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UNDERWORLD AWAKENING (2012)
Release Date: January 20, 2012 (3D/2D)
Studio: Screen Gems (Sony)
Director: Måns Mårlind, Björn Stein
Screenwriter: Len Wiseman, John Hlavin, Allison Burnett, J. Michael Straczynski
Starring: Kate Beckinsale, Stephen Rea
Genre: Action, Horror
MPAA Rating: R
ABOUT THE PRODUCTION
For the fourth installment of their mega-hit Underworld franchise, producers Tom Rosenberg, Gary Lucchesi and Richard Wright, and franchise creator Len Wiseman have taken the extraordinary risk of reinventing and reinvigorating an already hugely successful, internationally acclaimed property. The filmmakers have transported their Vampire and Lycan characters into a contemporary, human-dominated world in which they are hunted to near extinction, adding the excitement of cutting edge 3D technology into the mix.
With other commitments pending, including helming the upcoming remake of Total Recall, franchise creator Len Wiseman chose not to direct the film, but was on hand as a producer and provided the inspiration for the extraordinary storyline. "Len imagined a scenario where Selene and Michael have created a child," says Gary Lucchesi, president of Lakeshore Entertainment. "That was the starting point for this movie. It would have been impossible to make such a good movie without Len's contribution. He was involved in everything from production design to writing the script and casting the film."
Kate Beckinsale, who starred in the first two installments of the Underworld saga, once again returns as the Vampire Death Dealer Selene, who escapes a lengthy imprisonment to discover that humans have almost successfully eradicated both the Vampire and Lycan clans.
"This is a continuation of the story that ended in Underworld Evolution," says David Coatsworth, executive producer of the film. "Putting Selene into the context of a modern world and having her interact with humans is one of the two big new elements. The second is the discovery that she's the mother of a teenage daughter. It brings a whole new twist to the evolution of Selene and sets up the possibility of continuing on into the future."
Set 15 years after the conclusion of Underworld Evolution, Underworld Awakening adds new characters and new rules to the story. "I think the hardcore fans are going to find a more action-packed and, to a certain degree, more violent Underworld than they've seen before," says Lucchesi. "Selene's rougher in this movie than she's ever been. She's capable of greater violence. It's a very strong dramatic story and extremely well-acted. We've set a high bar with the earlier films and I think the audience will find this really intriguing."
The updates take the story out of its mythological past and place it squarely in the world of the science-fiction action thriller. "It doesn't take place in our past or present or future," says Richard Wright of Lakeshore. "It takes place in its own version of all three of those temporal periods."
With series stalwart Wiseman unavailable to direct, the filmmakers launched an extensive search for someone to take the helm of the new production. "We considered a number of young filmmakers who had demonstrated an interest in the Underworld franchise," says Lucchesi. "That group included a team of Swedish directors, Måns Mårlind and Björn Stein. They had co-directed a really interesting film called Storm, which seemed to us to have been heavily influenced by Underworld."
"We could see from watching their earlier movie that they understood how the heroine was set up, the way that the film was shot, the camera movements, the color palette, everything," says Wright. "Then they gave us a very detailed presentation book that showed us what they thought the movie should look like. It was obvious these guys were going to bring a lot to the party."
Mårlind and Stein, who have previously directed separately as well as together, have known each other since they were children. They have developed an uncanny connection that allows them to work most effectively in tandem, with each directing on alternate days. "We flip a coin the day before the shoot," says Stein. "Usually Måns wins, which is not necessarily a win. If you win the coin toss, you have to direct the first day, and first day is always chaos."
"When Måns is directing, I'm 'best buddy,'" he continues. "I'm always next to him, supporting him. He runs the show and makes all the decisions about the actors, the camera-everything. I'm there to handle questions about anything that's not immediately urgent, whether it's casting, production design, visual effects or anything else."
Directing on alternate days gives the pair what they feel is an enormous advantage. "We each have time to recharge and prepare for the upcoming day," says Mårlind. "When you don't have to put out fires all day long, you can be clear headed and think more about the big picture."
