Monday, February 20, 2012

Blight Of Nature: Underworld Awakening

It would really be great if the aesthetic and cool factor of the Underworld franchise could be harnessed for characters who actually care about humans instead of just feeding off them. Alas, the problem with Underworld: Awakening is the same as with all previous editions of the story: we are asked to identify with a hero who hates us.
Selene almost always has weapons and that illusion of power is very appealing to people who do not constantly make an investment of faith and leave their lives up to God. I will not hesitate to confess that I wish I could take an axe and storm Congress like the Abraham Lincoln Vampire Slayer trailer, but the kind of power and action Selene takes in the Underworld series is not the kind of action that Christians are called to take, so the element of power and control vampires seemingly have undermines the most basic tenants of Christian faith when we are called to pray and have faith in God and leave vengeance to him (and granted, other films do this as well, GI Joe Retaliation will do this, for example, but there is a difference, a very fine line between sitting back and doing nothing and being a willing instrument of God's grace and taking power into your own hands and the later is what Underworld and like films do and why Christians have to be vigilant about them).
So, why should we care?
I'm not, by any means, saying, go out and see this film so you can expose yourself to it and feel the eroding in your soul; but Hollywood invested $70 million dollars to make this film, and it hasn't even grossed $60 million worldwide (which is the good news, maybe they will stop making them). That's an enormous amount of money to invest in a venture but, given the success of films such as Twilight and TV shows like Being Human, why wouldn't Hollywood producers think they could make money off this?
This is a great shot because it really provides the information that we need about this heroine with whom we are asked to sympathize with and identify. Please note her hair: hair is symbolic of the thoughts, it visualizes how our thoughts are holding together and taking shape; her hair is separating (the separate strands by her face that have been gelled to hold them together and apart from the rest of her hair), which is exactly how she thinks. Throughout the entire series, Selene makes up the rules as she goes along, she has no guiding principles and nothing is sacred to her, her thoughts are as separate and disparate as her hairstyle.
Why does American society so easily become entranced with vampires?
Because vampires have a threefold ingredient list making them appealing to younger people and people who have no spiritual grounding in their lives: first, their is usually some element of glamor; secondly, they appear to have power and, thirdly, vampires manage to find a dark place in a person's soul and bring that out, making the audience member think that they have vampire tendencies because sometimes they feel like outcasts or lonely (I did some posts on vampires last October and this post will build upon those; please see For the Dead Travel Fast: DraculaThe Undead: NosferatuThe Children Of the Night: Dracula 1931False Light: Interview With the Vampire).
Kate Beckinsale is a very beautiful woman, and has been named some men's magazine's most desirable woman in the world before and her beauty contributes to the aesthetic and glamor of the vampire (just as Tom Cruise, Antonio Banderas and Brad Pitt contributed their good looks to the aesthetic in Interview With the Vampire). The different elements of Selene's outfit gives us a better understanding of how un-connected her thoughts and beliefs are. She wears a corset, military style boots and a black S & M leather body suit. While the corset is meant to emphasize her femininity, or at least her sex appeal, her boots are meant to show that she has a masculine will (feet symbolize the will) and in Selene's case, we know that she's "a warrior" because that is her reputation and legacy, which usually belongs to a man. Lastly, her body suit, tight and slick, puts her in a sexually dominating position above males. In short, Selene is a Frankenstein monster of a vampire and so is her code of conduct which Thomas (Charles Dance), the leader of a coven of vampires, points out.
We have to remember: a vampire is a vampire is a vampire.
Symbolically, a vampire drinks the blood of humans, because those humans have failed to drink the blood of Christ and find for themselves eternal life in the Light of God. Instead, these films will show the damned souls as living a comfortable life, usually in a large castle or manor house, and with great wealth wearing cool clothes, drinking blood from expensive crystal glasses and they are always beautiful and eternally young. Even when the "vampire self" comes out in Underworld, it retains that semblance of beauty and power and makes the damned life desirable.
Please note her eyes, which, beside a slight elongation of the canine teeth, are the only indications that the vampire self is taking over. Why are vampires always beautiful? We could say it's an extension of the deadly sin of vanity: because they were so beautiful physically, they didn't care how they looked spiritually, and hence they were open to becoming evil because their main priority was to stay looking beautiful, not gain eternal life. What Underworld does differently than say, Van Helsing, is that in Van Helsingthe thin veil of glamor is torn asunder and we see them how they really are: demons from hell.
Vampires appear to be powerful.
I do not deny that evil has power (it most certainly does) something I will discuss at length in my next posting on Ghost Rider, but there is a strong difference between the power--as in the type of power of Good and the Soul that is devoid of evil that we find in Mary and the saints--and earthly that its use not only corrupts but leads to damnation (because you are use to using it to protect yourself and get what you want, so you completely depend on it and do everything you have to to keep it as if it were life itself). In Underworld, Selene can jump, fight, shoot guns, run fast, but what's the point, really? In an isolated context, this seems like cool stuff, but when compared to the soul's loss of grace, it is nothing, but that is never brought out.
The child of Selene and Michael, a hybrid vampire-werewolf, Eve. The fight for her really comes down to a power struggle in the film because Eve is supposed to be the most powerful of them all.
Lastly, vampires exhibit human characteristics which "feed on" the dark places within our souls to forge a bond with them so we start to identify with them and ultimately, want to become like them, they become role models. Vampires are demons, and that is all there is to it hence, they no more exhibit human characteristics than the heavenly angels who watch over us because both sets of angels are pure spirit that have nothing earthly about them. Selene, very much, is an evil Christ figure, the kind of Christ figure that Judas Iscariot wanted: God who would come down and fight, with swords and guns, our political and personal battles and make us rulers over the earthly world. These are people who reject the Good Shepherd, the Crucified One, the Eucharist and when we allow ourselves to be tempted by these visions of power, so do we.
In the closing lines, which are included in the trailer above, Selene prophecies that not only will the vampires survive in the world, but reclaim the world back from humans. Riding like a parasite upon a weak and tragic love story that would be familiar to humans, Underworld and other vampire films package anti-Christian practices and temptations to lure us away from our faith and the difficult path of eternal life. The problem is, all too often it works. If we know the aesthetic and the techniques, we can show others--especially our children--why these films are full of poison that must be rejected by Christians. It's not enough to say, "Don't watch that because I told you," by articulating the strategies of these films, we will teach others to recognize the forbidden fruit, the sugar-coating they put on evil, and why it means only death for us.