Underworld: Evolution is the second in writer/director Len Wiseman's planned trilogy about the underground battle between the Death Dealers (vampires) and Lycans (werewolves). Like the first installment, Underworld: Evolution is heavily gothic, shot in very dark light and with lots of camera tricks, and obsessed with ancient blood feuds played out in the modern world. The story is again narrated by and centering on vampire Selene, played by Kate Beckinsale. And just like in the previous film, Beckinsale's Selene spends much of this movie kicking ass and taking names, mixing hand-to-hand combat with constant gunfire.
More so than in the previous film, however, Evolution's Selene is a character in her own right and not the pawn of the various powerful men who surround her. She is allied with the vampire-Lycan hybrid Michael, whose life she saves by making him part vampire in the previous film (he's played fairly ridiculously by Felicity's Scott Speedman), and she eludes to him being more powerful than she is, but she still calls the shots. More than anything, though, Selene and Michael go through the film seeming like equals. This is especially apparent in the climactic last battle scene, where he does not swoop in to save her, but fights with her, side-by-side, with her taking on one ancient undead brother and him taking on the other.
In the self-sufficiency and general ass whipping of Selene, Underworld: Evolution rates fairly highly on the heroine content scale. Unfortunately, aside from Selene, the film fails. The only other important female character is vampire elder Amelia, who is killed in the first film and then shown several hundred years earlier in the second film (portrayed by Hungarian actress Zita Gorog). As the first film focused on the coven of elder Viktor (Bill Nighy) and this one on the return of second elder Marcus (a quite good Tony Curran), I'd love to see the third focus on Amelia. The "minor" female characters consist pretty much of dead vampires in lingerie, which I could live without.
Another thing I found irritating about the film was the unnecessary gore. I have nothing against a little well-placed blood and guts, but this movie was just ridiculous in its level of nastiness. And it got really old. Once you've seen one disembowelment, you've really seen them all.
All in all, this is certainly not a great movie, anymore than the first one was. If you like this kind of thing, you'll probably find it enjoyable enough, but it's hardly a classic. However, Selene is a strong, independent female character, and she falls into surprisingly few typical girl character traps. For that, and especially because of the general feeling of equality between Selene and Michael, I give Underworld: Evolution three stars.