As unorthodox as their method sounds, the film's actors and producers solidly endorse the result. "I don't know how I'm going to go back to having one director," says Beckinsale. "By trading off, they are able to stay incredibly excited to have their turn. They never get burned out. I'm married to a director, so I realize that it's such a miserably nonstop job. There are always 50 people asking you questions. With a partner to answer those questions, the one who's directing can stay focused on the actors and the shot at hand."
The directors were well aware of all the work that been done to create the series through the previous three installment and had the utmost respect for the franchise. "The films are based in a strong, interesting and well-developed mythology, which is why we've always been fans," says Mårlind. "Here we are dealing with universal themes like love, survival and death. We take that part of it seriously, but there is so much cool stuff going on that it never becomes pretentious. The series is distinguished by a good mix of performances and visual style, which is something we like. We don't see ourselves as just visual directors or just acting directors. We love both."
The pair's primary concern," says Stein, was being able to bring new, compelling elements to the screen while preserving the best of the past. "We jumped into it because it was such a good script," says Stein. "The concept of the film itself actually deviates slightly from the earlier movies, so we are walking a fine line. Underworld Awakening is not today, it's not set in our world. That has been challenging because we've had to create a new world, while keeping the Underworld stamp on it and staying true to the franchise.
"We talked a lot with Len Wiseman and he was very helpful in setting up guidelines for what's cool and what's not cool in terms of the Underworld mythos, he continues. "All these new situations are presented in a totally different environment, and we had to make a lot of decisions on the fly as well, which was fun.
The timeless archetypes of werewolves and Vampires remain. "The Vampire is the sexy, dark side of all of us," says Mårlind. "But we also have the werewolf side which is the destructive force.
The biggest difference is in the balance of power, according to Stein. "The Vampires are underdogs for the first time, so they become a minority that you root for," says the director. "They can kill a man easily, but they can't kill mankind. I think what's exciting for fans is that we are taking another step deeper into the mythology that will expand the universe.
There are several new characters who will help to do just that, including an underground coven of defeated Vampires and Selene's daughter, Eve (played by 17-year-old India Eisley), whose combined Vampire-Lycan bloodline make her an unknown quantity with powers still to be discovered. "Eve's not a Vampire or a Lycan, Eisley says. "She's the first Lycan-Vampire hybrid and the last descendant of Alexander Corvinus, which makes her unwelcome among either the Lycans or the Vampires.
Another new development in the Underworld myth is a divide in the evolution of the Lycan race that threatens to upend the balance between the age-old enemies. "There are now three different types," says Lucchesi. "A devolved, barely surviving type of Lycan has been driven underground. They're suffering from malnutrition. They're vicious, almost zombie-like Lycans. We also have the regular Lycans that we've seen in the earlier movies.
But the most significant development is the uber-Lycan. "This is an all new creature, explains the producer. "The uber-Lycan is massive. It stands twelve feet tall and weighs 1,200 pounds. It has a bigger torso and longer arms and slightly shorter hind legs, more like a gorilla than the previous Lycans. There's only one of them so far and it always seems to be angry. It's throwing cars, it's smashing holes in walls, and it's not especially fond of Selene.
Mårlind calls the new creature, "the ultimate Lycan. He is the result of mankind's experiments. We learn that he can survive an attack with silver, which is the Achilles' heel for werewolves, so he's pretty unstoppable.
"There's a certain poetry to the Underworld characters, Burnett adds. "The actors are for the most part extremely skilled with language. We wanted to give them and their characters a high degree of eloquence.
With the Underworld Awakening, the filmmakers set out to create an all new story that would appeal to both long-time franchise fans and attract the attention of those who have not yet experienced the Underworld saga. "I think that when people who have enjoyed the earlier films come to a new one, there are certain things they expect to see, certain conventions to be adhered to," says Coatsworth. "But I think they also want something new. That presents a two-fold challenge. We had to be loyal to the rules of the game and also provide a new dimension to the story.
