Underworld: Awakening 3D Blu-ray Review
The disc presents a theatrically correct widescreen 2.35:1 1080p 2D and 3D transfer and is Region locked to B.
Shot in native 3D using the brand new RED EPIC digital cameras Awakening had the potential to look spectacular and, in parts, does, however a proliferation of dark scenes or flashing light scenes tend to shorten the frame quite dramatically meaning that the overall effect is one of mediocrity rather than the all encompassing envelopment the makers were clearly going for. What one can clearly see, and this is something that converts consistently fail to achieve, is the solidity to each and every character; look at how facial features have depth, hair has volume and bodies hold dimension, or how the werewolf jaws protrude away from their heads, how their ears are set away from their eyes or how their muscular frame defines their shape – in essence the character look like they are ‘real’. Add to this the fact that they appear in 3D space, i.e. set within their surroundings, and you have a very real looking frame. Attention to detail with framing means that there are clear fore, middle and backgrounds giving plenty of depth into the frame; whilst there are not many landscape establishing shots, those that are contain a very real sense of depth; city-scapes, the dam, the courtyard outside the science-block are all decent examples. Inside, corridors have a decent sense of scale, i.e. they recede into the frame, while negative parallax lovers will have a great time with the myriad effects that are pushing into your face, be it glass, debris, silver spinners, gun barrels or the silver dust from the grenades. Indeed there is a huge amount to admire in the picture. It is a shame then that many of the scenes are filmed in very dimly lit areas, this combined with the very stylised colouring conspire, in places, to shorten the frame significantly. This is made worse with far too many scenes relying on flashing lights which, while in 2D work great to enhance atmosphere, in 3D reduce the effect to almost zero. It is a shame as when the effects are good, they are really great, but when the effect is lost you are left with a distinct underwhelmed experience.
Luckily the rest of the picture is extremely good. Detail is, as one would expect, excellent (digital colour grading notwithstanding), from the individual hairs on the werewolves snout’s, to human skin detail, to creases in leather clothing, to intricate textures on walls, floors or other surfaces which, in combination with the 3D, to all intensive purposes look real.
Colours have the ‘Underworld’ style, i.e. they are very much bleached out to enhance the ‘cold’ spectrum of blues and greens which hold up excellently. Blood comes across as a very deep, deep crimson though the various explosions do show up a strong orange. Skin colour is very pale, but believable within the confines of the picture.
Contrast and brightness are set to give some incredibly deep blacks (with the usual 3D caveat) which sometimes adds to the depth of the picture, other times is too dark and reduces the effect, however there is still plenty of shadow detail in places and, at least, the blacks remain black and never stray into grey.
Digitally there were no compression problems, nor any edge enhancement, the digital colouring has smoothed out some of the edges, but it is never a problem. Grading is well realised with no posterization or banding present, even in the underwater scene. Using passive technology I spotted no crosstalk but it did suffer from aliasing in a few places, from zips to stairs, but it was never overly distracting and is purely a product of the technology used to view. In all a very commendable picture, missing reference due to its shortening of the 3D effect in numerous darker scenes.
Only the one track to choose from, English dts-HD Master Audio 7.1 surround, luckily is incredible. Right from the off you are greeted with an immense sound field, rich in detail and positively dripping with directionality. Being predominantly action orientated the stereo effects form gun shots and explosions bounce around the room, back to front, left to right placing in the direct firing line. Dialogue, meanwhile, is clear and coherent, sounds very natural and is also given directionality when needed. Bass is immense, not only adding oomph to gun shots and explosions, but has the sub rumbling with the same ferocity that the ‘super-lycan’ displays, his growls and mere movement being enough to rock the foundations of your house, but it is never overbearing, but tight and controlled. The score too makes full use of the speakers. The mix extremely well layered, even with so much going on there is a clear distinction between what can be heard. I loved the lead up to the attack on the coven, the thumping of the enemy to get it coming from above just as it is in the film. This is a terrific track easily winning a reference score.
- Filmmakers commentary – The five participants are directors Måns Mårlind and Björn Stein, producers Richard Wright and Gary Lucchesi and, finally, executive producer and visual effects supervisor James McQuaide, who regale us through the making of the film in a conversation that covers, in amongst other aspects, story development, the characters and the various (new) actors brought into the universe, the sets built, filming locations, the ‘prologue’ section of how to condense two films into a few minutes, the techniques used and developed for the 3D aspect, how music was used, visual effects, costumes and of course budget. There is plenty of information given in this chat which comes across very well considering the amount of participants, there are rarely any gaps and, better still, very little over talking and comes across as informative makers, skilled at their craft describing their experience on the film. One of the better commentaries I’ve come across.
- Selene Rises (12.15, HD) – Cast and crew wax lyrical on how great Beckinsale is and how her character has developed over the series of film.
- The Cast (12.34, HD) – Brief examination with interviews of the new additions to the cast for this latest instalment.
- Resuming the Action (08.52, HD) – Second unit director Brad Martin discusses his eye for action and set pieces while everyone else fawns over how good he is.
- Awakening a Franchise: Building a Brutal New World (18.55, HD) – Excellent feature this one, starts off by discussing the new RED EPIC cameras the 3D rig and a lot of technical aspects on how the filming was completed before looking at the CG and building of the 3D landscapes so they appear photorealistic in the 3D space of the film.
- Building a Better Lycan (10.21, HD) – Discussion on how greater detail was needed to improve the look of the costumes since the cameras were so good.
- Previsualization Sequences (HD) – Six sequences which can only played individually, though three of them have the option to be viewed in 3D! Scenes are: Alternate opening sequence (05.24), Antigen attack part 1 (02.13), Antigen attack part 2 (03.47), Antigen attack part 3 (3D/2D 05.59), Car chase (3D/2D 01.45) and Coven fight (3D/2D 01.52).
- Blooper Reel (03.23, HD) – Gaffs on set.
- Music Video (03.26, HD) – Heavy Prey.
- Previews – The Grey, Piranha 3DD and Lockout.
Underworld: Awakening is the fourth instalment of the vampire verses werewolf saga that was stated, unbelievably, eleven years ago. Picking up from the end of the second instalment (therefore ignoring the third film completely as those events had already been covered in the first film) it has mankind, who are now fully aware of the two non-human species that have been living along side them unseen, ‘purge’, i.e. kill indiscriminately, anyone that is not human. Not only that, genetic experimentation of Selene and her hybrid offspring sees a new all powerful race developed meaning the fate of the world, and not just the vampires, could be in jeopardy. Swedish directors Måns Mårlind and Björn Stein take the reins for this instalment but closely follow the same formula laid out by previous directors, i.e. keep the pace up, keep the action up, don’t let anyone think too much else they’ll realise what a pile of rubbish the film really is. With that in mind they succeed very well; it gleefully wears its ‘big dumb fun’ badge and Awakening has pretty much everything you’ve come to expect from an Underworld film; but as film in its own right it has plenty of short comings none of which can be covered up by fast pacing and bigger lycans. I didn’t, however, hate it and taken with the right attitude there is enjoyment to be had – at least it’s better than the third film, right?
As a Region B locked 3D Blu-ray package Entertainment in Video has produced a pretty good package. The 3D picture is for the most part excellent showing plenty of depth as well as a few in your face moments, spoilt only by some erratic lighting in some of the action sequences that unfortunately conspire to shorten the effect, but there is no complaints from the sound track which is wild, bombastic and very detailed. The disc contains both the 2D and the 3D print as well as a host of reasonable extras, some of which are in 3D, making this a good future proof buy.
Suggested retail price when reviewed: £24.99
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