Review - 'Underworld: Blood Wars'
I know the Underworld films have never been viewed as high art, but I've always had sort of a soft spot for them and have enjoyed watching the creators flesh out the mythology of the centuries-old vampire/lycan rivalry. I'm sad to report that while there is still a modicum of fun to be had here; this latest film is the first one that seems wholly unnecessary and abundantly silly.
Underworld: Blood Wars tracks Selene (Kate Beckinsale) and David (Theo James) who are both caught in the crossfire between the vampires and lycans. The two sides each wish to find Selene's daughter because she possesses a special type of blood that can end the war...I think.
Alright, so, while I don't religiously watch the Underworld films, I've seen all of them at least a couple of times each. Based off of that knowledge I still couldn't quite grasp what was going on in this film. The plot and character motivations are so murky and the rapid pacing of the film doesn't allow any breathing room for me to think about whether any of it was actually making any sense. There's also starting to be way too many characters with special abilities that I really don't care about. Selene has super powers, Selene's daughter has super powers, David has super powers, both of the main villains have super powers...Who doesn't have super powers?! It's like what Syndrome said in The Incredibles: "When everyone's super...No one will be!"
I also didn't feel like anything important was at stake throughout the entire duration of the film. There was not one single moment where I felt any twinge of emotion. Blood Wars is empty entertainment and very "filler episode" in nature. Also, at just around ninety minutes, there's not enough time to flesh out any of the films ideas in a satisfying way. The movie is constantly jumping from moment to moment without good transitions.
Also not working in Underworld's favor is the low-rate CGI, especially Marius's Lycan-form which serves as today's equivalent of Dwayne Johnson's Scorpion King from The Mummy Returns. Despite the lacking effects-work; the action can be brutally satisfying at times. I could be wrong, but this latest entry seems like the bloodiest affair of the five releases. There's even a moment towards the end that is so comically violent that I half expected to hear the Mortal Kombat announcer shout: "FINISH HIM!" and then see the classic splattered red text fill the screen indicating a fatality.
The film manages to save some face due to its game cast. Selene doesn't have much of an interesting character arch here, but she still has undeniable charisma and continues to bring her A-game in the action department. I also didn't mind Theo James as her companion, David, even if on paper he's a pretty bland character. Then we have Lara Pulver and Tobias Menzies who play Semira and Marius, respectively. Pulver plays the vicious wannabe leader of the vampires (and sexual deviant) and she is a joy to watch as she chews scenery. Menzies plays the Lycan leader Marius and isn't quite as fun to watch as Pulver, but still manages to add some much-needed villainous flavor to the otherwise dull proceedings.
Director Anna Foerster, who's previously served directing duties on the excellent Outlander television series at least knows how to make a good-looking film, even if the CGI isn't up to snuff. Underworld has always been drenched in blue, and that doesn't change here, but there are more colors on display in Blood Wars that offset the overwhelming blues in a nice way. The Nordic coven is back-dropped by the colorful northern lights, and when we are within the confines of these vampire fortresses, there are always bright torches flickering against the darkness that give everything a really enticing and ancient look.
Overall, Underworld: Blood Wars was not what I would call a terrible film. There is definitely fun to be had, but if you were looking for a meaningful continuation of the Underworld story, you're not going to find it here. This series has completed its genre transition from action-horror to just plain B-level action, and if that's all you're looking for, you might enjoy this latest entry. For me, I'd like a little more thought put into the sixth entry, if there is to be one.