KATE BECKINSALE returns as the ultimate vampire warrioress Selene in Underworld Awakening, the stunning new installment of the epic saga for the first time in 3D. Having escaped years of imprisonment, she finds herself in a changed world where humans have discovered the existence of both Vampire and Lycan clans and are conducting an all-out war to eradicate both immortal species. Now Selene must battle the humans and a frightening new breed of super Lycans to ensure the death dealers’ survival. Regular – KATE BECKINSALE returns as the ultimate vampire warrioress Selene in Underworld Awakening, the stunning new installment of the epic saga. Having escaped years of imprisonment, she finds herself in a changed world where humans have discovered the existence of both Vampire and Lycan clans and are conducting an all-out war to eradicate both immortal species. Now Selene must battle the humans and a frightening new breed of super Lycans to ensure the death dealers’ survival.

It has been nearly a decade since the release of the “Underworld” film.   The original film, directed by Len Wiseman (“Live Free and Die Hard”, “Underworld: Evolution”) and written by Danny McBride, the first film would receive mixed reviews from critics but would make over $95 million in the box office and would pave the way for two more films, a sequel and a prequel.

And now the fourth film, “Underworld: Awakening” directed by Mans Marlind and Bjorn Stein (the duo who worked on the film “Shelter” and “Storm”), join Len Wiseman (who continues to write the films) and reuniting with actress Kate Beckinsale (“Aviator”, “Pearl Harbor”).

“Underworld: Awakening” was presented in theaters in 3D and brought in over $160 million in the box office, becoming the first film of 2012 to break $100 million.

And now the Blu-ray release (featuring both films in 3D and 2D) and DVD will be released in May 2012.

What is “Underworld” all about?

“Underworld” takes place during a time where the vampires and the Lycans (werewolves) are at war. In the past, the Lycans were used as slaves for centuries by the vampires but rebelled courtesy of their leader Lucian and have been in war since.

For vampire/Death Dealer, Selene (played by Kate Beckinsale), her job is to hunt down the Lycans. When she was young, her family was massacred by the Lycans and thus she was taken in by vampire leader Victor (played by Bill Nighy) and given immortal life by being transformed into a vampire.

So, she despises the Lycans and assassinates them. It is said that the Lycans were defeated many centuries ago when their leader Lucian (played by Michael Sheen) was killed and the Lycans that are remaining are survivors that must be eliminated.

But one day, as the vampires were hunting down the Lycans at a subway station, the Lycans fight back and the vampire/Death Dealer Rigel is killed. She tracks them down to their den and another vampire is killed by a Lycan named Raze. When Selene goes to investigate, she finds out that the Lycans have developed a new type of bullet to kill vampires.

When she arrives back to the vampire coven’s mansion, she goes to tell current vampire regent Kraven (played by Shane Brolly) what she discovered but is told to drop it. Selene doesn’t understand why they would drop such important developments and when she goes to do more research, she realizes that the Lycans are following a human named Michael Corvin (played by Scott Speedman).

At the Lycan headquarters, we learn that their scientist Singe is testing blood on kidnapped descendants of the ancient Corvinus family to find a pure source of their ancient and powerful bloodline. Selene wonders why they are pursuing the human and she decides to help him, but in the process, he is bitten by Lucian.

Selene brings the injured Michael back to the vampire’s coven, against Kraven’s wishes. When one of the vampires goes to check on him, she finds a bite by a Lycan and realizes that the human will turn into a Lycan during a full moon. Shocked by the encounter, Michael runs away from the Vampire’s coven.

When Selene continues her research about Lucian, she realizes that only one vampire has witnessed his death and it was Kraven. What if there is a conspiracy and that Lucian is definitely alive, that means Kraven can not be trusted.

Selene manages to help Michael once again but this time, locking him up at a vampire lab area. She explains to him about why she has hatred towards the Lycans and what they did to her family but also learns more about Michael’s history and tells what will happen to him during a full moon.

The relationship between Selene and Michael grows stronger and stronger and sure enough, both vampire and Lycan fall in love.  As the vampires want Michael dead and nearly get their way, Selene eventually saves Michael by biting him and thus, the combination of vampire and Lycan blood has turned Michael into a hybrid of both.  And in the process of protecting the man she loves, she goes against her coven, and kills the Vampire elders.

In “Underworld: Evolution”,  we learn the truth of the blood lines.  It is revealed that Marcus, not Viktor, is the first vampire and one of the three sons of Alexander Corvinus, the first immortal.  Markus was bitten by a bat and became a vampire, his twin brother William was bitten by a wolf and became a Lycan.  The third son, a human is responsible for a line of descendants including Michael, who had the anti-body and eventually become the first vampire-Lycan hybrid.

