The Rules of the Monster Sci-Fi Action Series

ann hale thinks Underworld: Awakening should be the final film in the series …

When is enough really enough with movie series?

Recently, I watched Underworld: Awakening and, while I was a little excited about a new one, I was concerned that they were taking it a step too far. In the end, the film was a bit disappointing, but I understood why this film had to be made — the series hadn’t completed the rules of the Monster Sci-fi Action series.

Every series has to follow a certain formula. Once that formula is complete, any movie in the series afterward will be a complete waste of film. For example, slasher films follow their own formula. Something happened to them as a child, which forces them to take their rage out on a bunch of drunken teenage sluts that had nothing to do with the original issue. Once they kill off their heroine, the inevitability is that the killer will search out their remaining relatives to kill them or they will end up in space. If they reach this point in the series, they have gone too far.

Now, think back to film series like: Blade, Alien, Resident Evil, The Terminator, and The Mummy. They all seem like different movies, right? Wrong. They all may have different themes, but they follow the same formula, the monster sci-fi action series formula. They also have another similarity — they all (with some exception) have produced sequels that took the series too far, were poorly made or completely unnecessary. And it looks like Underworld may be following in their footsteps as the ending of Awakening suggests a sequel … a sequel that should not made.

But let’s think about these series I mentioned — when should they have stopped making sequels to the films? What made Alien: Resurrection so bad? The Mummy: The Tomb Of The Dragon Emperor? Terminator Salvation? Resident Evil: Afterlife?

The answer is simple: They had already completed the rules of the series and had nothing else to offer. It’s like going out and being served the perfect four course meal and then returning to that restaurant the next day just to find out they are now only serving plates of steaming donkey turd.

But what are these rules that I’ve mentioned. Well, without further ado, I give you the rules of the Monster Sci-Fi Action series (in no particular order):

1. The New Love Interest

Our star has to a love interest. Without them, there would be no leverage against them or no large dramatic scene over their loss, causing the hero to grow as a person while being fueled by their rage. For instance, Blade falls in love with Nyssa in Blade II. She is a vampire, a group he is sworn to kill, yet he fights for her anyway and mourns her death. Sarah Connor falls for Kyle Reese, sent from the future to protect her from the Terminator so she can give birth to John, savior of the future world. Kyle also turns out to be the father of John. Kyle dies to save Sarah. Rick and Evy fall in love in The Mummy, creating a brains and brawn fighting team. Her death gives him the power to defeat the Scorpion King. Underworld creates the love connection between Selene and Michael. Shes a vampire, he has DNA the lycans want. He eventually turns into a werewolf and, thanks to his DNA and the introduction of vampire blood, becomes a hybrid stronger than either race individually. Their love, and his existance, creates the foundation for all of the sequels in the series.

2. The Death of a Loved One

The death of a loved one usually happens in a sequel. This forces them to fight with a new fury to exact revenge for their loss. Blade loses Whistler. Ripley loses her daughter. Alice loses her love interest Carlos. In Underworld: Awakening, Selene loses Michael, sending her into a crazy man murdering rage, which I will admit was pretty badass.

3.The Appearance of a Child

The appearance of a child can be used for many different reasons. One, it can show the passing of time. If our hero/heroine now has a seven year old kid, you obviously know that at least seven years have passed. Two, the child can now be their partner in their fight. If the child sports unusual powers or incredible intelligence, which they usually do, they can prove to be a useful sidekick to our hero/heroine. Three, to show the soft side of our tough exteriored main character. Four, to make the audience feel the full impact of a parental death. For example, Blade Trinity brings in Zoe, the daughter of the murdered Sommerfield, who gets kidnapped by Dracula and Blade must save her. The Mummy Returns brings in Alex, son of Rick and Evy. His intelligence helps save the day more than once. Underworld: Awakening introduces us to Eve, the daughter of Selene and Michael. Eve shows that twelve years have passes and proves to be quite a big help in Selenes fight as she is the perfect mix of vampire and lycan. She also shows the soft side of Selene, as Selene is forced to risk it all to save her daughter more than once.

4. The Resurrection

The resurrection doesnt have to mean that someone was dead. This could mean that they were previously in a cryo-state. After Alien, Ripley put herself into her sleep pod only to awaken 57 years later. Blade searches all over the world for Whistler, who has been turned into a vampire and cryogenically frozen. Evy gets killed in The Mummy Returns, just to be brought back to life by the power of The Book of the Dead. In Underworld: Awakening, Selene has been cryogenically frozen and is released by the twelve year old daughter that she didnt know existed.

