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Take Two 

by Ed Symkus & r & & r & Underworld: Evolution & r & & r & & lt;span class= "dropcap " & A & lt;/span & nyone who sat through Underworld a couple of years ago might still recall that it was about the ongoing, centuries-long, vicious battle between vampires and werewolves. If you're lucky, you've forgotten completely about the movie, because it was utterly incomprehensible.

But it also made some money. Or, in the parlance of studio bean counters, it was ripe for a sequel. Or in this case, a prequel, at least for the first few minutes. The original's contemporary story shoots back to eight centuries earlier, during which the origin of the war of the beasts is revealed. Well, it's supposedly revealed. I sat there, notebook in hand, jotting down information about the warrior brothers Marcus (Tony Curran) and William (Brian Steele), one of whom was bitten by a wolf, the other by a bat, and who both eventually turned into ... well, you know what they turned into. But there's too much information given, most of it irrelevant to the plot at hand. And by the time the story shoots back through the centuries to today, where the sullen vampire Selene (Kate Beckinsale, still clad in that tight, shiny, slinky black outfit) is doing her best to rid the world of werewolves, confusion has set in.

The film seems to pick up mere moments after the first one ended, with Selene attempting to protect (comfort? become romantically involved with?) the clueless Michael (Scott Speedman), who is a hybrid -- half-human and half-werewolf. But on top of their story, there's one about a group of techno-savvy vampire overlords (or something like that) who are watching Selene and Michael's every move, and yet another one about the "awakening" of the hideous Marcus, who has been in hibernation (do vampires hibernate?) for centuries and now has a need to spread his wings and fly (impaling hapless victims with his extra pointed appendages).

What results is a bloodbath between the monstrous races, with Michael doing all kinds of shape-shifting and, in a very carefully photographed scene, love making, during which no inappropriate part of Beckinsale's naked body is revealed. (This most likely has to do with the fact that she's married to director Len Wiseman.)

Before the film comes to a ridiculous conclusion about dysfunctional father-son relationships and immortals not actually being immortal and myriad betrayals of trust, it's made clear that werewolves and vampires are equally adept with computers, and that Selene can drive, shoot, fight and leap from great heights with the best of them. The climactic clash features more bullets and blood than any Bruce Willis or Arnold Schwarzenegger film, and like the preceding film, it once again ends in incomprehensibility.

The whole experience of watching is best summed up this way: I saw it with a general audience because it wasn't screened for the press. On my way out, I heard two twentysomething guys discussing it. One of them asked, "But which ones were the bad guys?" (Rated: R)

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