Sunday, January 22, 2012

Underworld: Awakening [2012]

MPAA (R) CNS/USCCB (A-III) AV Club (D-) Fr. Dennis (1 1/2 Stars)

IMDb  listing -
CNS/USCCB review -
AV Club review -,68061/

Underworld: Awakening (directed by Måns Mårlind and Björn Stein, story by Len Wiseman who collaborated on the screenplay along with a host of others) is the fourth installment in the Underworld franchise featuring a seemingly unending battle between vampires and lycans (better known to us as werewolves). 

Now that vampires and werewolves do not like each other underpins also much of the Twilight series.  So a good question could be asked as to why they wouldn't like each other. Checking and, it would seem that this "ancient rivalry" actually began with the Underworld Series.  So the rivalry appears to make for a "really cool" device much like that which created such cinematic "wonders" as the hyper violent Predator vs. Alien [2004] even though the first Underworld [2003] movie predates it (and certainly this movie Underworld Awakening is hyper-violent as well).

Yet in the box office these vampire vs werewolf movies (both Underworld and Twilight) do really, really well.  So the question of why that would be, why these movies/stories "work" (or other seeming strange or even stupid stories "work") fascinates me.

Part of it has to be in a fascination within apparently fairly large segments of the population with the vampire and werewolf archetypesVampires seem to be about "unbridled, indeed consuming passion," enough so that a vampire wants or needs to suck blood out of its victims.  Werewolves seem to be about "the beast within."  Both vampire and werewolf stories appear to have been very popular during the Victorian era notable for its conformity (the opposite of what "the beast within" would want to do) and sexual repression (the opposite of "unbridled, indeed consuming passion").  

I wouldn't be able to prove it now (and honestly don't have a particularly great desire to pursue this) but I would imagine that a combination of the current societal "gender wars" (of which the Catholic Church is certainly an active party) as well as the "ick"/"yuck" factor associated with certain aspects of male homosexuality makes the vampire archetype somewhat relevant today.  After all, why would one want to drive one's ___ up someone's ___?  An "unbridled, indeed, consuming passion" perhaps ...

Then the wildman archetype has been postulated as being both around and necessary for healthy male spirituality since at least Robert Bly's book on Iron John.  I would submit that the wildman archetype celebrating "the beast within" is really not that far from the characteristics of the werewolf.

So between the struggle to make some kind of peace with the existence of a homosexual community in society's midst (a community which previously had to live in the shadows) as well as a need by many men often feeling emasculated by the demands of modern life to rediscover the freedom of their inner wildman perhaps make both the vampire and werewolf archetypes "near the surface" of today's collective subconscious.

Still why would these two archetypes want to fight each other?  I guess because it would make for a really cool series of visual images which if strung together long enough could even make for a really cool series of movies. ;-)

Besides put really really sexy "vampire" Selene (played by Kate Beckinsale) into a skin tight black rubber suit.  Then put a very large and shiny automatic pistol with a seemingly endless supply of werewolf (er lycan) killing "silver bullets" into her hands and wow with this "Jungian anima with a gun"... it all must make for "one heck of a rodeo" in the Jungian scheme of the subconsious.

So what's a parent to think if one's teenager starts to really like films like this?  I suppose look for signs of obsession and depression.  Yes, to be perpetually "in a dark mood" becomes a problem.  But recognize that probably 99 out of a 100 young males seeing this film are probably doing so because they like to see a really attractive young woman (in a tight black rubber suit) wasting a whole lot of monsters.

Yes, the violence is appalling.  I'm amazed that the CNS/USCCB gave this film merely an "A-III" (for adults) rating while the far less violent and certainly more coherent film Haywire also about a heroine with a gun an "L" rating (of limited value even for adults) but then the MPAA is often rather inconsistent as well.

Bottom line, I don't see any particular "need" for any minor to see this film.  I certainly wouldn't want to help or otherwise "enable" a minor to do so.  On the other hand, I wouldn't make a huge deal about it either, unless one's teen seems to remain in a "dark state" focused on "dark matters" for long periods of time.  Then I would be asking the teen with some regularity what's going on in his (or her) head...

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