5. Asshole Scientists at Fault

There has to be someone to blame for all the strange shit going down. The easiest place to turn is to scientists. They are always messing around with stuff — finding cures, building space stations, creating zombie plague. In Resident Evil, The Umbrella Corporation released the T-Virus into the underground hive, causing all of its workers to turn into flesh eating zombies, then released their weapon, Alice to destroy them. Skynet built artificial intelligence, which eventually becomes aware of its power and turns against the humans in order to take over the world. Weyland-Yutani sends Ripley, Burke, and a crew to LV-426 to find the cause of their communication black out and to destroy any aliens they might find, but they really just want Burke to bring back alien DNA. Underworld: Awakening introduces us to a group of scientists who are expirementing with lycan and vampire DNA to create the ultimate monster.

6. The Hot Badass Female Character

Action stars used to be predominantly male: Arnold Schwarzenegger, Sylvester Stalone, Clint Eastwood. The introduction of Lt. Ellen Ripley changed the action world forever. Sure, there were female action stars before her like Pam Grier, but Ripley brought female badassdom into high budget Hollywood film. Ripley proved that women can beat as much ass and wield crazy weapons just a well as any guy. Since Alien, the Monster Action films have seen numerous ass kicking women. Blade: Trinity brought in Abigail Whistler (Jessica Biel), daughter of Blade’s mentor, who could use a bow and arrow like nobodies business. Resident Evil had Alice, a mutant zombie/human who had ridiculous powers that only seemed to grow. Terminator had Sarah Connor who was scary muscular and fought with the fury of a loving protective mother. Underworld introduced us to Selene, a soldier for the vampire cause, killing lycans and sporting leather so tight we didnt even have to imagine what she looked like naked.

7. The Comic Relief

In order to lighten the mood, and make more interesting deaths, there has to be a comic relief character. Their job is to keep you laughing so you dont get too serious about previous deaths or the upcoming horrors that await. Basically, they give you movie induced bi-polar disorder. Aliens gives us the wise cracking Hudson (Bill Paxton) who seems to think he is invicible but proves not to be. Resident Evil Apocalypse has L.J. (Mike Epps) the funny pimp looking guy with the custom gun. Even Arnie turns to comedy in Terminator 2. Blade: Trinity had both Hannibal King (Ryan Reynolds), the Nightstalker sidekick, and Danica Talos (Parker Posey), the vampire with obvious mental issues. This is the only factor Underworld is lacking and it isn’t enough to carry on a fifth installment on its own.

8. The Double Gun

I wont even bother with examples. We have all seen it. Eventually, they all pull out two guns to show that A) they are such awesome marksmen that they dont even need to take the time to line up their shot, and B) they are so strong that they can take the kickback of two guns at once while taking out every target in the room. Plus, I’m sure there is some hidden penis envy in there.

9. The Ultra Super Mega Monster

Eventually, it has to come to this. We have already seen our hero beat a tough enemy in the first film but now we need more. In order to prove the real power of our hero, they must defeat the seemingly undefeatable enemy. Ripley fights her way through a colony of acid bleeding Xenomorphs, in Aliens, just to face the Queen, who is really pissed off that Ripley torched her eggs. The Terminator returns in Terminator 2 to help fight the T-1000 who is made out of liquid metal and is far more advanced than the Terminator himself. Alice has to fight her friend Matt, who is now Nemesis, in Apocalypse. In Extinction, she not only has to defeat super zombies but also Tyrant, who is basically a guy pumped full of the Anti-Virus. Then, in Afterlife, she has to beat the Executioner Majini, a massive dude with a hammer axe thing. In Underworld, Selene has to fight an ancient vampire, Victor, to save Michael. In Evolution, she and Michael must defeat the world’s original vampire, Marcus and his brother William, the world’s first werewolf. Now, in Awakening, Selene and her daughter must defeat the hybrid lycan scientists who kept her frozen for a dozen years.

After looking at the rules, let’s look at when these series could’ve actually ended.

With Terminator, all factors were complete by the end of Terminator 2, which is why the third was so bad. Resident Evil could have stopped after Extinction, Alien after Aliens (even though Alien 3 was pretty badass and possibly the exception to the rule), and The Mummy after The Mummy Returns. Blade was the only series smart enough to stop before it got too ridiculous.

Now that Underworld has introduced the child factor, there is nowhere for it to go but downhill. Lets face it, the introduction of a child is pretty much always a step in the cheese direction anyway. There is nothing left for Underworld to give us and, if they follow their pattern of releasing a movie every three years, come 2015 we will all be served a steaming plate of donkey turd.

Just a giant nerd in love with horror, 80's action flicks, Star Wars and Harry Potter. Hit me up on Twitter or Instagram @scarletjupiter to talk horror or just to browse the horror collection.