Coatsworth believes the film succeeds on both levels and will be able to stand on its own as an exciting and entertaining film. "You don't have to have seen any of the other Underworlds to appreciate it. I think a new group of people who enjoy action films and 3D will be a big part of our audience.
By giving Selene and Michael a daughter, the filmmakers hope to extend the life of the franchise well into the future. "Since both Selene and Eve are immortal, who knows what will happen. says Wright. "They may be together for a thousand years.
DISCOVERING THE NEXT GENERATION
Fans of the first two Underworld films are sure to be thrilled by the return of actress Kate Beckinsale in the role of the fearsome Vampire huntress Selene. "We really wanted to work with Kate again," says Lucchesi. "Sometimes the stars just align themselves perfectly and this is one of those times.
Beckinsale admits she thought twice about slipping back into the familiar skintight black latex suit before accepting the part again. "But it was a life-changing role for me, so I feel very affectionate towards it. It's exciting to be able to follow a character over such a long period of time. It's rare to get that chance.
Tom Rosenberg, Lakeshore Entertainment chairman and CEO," says he's thrilled to have Beckinsale in the film. "She is Selene, and Selene is the heart and soul of Underworld. Right from that first scene in the first film, she embodied the perfect tone.
On set, it was clear she had lost none of the edge that made Selene an iconic figure in Underworld lore. "Kate can switch into Selene like that," says Mårlind, snapping his fingers. "She can be having a laugh, but when action's called, she has those guns up and she looks like she's going to kill you. She has a highway into Selene that is fantastic. As a director, it's marvelous to have someone who is so close to their character.
Revisiting the character and mythology that helped launch her career as a bona fide movie star was great fun for the actress. "It was exciting to do this together with the people who created the original film in a new environment with a different set of problems for Selene," she says. "We all wanted a really fresh take and I think we've achieved that.
The most unsettling change for Selene is finding that she has a daughter. "Suddenly being presented with a child who's almost fully grown is a shock, especially when the girl's father is gone," says Beckinsale. "It's quite a lot to handle. I wouldn't say Selene is suddenly soft and maternal, but she's protective in a new and different sort of way."
After a centuries-long lifetime of being answerable to no one, Selene is only slowly able to embrace her daughter," says co-writer J. Michael Straczynski. "It brings out another side of her, he notes. "In the previous movies, she was primarily focused on battling the bad guys. She was fighting against them, not fighting for someone, as she is now."
The child opens up the character of Selene to a host of new possibilities and allows the character some emotional moments unlike anything in the previous films. "For the first time, there is a certain amount of vulnerability in Selene," says Wright. "She has an interplay with Eve that is very un-Selene like. Selene is very cold and nothing gets under her skin. She loves no one, she's a killing machine-and then she has a daughter."
Eve's presence adds a new dimension to an already unique storyline, observes Beckinsale. "There aren't very many female-led franchises, that work without being deliberately titillating or objectifying the lead character. I think that's one of the great things about Selene becoming a mother, with all the attendant conflicts."
Newcomer India Eisley plays the now teenaged Eve, whose life has been lived as a test subject for the biotech conglomerate that imprisoned her mother. Eisley, who takes on her first major film role in Underworld Awakening, captivated the filmmakers with her solemn precocity and otherworldly beauty. "India has an exotic quality to her," says Lucchesi. "She's also completely believable as Kate's daughter. She tested the first day of casting and we never topped her."
Eisley won the role against stiff competition, perhaps a testament to her show-business roots. "She was terrific, Rosenberg recalls. "I remember her enchanting mother, Olivia Hussey, when she first came on the scene in Zefferelli's Romeo and Juliet, so it was very exciting to find India."
In a strange coincidence, Eisley was in a coffee shop in Santa Monica shortly after her audition and was spotted by Kate Beckinsale, who was there with Len Wiseman and their daughter, Lily. "She turned to Len, and said, 'look at that girl,'" recalls Eisley. "'You should go ask her if she wants to be in the movie. She's like a mini me.' And he told her, 'we just saw her audition tape.'"
