Kill fast, look young, and leave a bloody trail of corpses. What gratuitous guilty pleasures Underworld promised, Evolution delivers.
Following a brief history lesson sadly missing from the original film, deathdealer Selene (Kate Beckinsale) and hybrid Michael (Scott Speedman) pick up exactly where they left off from the original Underworld: on the run after killing Viktor (Bill Nighy). But what’s really come after them is far worse than vampires and werewolves seeking revenge. Vampire lord Marcus (Tony Curran) has awakened to unmake a plan set in motion over a thousand years earlier to ensure the survival of the Immortals, and Selene discovers that Viktor’s treachery in killing her entire family save her may hold the key.
Director Len Wiseman must have been paying attention to all the reviews from his first nearly-guilty monster mash Underworld, which (for all its ambition) still looked and felt like all the films that appeared to have inspired it. Other moment killers included talking when there was killing to be done and killing when we needed to know what was going on. With all the history for his setting (minus a thousand-year old flashback) under his belt, Wiseman wastes little time talking when action says it all. He even lets us know he understood how tedious we all thought Kraven (Shane Brolly) was and happily rewards us for our ticket price accordingly.
It is with no small amount of satisfaction that, having seen and understood the original film with flaws and all, the sequel is a sensual assault of carnage taped together with genealogy and flaunted in a setting where “old world” is married to “high tech” (the real Dr. Doom would have been right at home). Nor does the dynamic change just because Speedman’s Michael shares the top billing; this is the “Kate Beckinsale in Selene mode” show, and it’s more than enough to forgive her association with Van Helsing. Sure, the film still takes itself too seriously, but Lensman manages to push the absurdity across the line without a wink; how can anyone not smile at ninja vampire SEAL commandos in an unmarked black helicopter?
In terms of franchise, Evolution is Underworld‘s Aliens, perhaps its Wrath of Khan, but not quite an Empire Strikes Back. It’s now clear what Lensman intended to do to entertain fans of the genre the first time around and amazingly managed to get the chance to make the second time around; he doesn’t shy away from his ‘R’ rating (nor does his lead cast) and even wallows in a sinful coup de grâce or two. Sony could use a hit right now (good luck overlooking the blatant product placement), but with no other escape film this wild opening before V for Vendetta, Underworld Evolution is the in-theater departure you’ve been waiting for. Indulge.
3 Skull Recommendation Out of Four