i.e. Ben Burgis: Musings on Speculative Fiction, Philosophy, PacMan and the Coming Alien Invasion

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Well, I did end up spending most of what was left of my check (for Star Inside the Swastika) on a ticket to "Underworld: Evolution."

If you liked "Underworld", you'll probably like the sequel. The issues that I had with the sequel were all issues I'd had with (the last half hour of) the original, and the things I liked in the original (enough, clearly, to see both movies on the big screen) were all present in spades in the sequel.

What it doesn't have is a terribly well-thought out, compelling plot arc. Given that, it's sort of irritating how many plot developments they tried to cram in to every minute of the last third of the original and the first half of the sequel. What it does have is an engaging basic premise: the ancient blood feud between the sleek, aristocratic vampires and the werewolves who had originally been their day guardians. OK, that sounds powerful-silly when you *say* it, but I think it works pretty well on a primal imaginative dream level. What it also has, more importantly than any of the substance issues, is style. I sort of think of it as the dark-fantasy analogue to the Matrix: in both cases, lots of black leather, lots of over-the-top stylized fighting between people with a superhuman ability to keep their cool, all of which has to be enjoyed in a thoroughly style-over-substance way.

Given that combinations of virtues and vices, I really wish the writers hadn't been so attached to the glories of the plot arc and kept the rate of shocking revalations a little slower. *That said,* in the ways that matter most, the second movie did at least as good a job as the first movie of maintaining it's consistent tone and feel throghout the movie, despite having a radically different setting and plot. No complaints there.

(I should note that between Blade II and Underworld II, there seems to be some strange compulsion for multi-movie vampire stories to movie to "somewhere in Eastern Europe" in the second movie after having the first in urban American settings. On second thought, but that's not so much a general trend as... hey, what the hell, I'm not complaining. The second Underworld movie was far better and less tacked on than Blade II, and I have no problem with good movies scavenging from slightly less good movies.)

One of the things that definitely struck me the most about the tone and feel stuff was the way they handled the sunlight. During the substantial sections of the movie where it was important to be daytime, it was never really sunny. Even when it was important for Kate Beckinsale to be inside and away from the sun, it was always a matter of a little sunlight filtering through a flat gray sky. It was just a little thing, but it really did a nice job of conveying the sense of a world where full day never quite came and "life" took place from sunset to sunrise. There was also a really nice scene where Kate Beckinsale and her non-vampire love interest (played by some, Scott Speedman, apparently) are hiding out in a warehouse as the sun rises and Beckinsale's character's skin starts to peel, and after getting her into a safe place, he goes around trying to find ways to shut the light out of all of the huge, curtainless windows of the warehouse (splashing black paint on them, etc.) Silly? Maybe, but it looked awfully cool.

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