In the film, Eve is discovered by Selene and David huddled in a damp underground hallway where she has taken shelter from a Lycan attack. "She's spent her whole life at Antigen as kind of a lab rat," says Eisley. "She broke out in her hybrid form, but she has no idea what to do because she's never been outside. Once she gets out into the real world, it's a complete shock."
Eve is a bundle of contradictions," says the young actress, unaware of her powerful abilities, she's frightened by everything she is experiencing for the first time. "Eve is both really tough and vulnerable, Eisley says. "Like most teenage girls, she has extremes of emotion, but it's enhanced. She has these conflicting impulses within her that she can't control, so it goes from being very restrained to being completely animalistic."
As a longtime fan of the franchise, Eisley applauds the changes that Underworld Awakening brings to the story. "It is really great how they're re-introducing Kate and at the same time introducing new characters," she notes. "They've interwoven all of the storylines seamlessly. Kate's one of my favorite actresses and she's just as lovely as I thought she would be. I just feel lucky to be working with her."
Also new to the franchise is the Vampire David, played by Theo James. David has been searching for Selene, whose reputation has inspired him to want to fight back against human aggression. "For David, Selene's a kind of legend," says James. "She's this super hot Vampire, but also hard as nails. When David hears she may be alive, nothing can stop him from trying to find her."
David and his coven, which is led by his father Thomas, have taken shelter from ongoing human attacks below ground. But David is aching to take action. "The script is really strong," says James. "We've got a mix of blood ties, family bonds and revenge, plus the genocide angle. I did a lot of work to make sure I knew exactly where my character was coming from, where he sat in the history of it. I talked with Måns and Björn about where David would have been born, when he would have been turned, all those kinds of things."
David is the first Vampire that Selene encounters at a moment when she fears there aren't any left in the world. He takes her to his secret coven, where the remaining Vampires are hidden, but his father wants to turn Selene and Eve away. "To be fair, Selene has a reputation for killing Elders and causing all sorts of trouble," says Beckinsale. "David becomes a champion of sorts for her. She's never had anyone on her side before."
Beckinsale served as a mentor for James in his entry to the Vampire world. "Kate is so embedded in the mythology, he says. "She knows Selene like no one else can. She was so helpful with little pointers about the limits of the Vampires, what they can do and what they can't."
Adding new young actors like Eisley and James opens up more possibilities for the franchise," says Lucchesi. "The story that does not feel complete at the end of the movie. You really feel that the franchise must go on and I think you're going to see prominent roles for Eve and David in future Underworld films, as well as for Thomas, Charles Dance's character."
Dance plays David's father, an Elder Vampire and head of one of the few remaining Vampire covens. "They've been in hiding and they're no longer as wealthy and as powerful as Vampires used to be," says Lucchesi. "But by the end of the movie they will have a resurgence."
Dance brings a natural, slightly sinister elegance to his role. "He's extremely tall, so he's very imposing," says Björn Stein. "But it's also his voice. He could talk about pebbles and dirt and I would still listen, because it's just one of those voices."
Thomas is hidden in his outlaw coven when David appears with what seems to be the body of a dead child. "It's Eve," says Dance. "She's not dead, not quite, but she is a hybrid and Thomas is not happy. We're a threatened species, we Vampires, and there is a general agreement that we don't bring strangers into our place of sanctuary."
The decision to play Thomas was a simple one for Dance. "My daughter is a fan and said she wouldn't speak to me again if I didn't," says the veteran actor, whose numerous film and television roles include Clemens in Aliens3 and more recently, Tywin Lannister on HBO's hit series "Game of Thrones. "Joining an established franchise isn't really any different from jumping into any other film and introducing a new character. The only continuing factor running through it is Kate Beckinsale."
