Eschewing trends that were already dated by 2006, Underworld Evolution presents a sharper, tighter eye for action. That’s critical, because action is the primary focus in this sequel, which at the outset begins with an expository flashback scene. Lost is the more elegant underbelly to the lore involving the centuries long domination of vampires over werewolves, almost wholly discarded for a more central threat.
That’s a mistake, leaving Underworld Evolution helplessly dangling on its gunplay alone as the pithy plotline reaches back to the war’s origins. Selene (Kate Beckinsale) doesn’t progress her character from the end of Underworld, now solidified a hero, battling an obvious evil. Nuanced this is not. Underworld toyed with the audience as to its allegiances; Underworld Evolution takes a more direct, derivative route, and it’s infinitely less interesting for it.
Underworld Evolution never loses momentum
Underworld Evolution never loses momentum
Up until the second act’s close, the script puts pieces in place until the story actually appears, suddenly, barely enough to give the climax context. Then, it’s more fighting, this time involving special forces and outstanding practical werewolves that show in light rather than in scattered shadows between hectic edits.
Underworld Evolution becomes a rote action horror movie, at times veering into direct creature feature tropes as winged demons pick off nameless goons. The focus tries to stay on Beckinsale as the series is determined to pull maximum sexuality from her figure; voyeuristic low angles are laughable, Beckinsale facing forward as the camera leers at her skin-tight outfit. A brief romantic fling with Michael (Scott Speedman) only furthers the tease, and with zero narrative outcome. The intent is obvious.
Credit where it’s due – action scenes find creative methods to dispatch both species. Heads and jawlines are torn off, hands pass through chests, and the final kill is a gory spectacle with the right dash of morbid comedy. Underworld Evolution never loses momentum, hunting for new locales to stage these clashes, and mixing physical brawling with gunplay. It’s a low bar when action doesn’t look noxious in quantity, but that’s truth in this follow-up, and important considering where the focus lies.
Stating Underworld Evolution is blue is equivalent to noting water is wet. All of the Underworld films embrace the blues, although this sequel veers even further than most. Few other colors (aside from flames) break free. Oppressive becomes an understatement, and therefore, all HDR’s deep color can do is add minor density. Typical flesh tones do not exist in this world, even when the palette steers warmer in spots.
On the plus side, this looks far better in 4K than Underworld. The scan, although locked to a 2K finish, appears fresher. A limited grain layer leaves no negative impression on the end result. Encoding keeps Underworld Evolution clean, maintaining a precise film look, even when smoky. Certain CG effects will introduce artifacts, but that’s not a fault in the encode. The result? Detail makes a considerably better impression in this follow-up, the texture precise and organic. Edges avoid ringing as well.
Crush remains a considerable problem, if less so, and still inherent to the original cinematography. If nothing else, shadows look impeccable and deep, producing the densest possible black. Utilizing frequent fluorescent lighting, brightness in the highlights tends to wane. However, things like chandeliers or a fire hit a capable brightness.
Another loud, stellar Atmos mix, if still preserving a design that prefers going totally overboard. It’s a battle between thumping music and sound effects. Depending on the scene, either might win out. Underworld Evolution piles on the bass, hitting the low-end aggressively. Rooms will rattle at this disc’s command. If not the music, it’s gunfire, explosions, or even body blows. Werewolves and vampires both exhibit super strength in this world, and create equal force in the low-end.
Wild overhead use makes explicit calls to the heights, taking the obvious route with thunder claps and helicopters, but also exaggerating gunfire. Accuracy isn’t the focus so much as ensuring each channel finds clear, defined use. They do. It’s wild and showy to a fault, if no less enjoyable when birds begin encircling a forest directly above.
A commentary includes director Len Wiseman, creature designer Patrick Tatopoulos, second unit/stunt coordinator Brad Martin, and editor Nick Tototh. From there, it’s six dated featurettes, but they spend significant time on each topic, combining for over an hour. There’s also a music video afterward.
Deepening the lore but dismissing the historical metaphor, Underworld Evolution provides more stable, coherent action if a dulled plotline.
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The following six screen shots serve as samples for our subscription-exclusive set of 47 full resolution uncompressed 4K screen shots grabbed directly from the UHD: