For the fourth installment in his inexplicably successful “Underworld” series, Len Wiseman takes up the story from the second of them, “Evolution” (the third, of course, being the inevitable prequel, “Rise of the Lycans”). In the aeons-long battle between vampires and lycans or werewolves, the heroic couple—svelte vampire warrior Selena (Kate Beckinsale) and her lover, hybrid Michael (Scott Speedman), had triumphed over their foes and things looked to be improving. As “Awakening” begins, however, the humans have learned about the vampires and lycans living among them and undertaken a “purge” to exterminate them. Selena and Michael fall to the storm troopers.

Flash forward twelve years. Selena is a cryogenically-imprisoned specimen in a genetic lab run by Dr. Lane (Stephen Rea). But she’s freed by another subject—as yet unrevealed—and escapes, leaving plenty of corpses in her wake. She’s pursued, of course, but aided by a fellow vampire, David (Theo James), who takes her to the underground coven ruled by his father (Charles Dance). And they have another refugee with them—Eve (India Eisley), a twelve-year old girl they’ve picked up along the way who unsurprisingly turns out to be the hybrid daughter of Selena and Michael, and the one who freed Selena.

The remainder of the movie is an extended assault on Dr. Lane’s Antigen lab, from which Selena escaped, and where Eve, recaptured by Lane’s lycan forces, has been taken for nefarious purposes. It seems that Antigen is at the center of a pro-lycan conspiracy dedicated not simply to preserving that species but using science to increase its strength exponentially. To rescue Eve, Selena will have to deal with the doctor’s most developed specimen, a guy who morphs into a huge, Hulk-like werewolf. Luckily she has some help from David and a sensitive cop (Michael Ealy).

Of course, all by herself Selena is one kick-ass broad, and Beckinsale, dressed once again in her tight-fitting black leather outfit, plays her with the same stonily determined countenance she exhibited in earlier installments; all the other muscles in her body are put to extreme use as she wallops and slices up her foes, but the facial ones barely move. She’s shown in other films that she can really act, but doesn’t bother doing so here.

Nobody else in the cast appears to be putting much effort into it, either. Rea walks through his part looking miserable, and Dance is no more animated. James, though studly enough, just musters a generalized energy. Ealy and Eisley try harder, but to no avail. As for Speedman, one gets a glimpse of him at the beginning (in footage that looks as though he’s been inserted in the same fashion Marlon Brando was in “Superman Returns”), but he’s otherwise absent. Still, the ending—which naturally sets the stage for a sequel—seems to promise more of him (or a substitute) next time around.

“Awakening” has the same dour blue-gray look that’s been standard in the franchise, and it’s no more attractive this time around. The CGI work is adequate but no more, and the 3D adds nothing—one would be well advised to opt for the regular print and avoid the surcharge.

The popularity of the first “Underworld” flick was frankly unexpected—most other stuff of this sort usually disappears after the first weekend. But along with the similar “Resident Evil” series (another episode of which is imminent), “Underworld” has attracted a small but fervent fan base that will turn out whatever they’re offered. “Awakening” is no better or worse than the previous entries in the franchise, which have been uniformly awful. It does, however, possess the virtue of brevity, clocking in at under ninety minutes—which in the case of a picture like this is welcome indeed.