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Underworld: Awakening: Flashy Vampires and Werewolves
The fourth film in the Underworld series, Awakening starts off with the vampire and lycan communities being exposed and the humans declaring an all-out war against them. During the purge, vampire Selene (Beckinsale) and hybrid Michael are taken captive and cryogenically frozen. Selene awakens twelve years later in a lab to discover that the humans have won and the remaining vampires and lycans have been driven deep into hiding. While searching for any evidence of Michael’s fate, she runs into the young girl who freed her from the lab, her hybrid daughter, who is being tracked by people desperate to get her back.
Beckinsale doesn’t seem very interested in being in the film. She’s ok when she’s fighting, mainly because the camera’s moving too quickly for you to keep tabs on her, but when the action settles down into an emotional moment, she seems bored at best. Her character barely seems fazed by her lost twelve years or by the fact that she now has a daughter. She has a going-through-the-motions vibe going on, which is completely at odds with the heightened stakes she’s up against. That being said, the sheer amount of bodies she leaves strewn in her wake is highly gratifying, as is the image of her brandishing her twin guns while defying gravity.
The film is flashy but confusing, and this confusion doesn’t stem from a lack of prior knowledge of the series, but by shoddy storytelling and lazy acting. The direction doesn’t get a free pass either. The rapid, choppy fight scenes look impressive but are nonetheless infuriating, especially when they make the logistics of the more important killings vaguer than they already are.
On the plus side, though, the stunts have a sort of balletic quality to them. When Selene jumps off of buildings or over fences, she could almost be mistaken for a dancer if not for her bright blue irises and icy expression. Also, the lycans look like a feral version of Xmen’s Beast and while they aren’t particularly scary, the scenes where they transform from humans to werewolves are pretty cool.
The most irritating thing is how the human versus vampire/lycan war was almost completely ignored. It was used almost solely as a set up for Selene to be captured, completely sidestepping a perfect opportunity to forge a connection between the film universe and the real world. This ethnic cleansing war should have, at the very least, struck a political and emotional chord with the audience. And while a twist in the middle of the film does bring the story back around to how the vampires and lycans dealt with the war, it’s overshadowed by the onscreen bloodbath.
If you’re a fan of the previous Underworld film, this one is more of the same and may be worth a watch.
Given that it’s taken twenty years for director Roland Emmerich and writer Dean Devlin arrive at a continuation of their 1996 sci-fi blockbuster, Independence Day, we’re not sure whether to be surprised at how utterly uninvolving Resurgence really is, or whether we should have expected that, with a two-decade gap between films, it was always going to be difficult to capture the same essence of the original.
Over the twenty years after the events of Independence Day, humanity has been preparing itself for the possibility of another extra-terrestrial attack, hoping that their newly-found technologies, weapons and defence-systems – built from the alien equipment and machinery left behind by the last visitors – will can fight off any outside threats.
When not seducing a Dr. Catherine Marceaux (Gainsbourg), tech-guru David Levinson (Goldblum) sits as the head of global defense and research program, Earth Space Defence. When an even larger alien-space ship returns to the planet with plans of drilling all of the Earth’s resources, familiar faces are soon pulled into the chaos, including ex U.S President Thomas Whitmore (Pullman), David’s father, Julius Levinson (Hirsch) and a fighter pilot, Jake Morrison (Hemsworth) and Dylan Hiller (Usher).
What should have been a large-than-life spectacle has instead resulted in painfully dull extension of what stands as one of the first sci-fi blockbusters of its kind. With a bigger but not a necessarily a better premise to work with, Emmerich struggles to keep his centre, with the film’s focus become incoherent and its storylines and characters flimsy. The destruction sequences – which naturally go on to blow all major global landmarks – are over-the-top and while the sight of the three-thousand mile wide alien ship does stand out as one of the most spectacular things about the entire movie, there is very little human-connection in the film or stress on what’s really at stake.
With Will Smith opting to stay out, Resurgence ends up relying on the wit and charm of Jeff Goldblum and the handsome-heroism of Liam Hemsworth to carry the movie through the wreckage; a task for which unfortunately, none of their thinly-drawn characters are able to realise. Loud but somehow still dull, the spirited nature of its predecessor is completely diminished – overall, a quite unnecessary sequel.
Arriving six years after Tim Burton’s Alice in Wonderland took the box-office by storm – the film ended up earning over a billion dollars despite receiving mixed reviews - the adventures of Wonderland continue with a story that serves both as a prequel and a sequel, in James Bobin’s visually exciting, but rather empty, Alice Through the Looking Glass.
Three years after sailing around on her late father’s ship, Alice (Wasikowska) returns to London to learn that there has been some significant changes in her mother Helen’s (Duncan) living situation and that, on top of everything else, she is now at risk of losing her father’s ship for good. However, before she gets a chance to deal with the situation at hand, which finds her at direct conflict with her ex-fiancé Hamish Ascot (Bill), Alice is contacted by the caterpillar-turned butterfly Absolem (voiced by the late Alan Rickman) whom she decides to follow through a magic mirror leading to Wonderland.
Once there, Alice learns the Mad Hatter (Depp) who, as a result of believing that his family is still alive, has now begun to age rapidly and is slowly dying. Tasked by the White Queen (Hathaway) to save their land by going back in time, Alice decides to pay a visit to Time himself (Cohen); a half-man, half-machine King of clockwork who is not so keen of allowing Alice to use the chromosphere to travel back and save Hatter’s parents from. Refusing to accept defeat, Alice steals the device and sets on her journey, though she soon learns that changing the past doesn’t come without consequences.
Written by Linda Woolverton and directed by The Muppet’s James Bobin, there’s a significant change in the story’s visual dynamics which finds Tim Burton’s shadowy, gothic style in Alice replaced by a psychedelically vibrant and colourful backdrop that is both pleasing and exciting to watch. However, unlike the obvious work and creativity put into bringing energy and precise technicalities into its visual – the use of 3D actually pays off - the writing comes off as a lazy.
Woolverton’s screenplay is confusing at times and the characters, despite their whacky and imaginative surroundings, fall surprisingly flat. At twenty-six years of age Wasikowska seems a little too old to be wandering around Wonderland. Although typically weird and zany in their reprising roles, her co-stars Depp, Bonham-Carter and Cohen, fail to rise to the occasion.
Shiny and exciting to look at, Alice Through the Looking Glass is, overall, a disappointing revisit to Wonderland which, despite its best efforts, fails to make a lasting impression.