As someone who can’t get enough of watching the lovely Kate Beckinsale kick werewolf butt in her oh so tight black leather/rubber combat-ware, I thoroughly enjoyed UNDERWORLD: EVOLUTION ($29) for its eye candy quotient, not to mention blazing weapons, high velocity action and some cool special effects. Sure, like its predecessor, UNDERWORLD: EVOLUTION isn’t likely to be mistaken for great cinema, but then again, having just reviewed BLOODRAYNE on DVD, UNDERWORLD: EVOLUTION definitely qualifies as a cinematic masterpiece by comparison… Well, if "cinematic masterpiece" seems a bit strong, I can guarantee that UNDERWORLD: EVOLUTION delivers one-hundred-six minutes of mindless popcorn munching, horror/action movie fun.
The plot of UNDERWORLD: EVOLUTION follows closely upon the events laid out in the original film. In fact, the story picks up moments after UNDERWORLD ended. As the film opens, we find that vampire warrior Selene (Kate Beckinsale) appears to have burned more than a few bridges amongst her own bloodsucking clan, and is on the run with Michael Corvin (Scott Speedman), who is something more than either vampire or lycan (werewolf). Vampire elder Marcus Corvinus (Tony Curran) has awakened with a surprisingly lethal agenda- namely to unleash his lycan brother on the world after a thousand years.
As it turns out, Marcus was the very first vampire, while his twin brother William was the very first lycan. While Marcus retained many of his human traits after his vampire transformation, William became an unreasoning monster with an insatiable appetite for human flesh, which necessitated William being entombed for all time. Not surprisingly, Selene holds the William’s whereabouts, so it falls to her and Michael to stop Marcus in his mad quest of sibling loyalty. The cast of UNDERWORLD: EVOLUTION also features Sir Derek Jacobi, Bill Nighy, Shane Brolly, Steven Mackintosh, Zita Görög, Brian Steele, Scott McElroy, John Mann, Michael Sheen and Sophia Myles.
Sony Pictures Home Entertainment has made UNDERWORLD: EVOLUTION available on DVD in a 2.40:1 widescreen presentation that has been enhanced for playback on 16:9 displays. As expected, Sony delivers another first rate presentation, with UNDERWORLD: EVOLUTION looking just marvelous on DVD. The transfer produces a very crisp and well-defined image that offers excellent detail for standard definition. Colors appear strongly rendered and stable, while maintaining the stylized palette of the nighttime world in which the central characters inhabit. Flesh tones are consistently appealing, at least amongst the human characters. Blacks appear inky, whites are crisp, plus the picture boasts excellent contrast and shadow detail. The film elements used for the transfer appear virtually pristine, while the grain structure remains at a modest level for a dark movie. Digital compression artifacts are generally well concealed.
UNDERWORLD: EVOLUTION comes with a decidedly potent Dolby Digital 5.1 channel soundtrack. With its weapon frenzied actions sequences, the sound design takes full advantage of its opportunities for aggressive implementations of the outlying channels. Sound effects are distinct and move around the soundstage effortlessly. Fidelity is quite strong, with both the musical sound effects components coming across with a genuine sense of presence. Dialogue is cleanly rendered and maintains complete intelligibility. The bass channel is full, deep and produces a nice rumble on occasion. A French 5.1 channel track is also encoded onto the DVD, as are English and French subtitles.
Full motion video, animation and sound serve to enhance the DVD's interactive menus. Through the menus, one has access to standard scene selection and set up features, as well as a nice body of supplemental material. Director Len Wiseman, production designer Patrick Tatopoulos, second-unit director and stunt coordinator Brad Martin, and editor Nick De Toth are on hand to provide a running audio commentary.
Six featurettes have been included on the DVD and can be viewed all together with a Play All option. Bloodlines: From Script To Screen runs thirteen minutes and looks at the story and serves as more general making-of piece. The Hybrid Theory clocks in at another thirteen minutes and focuses on the effects work. Making Monsters Roar spends twelve minutes looking at how the creatures are brought to life. The War Rages On is a nine-minute examination of the film’s stunts. Building A Saga is a nearly thirteen minute program dedicated to production design. Music And Mayhem devotes nearly twelve minutes to sound design and music. A music video for Her Portrait In Black by Atreyu and more than a dozen previews close out the supplements.
If you like a monster mash of horror and action, not to mention a totally hot butt-kicking heroine, then UNDERWORLD: EVOLUTION really delivers the goods. Sony’s DVD looks and sounds great and offers some really nice supplements. Recommended to genre fans.
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