'Evolution' embraces action, guns and gore

BY DAVID R. EICKE
Daily Arts Writer
Published January 23, 2006

The head bone's connected to the . well, not anymore. Jawbones rarely stay hinged in "Underworld: Evolution." The top sets of molars usually end up somewhere on the other side of the room. But at least the horror story stays intact, albeit a tad ridiculous. In a sequel that tracks an enduring, bloody feud between vampires and werewolves, there's something to be said for ridiculousness.

Andrew Skidmore
"What do you the mean the class is full, bitch?!" (Courtesy of Screen Gems)

"Evolution" follows much the same pattern of "The Matrix" sequels. The franchise begins with a cool new concept (if one considers vampires vs. werewolves cool), bases a good movie around that concept, and then, with nothing left to propel it, the sequel resorts to more gore, more sex and more action in an attempt to trump the original.

The difference between the sequels (and what makes "Evolution" work) is that, somewhat unlike "The Matrix," the concept wasn't exactly brimming with intellectual power to begin with. Conceptually, it doesn't have as far to fall.

It turns out that this ongoing feud started in one family: The first-ever werewolf and the first-ever vampire were twins fathered by the same immortal man. The schism took hold when the wolf brother, William, was shut away for "all time" against his twin's will. Now Marcus, the vampire brother (Tony Curran, "Flight of the Phoenix"), has been let loose and sets out on a quest to free his twin from eternal imprisonment. This may sound like a heartwarming tale of brotherly love, but the idea is that once united, they can take over the world as "new gods."

The job of preventing an apocalyptic Marcus-William reunion is left to the visually delicious, leather-clad Selene (Kate Beckinsale, "Serendipity") and her werewolf/vampire-hybrid lover Michael (Scott Speedman, "xXx: State of the Union") of the first "Underworld" movie.

But before they get to that, they lock themselves in a box and have sex all day.

It wreaks of Trinity and Neo: both powerful superhuman specimens, the male with a little more power because of some strange gift, locked in an environment with no natural light. And it's a little disappointing. You expect more out of vampire-on-half-vampire fornication - some biting or scratching or something. But no. Just regular, nice-and-slow, "Cold Mountain"-type sex.

Not only does the film capitalize on the physical beauty of its actors, but also on its potential for action and entrails. It's filled with lovely, gurgling blood sounds, high-energy music, cheesy morphing effects and concrete that crumbles when a guy hits his head on it. These may sound like drawbacks, but they come off as charming. The production has long since abandoned any attempt at realism.

"Underworld: Evolution" has stayed true to its name. It has "evolved." It retains its identity, but the characters are stronger, the action crazier and the villains more grandiose. Maybe in the next movie they'll wash their hair and start wearing cotton. But maybe that's too much to ask.

Rating: 3 out of 5 stars.

Underworld: Evolution
At the Showcase and Quality 16
Screen Gems