The stellar cast also includes Stephen Rea as Dr. Lane, the ruthless director of Antigen. "Jacob is one of those bad guys who's at war with himself," says Beckinsale. "He's defined by his self-loathing and regrets. The various tragedies in his life have caused him to go the wrong way for the wrong reasons, which makes him rather a dark, vulnerable figure."
Rea's character appears to have simple motivations for his actions, but he has a well-hidden secret that affects everyone in the film. "I think what's most interesting about this series is that there's a tremendous depth to the characters," Rea says. "They're not just superficial. There's a great sense of history to their pain and their quest."
In addition to David, Selene finds an ally in Detective Sebastian, played by Michael Ealy. Sebastian is a human who lost his Vampire wife in one of the savage purges. "Working with Kate has been a lot of fun and an honor," says Ealy. "Obviously, she is Underworld, but she's as humble and as sweet as one could be. And she's completely professional. In our first scene together, I was amazed at how she could instantly transform into Selene without thinking about it."
Hardcore fans of the franchise are going to be thrilled that Beckinsale is back and badder than ever, Ealy says. "On the other hand, this is the perfect film for anyone who is not familiar with the franchise. As the first fully fleshed-out human character in the series, Detective Sebastian represents a dynamic that has been missing from some of the other films. For the first time we get a chance to see what it's like for a human to live amongst these powerful supernatural creatures."
The changes have opened up the movie and brought it out of the Underworld, according to Beckinsale. "There are some really great new characters played by some really great actors," she says. "India's fantastically talented and Theo's a real find. Stephen and Charles bring something new to it, but with a very familiar vibe. They have some of the same gravitas that Bill Nighy, who played Viktor, the Vampire Elder in the earlier films, had. It all adds yet another layer of intrigue and danger."
A NEW VISION OF UNDERWORLD
With Underworld Awakening bringing Vampires and Lycans into the cold light of the human world, the filmmakers strove to differentiate the Old World fantasy-based Underworld from the modern urbanity in which Selene finds herself. Shooting in Vancouver B.C., they found much they could take advantage of: the city's modern skyline, the outlying wilderness and the moody atmosphere. "Vancouver is one of the great filmmaking cities," says Coatsworth. "We embraced both the contemporary and the older aspects of the city to try to create an extension of our European city, while subtly bringing it into the future."
The damp, overcast streets of Vancouver provided the dark, wet mood the filmmakers sought for their dystopian future, while the modernist architecture provided inspiration for the vast unnamed city. Underworld is not our world," says Mårlind. "You can't say it's Moscow or New York or Rome. It's Underworld. This was what was very attractive to us, because we were able to explore new ideas."
"If you look around, you will see very hard concrete architectural types, he continues. "It is very unlike the Gothic style of a place like Budapest, but it has a very cool feel that has been extremely fun to explore."
The filmmakers gave the fictional city a skyline inspired by the buildings of Soviet-era Eastern Europe. "We went with a very specific look, the architectural style known as brutalism," says production designer Claude Paré. "Brutalism was the predominant style of the Communist era. It is functional, unadorned and rectilinear. Typically it's built from stark, grey slabs of poured concrete in bold symmetrical forms. In Vancouver, there are many buildings designed by the architect Arthur Erickson that fit the profile and we were fortunate to be able use of some of these buildings, including Simon Fraser University, which we made our key location, the headquarters of Antigen."
With a laser technology called LIDAR, the filmmakers were able to reshape the Vancouver skyline based on the specifications of the directors, in essence building an entirely new city for Underworld Awakening's human world. James McQuaide, the film's executive producer and visual effects supervisor used LIDAR's ability to capture the geometry of volume to custom build a completely original skyline for a modern city that isn't geographically recognizable, because it doesn't really exist.
"We scanned different buildings from all over Vancouver, then brought those images together to create a kind of composite photo," says McQuaide. "The buildings may be recognizable, if you know Vancouver well, but they are not situated next to each other except in our cityscape. Once we captured the actual geometry of the space, we recreated what was there practically. Because it's data, we're not married to any particular angle, so the camera can move freely in the virtual space."
