Starring: Kate Beckinsale, Scott Speedman, Bill Nighy, Shane Brolly, Michael Sheen. Rated R.
is one of the darkest films in recent memory, not so much in terms of its
subject, but in terms of its appearance. It exists in a world of shadows,
darkened caves and underground fortresses, ideal for vampires but depressingly
murky for the rest of us. I mean, sure, it’s the underworld – which, in this
case, refers to some unnamed eastern European city – but couldn’t there be any
cheerful shades of green, yellow or orange?
There’s plenty of red, though. The latest
installment in the
Underworld saga is all blood and guts,
usually spilled onto the floor during one of its endless action sequences. But
that, too, should come as no surprise. Constant mayhem is to be expected in a
movie about an age-old war between vampires and werewolves, and Evolution doesn’t disappoint. It is loud, flashy and
aggressively paced. And did I mention loud?
The plot exists, it seems, only as a framework
gaudy graphics and breakneck animation, but here’s a recap: Selene (Kate
Beckinsale) and Michael (Scott Speedman, a virtual ringer for former Creed
frontman Scott Stapp) are wanted by the legions of the undead for the murder of
Viktor (Bill Nighy), the nefarious vampire king. Selene is a vampire herself,
while Michael is a unique hybrid of wolf and bloodsucker. Together, they form
an unholy alliance to take down the patriarchs of the rival clans, a couple of
charming gents named Marcus (Tony Curran) and William (Brian Steele).
It may sound simple enough,
but those unfamiliar with the Underworld
comic series will undoubtedly be confused by
director Len Wiseman’s convoluted storytelling. At some point, the filmmakers
must have sensed this, because Evolution
is loaded with backstory that attempts to make sense of the
proceedings, to no avail. Major characters are alluded to, introduced and then
killed off in rapid succession, with no discernible bearing on the plot. Motivations
are rarely, if ever, explained. More than an hour in, the pieces of a story
begin to fall into place, but by then my attention had already been captured by
a different kind of red: the inviting glow of the exit sign.