In the second film, Alexander Corvinus has given Selene his blood and thus given immortality.

Since then, both Selene and Michael have been on the run trying to protect each other from both vampire and Lycan who want them dead.

Which leads us to the fourth film, “Underworld: Awakening”.

After the events of “Underworld: Evolution”, the world now knows that vampires and Lycans exist.  And there is a massive cleansing (known as “The Purge”) as humans now try to exterminate vampires and Lycans.  Survivors have now moved underground, while both Selene and Michael have become the hunted.

Split off from each other, both try to come together during a standoff with the authorities but as Michael is shot and falls into the ocean, Selene goes after him and tries to save him.  But in the process, both are separated by a detonator.

Fast forward, 12 years later and during this time, “The Purge” has now been concluded as 95% of the vampires have been annihilated and the Lycans are considered as extinct.

Selene is being kept inside a cryogenic suspension by the medical corporation known as Antigen, which are trying to create an antidote for the virus which creates vampires and Lycans

Known as “subject 1”, someone has broken into the lab facility and have released Selene.  As Selene awakens and puts on her leather costume, she looks for Michael but is not sure where he is kept and thus she escapes Antigen facilities.

Meanwhile, murders are occurring in the city and while the normal judgment by police is to think that the vampires had committed the crime (since Lycans are thought to be extinct), Detective Sebastian (played by Michael Ealy), looking at how the body was murdered, doesn’t think so.  And he spots Selene, who quickly disappears.

But also spotting Selene is a young vampire named David (played by Theo James).  He goes to track down Selene, who is trying to find answers of where Michael may be.  When David tracks her down, he tells her the truth that the Lycans have been forced to live underground, no food, diseased and something has riled them up in order for them to go back up to the surface.  And he thinks Selene knows the answer to why the Lycans are back.

But Selene starts to see images, images that usually come from the bond that she has with Michael.  Thinking that Michael is in trouble and is being hunted by the Lycans, she and David fight them off but instead of finding Michael, she finds a young girl named Eve (played by India Eisely).

Why does girl have this power and why is Selene reacting to it?  As the three are pursued by the Lycans, Eve tells Selene that she was Subject 2 at Antigen and was responsible for setting her free.  She also revealed that she was in a chamber next to her mother…which would be Selene.  Needless to say, Selene is shocked because 12 years ago, she was with Michael.  Now when she awakens, instead of finding Michael, she finds out that both had a daughter.

We then learn from Dr. Jacob Lane (played by Stephen Rea), director of Antigen, that he is actually a Lycan and the antidote that they are working on is not for humans, but a drug designed to make Lycans immune to the deadly effects of silver on their species and to also heighten their abilities and size.  But since Eve is the child of a hybrid and a vampire, her genetic code is needed and thus, the reason why Antigen and the Lycans are after her.

Selene is determined to protect Eve and hopes to find Michael.  But the only way to find him is by going back to Antigen facilities, where she must fight the Lycans alone.

VIDEO:

“Underworld: Awakening” is presented in 1080p High Definition (2:40:1) aspect ratio and you have the option of watching the film in 3D or 2D.

With that being said, make no doubt about it, “Underworld: Awakening” is one of the better Blu-ray on 3D live action release.  Not only do you get the 3D depth but there are a number of moments where shattering of fragments, blood, artillery, debris and weapons are flying all over the place towards you.   And the great news is that the 3D is constant, it’s not like you will see a 3D effect every 20 minutes.  There is a lot of action in this film and there is no doubt that when “Underworld: Awakening” was made, there was an emphasis put on the action and making the 3D benefit from these action sequences.

With that being said, the video quality for this film is fantastic!  Sony hasn’t really disappointed anyone with their Blu-ray releases of late and “Underworld: Awakening” is a film that retains its cool, dark look with blues, grays and blacks.  Black levels are nice and deep, explosions showcasing lighter colors such as oranges and ambers are vibrant.  Detail is very well done, especially showcasing the vampire or Lycan transformations.  Both 3D and 2D versions look amazing and videophiles should be pleased with both versions.

AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

“Underworld: Awakening” not only showcases magnificent visuals and 3D, the lossless soundtrack is also immersive and fantastic.  Presented in English 7.1 DTS-HD MA, French 5.1 DTS-HD MA and English -Audio Description Track, like the 3D that is constant, as with the action.  There is plenty of action from cars crashing into each other, Selene unleashing a parade of bullets, elevators crashing, bodies being swatted like flies and hearing the groans, the growls, you name it…the audio is coming from all over the place.

I was so pleased with this soundtrack and just hearing constant audio coming from the surround channels was a major plus for me and also, the music soundtrack also is utilized for the surround channels as well.