Production designer Paré also created a cave-like home for the Vampire coven. Hunted to near extinction, a small group has taken refuge in an underground lair beneath a giant hydroelectric dam. "There just happened to be fantastic hydroelectric dam about a half an hour north of Vancouver," says Wright.
The lair is a monument to earlier times, filled with relics of formerly luxurious lives. "Everything is dripping and very moldy," says Paré. "It's done in tones of ochre, brown, dark green and there's lots of black."
It contrasts sharply with the hard geometry of the city," says Mårlind. "We wanted the Vampire world to be old and sensual and round, he explains. "It has a feeling of the womb to it, because that is a theme in the film for Selene."
Both the coven and the Antigen interiors had to be custom built for the shoot. "Vancouver has a number of sound stage facilities that allowed us to spread out and build all of these sets," says Wright. "Vancouver also has very, very highly skilled set construction people, which came in handy. We were creating a medieval crypt-like coven and then we were doing very high-tech concrete and glass interiors for Antigen and those are two completely different finishes."
Selene's iconic costume had to be recreated down to the last detail by Academy Award(R)-nominated costume designer Monique Prudhomme. "The first time I saw her in the costume, I thought, she's back!" Prudhomme says. "The challenge was to find a fabric that would give the same feel and comfort. The costume is very simple, but it was critical to get it right. The latex suit has absolutely no hanger appeal, but because Kate is so beautiful and athletic, she fills it out and makes it look fantastic. The detail in her costume comes from the leather corset that is boned and embroidered. It's like her armor."
Giving the actress added panache is her oversized death dealer coat. "It's a leather coat that is elaborately embroidered on the shoulders, in the front and on the sleeves," says the designer. "That coat gives her a big 'swoosh' of movement, and also brings the Vampire tradition to her look"
Putting on the costume the first time was like coming home," says Beckinsale. "Just the sound it makes is very specific. I was very intimidated by the costume in the beginning, but I trust it now. It actually gives me a help, if anything."
Special-effects makeup designer Todd Masters was entrusted with the task of creating an original visual concept for Eve, the first Vampire-Lycan hybrid. "It was a really great honor to be handed this mantle," says Masters. "The technology and artistic technique have developed so quickly that the bar is very high. The Eve hybrid went through quite a few developments. It was important to be able to see India inside, so she isn't just a monster when she goes through this dynamic transformation. We wanted to see a lot of performance. We made some really cool teeth for her, as well as contact lenses and amazing ruby nails."
Eisley says the elaborate makeup completed the character for her. "I just loved it. I got the Lycan fangs which are very big and gnarly and just very, very intense, plus blood red, very long claws. The contact lenses are a unique mix of black and ice blue, because Eve's not full Lycan or full Vampire. The contact lenses were very comfortable, but the claws were very painful. They were glued onto my fingers and it felt like they were going to rip my nails off, so it wasn't too pleasant. But it looks great!"
In addition to introducing new characters and a new setting, Underworld Awakening reaches a new level of action for the franchise. "For the first movie, we had no real budget at all," says Wright. What made it work was the atmospherics and story points and acting. This is the most wirework I've ever done on any film. You'll see Selene jumping over fences and making impossible leaps. The bar has been raised so high and I think we have elevated the game.
Brad Martin, who began as a stunt coordinator on Underworld, served as second unit director as well this time out. "Brad knows the Underworld franchise as well as anybody, so we had tremendous good fortune in getting him to play a directorial role in the second unit action sequences of the film," says Lucchesi. "He's also a great friend of Kate's, so he had her confidence in terms of asking her to perform some pretty impressive moves. Kate did a lot of her own stunts because Brad made her feel comfortable.
Martin was given ten weeks to prep for the film and develop the tricks and tools he needed for this major enterprise. "There were a couple things that we needed to do some research and design for," he says. "The biggest R & D we did was for the uber-Lycan. How do people interact with this enormous creature that is purely CG?"
