"Underworld: Awakening" begins with a tidy, three-minute wrap of the series' first two movies (the third, a 2009 prequel minus star Kate Beckinsale doesn't figure into the equation) before revealing the current grim state of affairs for its clashing vampires and werewolves.
Humans, at least those oblivious to the charms of the "Twilight" movies, have decided to stop killing each other and focus on eradicating creatures possessing fangs. Our vampire antiheroine Selene (Beckinsale) finds herself cryogenically frozen in a laboratory before someone (or something) mysteriously breaks the glass, facilitating her reemergence. Conveniently, her captors have left her spandex suit and knee-high black boots right next to her pod, though you'd think wiggling into that get-up after a dozen years of slumber would require a dexterity beyond even her extraordinary skills.
And make no mistake, those superhuman skills receive a workout in "Underworld: Awakening," a brisk creature-feature that ditches the series' dreary mythology in favor of a more direct, action-oriented approach. The "Underworld" movies could never exactly be called "fun," but Swedish directing duo Mans Marlind and Bjorn Stein manage to bring a bit of visual flair to the bloodletting along with another quality previously in short supply — competence.
That either makes "Awakening" the best movie in the burgeoning "Underworld" franchise or the worst, depending, I suppose, on how deeply you value the series' previous strained attempts at myth-making. Here, the four credited screenwriters have created a workable (though easily solved) mystery surrounding the 12-year-old girl (India Eisley, Shailene Woodley's little sister on the ABC Family series "The Secret Life of an American Teenager") who was frozen along with Selene, while wasting little time setting up a scenario that pits vampires against steroid-pumped werewolves (or Lycans, if you must) in numerous CGI-aided scenarios.