You get an immersive lossless soundtrack with “Underworld: Awakening” and dialogue is crystal clear, there is nothing bad to say about the soundtrack for this film.  Audiophiles will definitely be pleased!

Subtitles are presented in English, English SDH, French and Spanish.

SPECIAL FEATURES

“Underworld: Awakening” comes with the following special features:

  • Filmmakers Commentary – Featuring directors Mans Marlind, Bjorn Stein, producers Richard Wright and Gary Lucchesi, Executive producer and visual effects supervisor James McQuaide, this audio commentary is very active and informative.
  • Selene Rises – (12:14) A featurette about Kate Beckinsale reprising her role as Selene and also going into the costume and character development.
  • Casting the Future of Underworld – (12:33) A featurette about the two new cast members, Theo James and India Eisley.
  • Resuming the Action – (8:52) A featurette about the film’s action sequences, the stunts and the 3D technology used for the film.
  • Building a Better Lycan – (10:20) A featurette on how they wanted to upgrade the visuals for the werewolves (Lycans).
  • Previsualization Sequences – Featuring six pre-visualization sequences, including an alternate opening sequence: Alternate Opening Sequence (5:29), Car Chase in 3D (1:51), Coven Fight in 3D (1:58), Anitgen Attack – Part 1 (2:19), Antigen Attack – Part 2 (3:52), and Antigen Attack – Part 3 (6:05).
  • Awakening a Franchise, Building a Brutal New World – (18:53) A featurette about the technology, special effects, set design for “Underworld: Awakening” and more.
  • Blooper Reel – (3:21) Bloopers for “Underworld: Awakening”.
  • “Heavy Prey” Music Video by Lacey Sturm feat. Geno Lenardo – (3:25) Featuring the music video “Heavy Prey”.

I have always looked at the “Underworld” films as your vampire vs. werewolf popcorn action film series.  With “Underworld: Awakening”, the writers were moving away from the “Twilight” mushy romance (or Romeo & Juliet romance, as I called the first two films).

This time around, Juliet (Selene) is separated from her Romeo (Michael) and the world has turned against them.  They are the hunted and she lost 12-years of her life, to find out that she has a child who may be the most powerful child with vampire and Lycan blood, and most importantly, having the blood of Alexander Corvinus, hence the immortality.

And what is quite interesting is the introduction of the two new characters, we have “Secret Life of the American Teenager” actress India Eisley playing Eve and a vampire named David (played by Theo James) as the next generation who will play an important role in the future of the films.

I admit that while “Underworld” films are typically popcorn action films, there was depth in the storyline as it focused on the war between vampires and Lycans and treachery that went on behind-the-scenes.  There was a sense of brooding darkness that followed the characters but this time around, since most of the vampires and Lycans have been massacred, the film changes from being vampire vs. Lycans film to now the humans vs. the vampires, Lycans and hybrids.

And there was no doubt that these films were now more action heavy, designed for 3D and the storyline, was made to be kept simple for those who have never watched the films in the trilogy.  And thus, the storyline is rather subjective.  Those who love the original storyline for its violent action but also romance, you can’t have a romance in “Underworld: Awakening” when Juliet has been separated from her Romeo. So, without the romantic angle which has been a big part of the film series, you’re left with the action and a storyline about being the hunted.

And once again,  it’s another popcorn action film and with actress Kate Beckinsale wearing a tight leather uniform but this time with upgraded visuals due to technology and a futuristic setting.  I felt that the makeup and creature design were fantastic for this film as with the visual effects, especially the 3D and fantastic lossless audio.

The video and the lossless soundtrack were absolutely amazing and these two have been the strong points of the “Underworld” films but this time, they have raised the bar of how things look and sound.  The 3D really makes a difference and the constant immersive audio was a major plus.   And to top things off, there are a good number of special features to keep “Underworld” fans busy.  Make no doubt about it, this is a Blu-ray release that Blu-ray 3D enthusiasts plus video and audiophiles will surely enjoy!

Overall, while “Underworld: Awakening” is not a film that focuses on a deep storyline, fans of the previous films know what to expect and that is a lot of bullets, a lot of deaths, non-stop action and Kate Beckinsale looking awesome a decade later in tight black leather.

A worthy continuation of the “Underworld” film series that leans very heavy on the action, even those who have never watched an “Underworld” film can watch this film and enjoy it (there is an explanation of the first two films at the beginning of the film).  And for those expecting a lot of blood and gore, you get some of that as well in “Underworld: Awakening”.

If you are looking for an all-out action film with vampires vs. werewolves, “Underworld: Awakening” will definitely appeal to you!  And for those who have been wanting better Blu-ray 3D experiences, “Underworld: Awakening” is one of the better 3D live-action Blu-rays that I have seen in a while.






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