Devoid of its predecessor’s proletariat-aristocracy allegorical undercurrents and beset by more perplexing flashbacks than a Timothy Leary apprentice, Underworld: Evolution turns out to be a regressive follow-up to Len Wiseman’s shamelessly derivative 2003 saga about a clandestine war between vampires and lycans. Piling on mountains of muddled backstory regarding events from both the first film and 1202 A.D., Wiseman’s sequel charts the further adventures of ashen vampire assassin Selene (Kate Beckinsale) and her vampire/werewolf hybrid boyfriend Michael (Scott Speedman) as they try to foil seminal vampire Marcus’s (Tony Curran) plan to free his lycan brother William (Brian Steele) from centuries-long captivity. As they travel through the snow-covered Russian wilderness, Michael uncovers the scope of his newfound supernatural powers and Selene, she of the shiny black latex bodysuits, undresses for some softly lit lovemaking.
The secrets they eventually expose about the interspecies “blood feud” which engulfs them both, however, aren’t nearly as surprising as the extent to which Wiseman and screenwriter Danny McBride—attempting to crossbreed classic monster movie lore with video-game action and Tolkien and Matrix-esque mythologizing—turn every supposed revelation into a lesson in narrative incomprehensibility. Freely introducing, and then dispatching with, key characters (including Derek Jacobi’s God-like father figure) while constantly referring to crucial players from the original Underworld, the film proves so consumed with slow-motion dogfights, frantically pieced-together martial arts scuffles, and close-ups of bloody neck-biting and throat-ripping that it rarely spends more than a hairsbreadth of time cogently explaining how everyone is related to one another.
A sequence involving a winged Marcus attacking Selene and Michael’s speeding truck, as well as the CG-centerpiece shots of werewolf transmutations, have enough visual flair to elevate the proceedings above BloodRayne bad. Yet with the exception of Beckinsale’s frosty Selene—whose slender, porcelain hotness, aided by her S&M dominatrix outfit, outweighs her banality—the colorless, humorless, and bloodless Underworld: Evolution‘s amalgamated aesthetic of glacial blue-steel tones and generic heavy metal is distinctive only insofar as it remains comprehensively plagiaristic.