According to Martin, Beckinsale didn't require a lot of training for the role. "Kate's retention is ridiculously good," he says. "On the first Underworld we did a month of training with her. We worked three times a week and she trained hard. But it's been ten years since then. We were showing her stuff on set and she might have been rusty at first, but after a rehearsal or two, she got right in there. She brings the attitude."
The actress says she sometimes felt out of her depth, but knew she could rely on Martin and his team. "Because I know this character very well and have had such thorough training, it was a bit like riding a bike," she says. "I sort of assumed I wouldn't be able to do things and then found, oh actually, I just ran up a wall... and that was really fun!"
Martin had a huge impact on the design and execution of the high-powered action sequences in the movie. "Brad wasn't just setting up stunts," says Wright. "He's phenomenally talented at putting together whole action sequences."
Detective Sebastian fights side-by-side with Selene in some of the movie's most thrilling scenes. "After I did Takers, I wanted to become the next action hero, so my thing is, any time I get a chance to shoot guns on a movie set in a safe environment, I jump at the opportunity," Ealy admits. "It's so much fun and this particular crew has found a way to make me look so cool with a gun. That's like every young actor's dream...to try and look as cool as Bruce Willis and the guys from Miami Vice, because those are the guys you saw coming up."
Underworld's visually dynamic, action-heavy and highly stylized look made 3D a logical next step in the development of the franchise. The directors, cinematographer, stereographer and VFX team agreed to treat 3D not as a gimmick but as a way to capture truer, more beautiful images, not unlike the transition from standard definition to high definition. "In look, the movie is very true to the franchise," says Lucchesi. "We maintained the same color palette and style. It feels very much the same in terms of its beauty and its elegance, but what differentiates it in a big way is that it's shot in 3D."
The film was shot with new RED Epic cameras. The cameras' extraordinary 5K resolution is roughly five times greater than that of HD. "So it's an amazing image quality," says Kasimir Lehto, the film's stereographer, who advised on all 3D issues and monitored the stereoscopic image while it was being recorded. "It is really clean and crisp."
While 3D is more prevalent than ever, many filmmakers opt for the simpler process of postproduction dimensionalization," says Wright. "Unlike many of the live action films out there, we actually shot in stereoscopic 3D for the entire film. It's immensely time consuming, it's very difficult and it makes every single shot of the movie a special effect."
It also creates an image that affects the human brain differently than post-production dimensionalization, according to the producer. "It just looks more real. It may not look as flashy because you're not carving out the different planes and highlighting them differently. The two cameras mimic the two eyes of the viewer, so you are seeing something that affects you emotionally and intellectually as a viewer."
Lehto concurs: "When the viewer is watching stereoscopic 3D, there's a psychophysical reaction. Since the visual information is received in the same way as we receive visual information from the world around us in real life, the body's actually sending signals to the brain that are consistent with the experience of reality. So the Lycans in Underworld Awakening are going to be super scary!"
The filmmakers take the technology to an even higher level for the finale of the film, a brutal battle that pits Selene and her small band of followers against the uber-Lycan. "We asked RED to give us a build that would allow us to shoot at a faster rate in 3D," says James McQuaide. "Until that point, we were only able shoot 72 frames a second. RED was good enough to make that a priority and they sent us what in essence is a pre-alpha build of the firmware that allows us to shoot 120 frames a second. It was the first time these cameras were ever used on a real movie. And I think people will really notice the difference. The tests that we did were phenomenal."
Lucchesi can't recall ever seeing such a visually stunning live-action 3D movie. "Most of the movies made have had such a large CG component, he says. "This has lots more live action, which is more challenging to make look good. The combination of the new RED Epics cameras, plus the inspired work done by our cinematographer, Scott Kevan, and our production designer, Claude Paré, and Len Wiseman's initial vision, has made for a uniquely beautiful 3D movie."
Studio photos, notes and videos © 2012 Screen Gems