Upfront I’ll admit I’m not an Underworld fan. I watched the first two movies and found them mediocre – taking the intriguing premise of a war between vampires and werewolves and smothering it in latex and completely redundant gun battles. Back in 2003, the first supernatural actioner was clearly trying to mimic The Matrix. Thirteen years later, times have changed, and there’s a new hit for Underworld: Blood Wars to ape with absolutely no imagination.
Movie #5 (think about that for a moment) in the Underworld series comes across as Game of Thrones transferred over to the CW, but with its R-rating intact. Vapid young hotties like Theo James strut around in black – or go shirtless – while the seasoned pros, including Thrones’ Tobias Menzies and Charles Dance, are left to handle the political power plays. And there are loads of them. Betrayals and gory assassinations come thick and fast in Blood Wars, but with zero emotional investment.
Plot has never been a strong point in the Underworld series, and it feels especially convoluted in Blood Wars. Following a quick recap of the past four movies, we meet veteran death dealer, Selene (Kate Beckinsale), who is on the run from both her vampire kin and the werewolves (called lycan here). After wanting her head, the vampires now need her to train a new generation of warriors as their species teeters on the brink of extinction. The lycans, meanwhile, want the location of Selene’s daughter, so they can use her special hybrid vampire-werewolf blood to enhance their abilities, and finally defeat their foes.
This may sound straightforward enough, but entwined with the basic storyline are schemes, secrets, revelations about rulership rights, and blah blah blah. This is even before magic comes into play, and Selene finds herself in a remote vampire enclave with Daenerys Targaryen and a bunch of high elves who really should have upgraded their swords to assault rifles by now.
Don’t expect Blood Wars to show any creativity in regards to the rigid world it has created of sleek, stiff vampires and shaggy, hobo lycans. And don’t expect anything to be explained. Information is routinely dropped without any indication of its significance. Blood Wars will give you a headache even before the pointless, point blank gun battles begin.
To be fair, it’s not a complete disaster. Sherlock’s Lara Pulver makes a striking, serpentine antagonist with a fondness for cutaway clothing. Beckinsale also has more to do emotionally this time around. Selene’s nihilism sees her flinging herself into every battle with a disturbing masochism that stems from the loss of everyone she has ever loved. It’s an interesting shift, but frustratingly the character also seems to have suffered a demotion in screen time. New cast members routinely receive more focus than her.
Perhaps if you are an inductee into the Underworld fandom, Blood Wars will satisfy. Maybe for a casual cinemagoer, its 90 minutes will offer enough visceral entertainment to be worthwhile. Personally, I couldn’t mine any enjoyment from proceedings. The film is relentlessly dour. It doesn’t even have the “coolness” factor working in its favour, which the similar Resident Evil franchise does so well. Not a single fight scene in Blood Wars gets the heart racing. Combined with the fact that the Underworld franchise has coasted along with one aesthetic for five movies now, it all feels as tired as Selene.
Worst of all, Underworld: Blood Wars doesn’t even provide a proper resolution. By the time the credits roll, little has been clarified, and nothing changed in the grand struggle between supernatural beings. In a colossal waste of time, it’s simply a set-up for the inevitable Underworld 6. And if things continue on their current track, you may want to ready your stakes and silver.
Last Updated: December 1, 2016