Underworld: Blood Wars Review


For 13 years we’ve been caught in the middle of Kate Beckinsale’s Lycan-hunting warfare, a streamlined franchise that’s sustained many tests of time, especially Beckinsale’s ageless taking to vampire purity. I wondered who dared asked for a fifth chapter in this R-rated Twilight for adults, and I was answered by a moderately full NYC movie theater audience, who hooted and hollered as Selene waged bloody retribution against both hairy and pale factions. People turned out for what’s essentially an H&M BDSM orgy that’s interrupted by werewolves before any hanky panky can begin – but was their perseverance rewarded? By the grace of Nosferatu, Underworld: Blood Wars could have been way, WAY worse. I’ll admit that.

As previously noted, Beckinsale once again returns as the famed “Death Dealer” Selene. Even with no memory of her daughter Eve’s whereabouts, she’s still hunted by Lycan pursuers who demand the child’s blood. New alpha-male Marius (Tobias Menzies) aims to defeat his vampire enemies, posing a much more viable threat than any Lycan leader before. This is why new vampire councillor Semira (Lara Pulver) enlists Thomas (Charles Dance) to sway unpopular opinions on Selene, in hopes that her return to their Eastern stronghold will bring safety. With vampire futures in grave jeopardy, Selene – once an outcast – may be her species’ only hope of survival. Two sides, a miracle child and one chosen executioner – will an endless battle finally reach its final chapter?

Admittedly, there are some ridiculously fun moments of gothic B-Movie mutilation here. Selene slices and dices her way through CGI pooch monsters, and so does Theo James’ pouty-faced David with ample vigor. One of the film’s gnarliest attacks occurs when a wet, glistening David lunges out of a majestic pool, only to slash a Lycan clean in half from the groin up. One swift motion. Both pieces flop to their respective sides, oozing juicy-red guts. Kudos, director Anna Foerster – CGI gore isn’t always pulled off so cleanly! Same goes for a Predator-esque spine rip, and a few other gruesome slayings worth the duller sequences of grim, grainy clan clashing.

That said, Underworld: Blood Wars is edited like a whirlwind music video without any respect for flowing continuity. Look no further than an opening chase sequence where cameras cut between Selene and her pursuers with unfocused whiplash. The frame fixates for a few seconds, cuts away, flashes somewhere else, and after a few dozen blackout fades, we’re dizzied by hapless scene construction.

These fades plague the entirety of Selena’s latest campaign, cheapening cinematography that so attempts to paint fantastical violence against a castle-crashing backdrop. Not that you can even make out half the sequences that are aggressively masked in dark shadows – we get it, vampires hate the light. We still want to see the action, though.

Animations brings Marius and his Lycan pack to life, and – as expected – transformations are one-note write offs. Human forms bulge and contort before morphing into a fuzzy werewolf outline we’ve grown dully accustom to. Lycans growl and snarl, lunging at vampire throats, but even Marius’ beefed-up wolfie-on-steroids can’t muster impressive genre effects akin to An American Werewolf In London how many years back? Even something like David Hayter’s Wolves offers more appealing creatures, cuddly zip-up costume aesthetic and all. These are the big-budget genre times we must endure, I guess.

Even so, Beckinsale still owns Selene after all these years. Her femme fatale with Halloween fangs stands as one of our more domineering female action heroes, fighting the genderfied constrictions of skin-tight leather jumpsuits. Selene is a vampiric force; a light-as-air adventurer with renegade appeal. Theo James can flash Blue Steel as much as he wants, but nothing distracts from Beckinsale’s gun-blasting, Lycan-erasing freedom fighter. Not even Lara Pulver’s increasingly-exposed cleavage (and shrinking clothing) or Bradley James’ hilariously-placed upright eat-out anecdote. Yes, James playing Pulver’s man-bitch is as comical as it sounds – especially since the film’s most (only?) scintillating sex scene represents nothing but a power play. Bad bitches gonna get theirs!

Anna Foerster’s directorial debut is no dead corpse, but that doesn’t mean Underworld: Blood Wars is a roaring success. Certain battle sequences are curiously engaging – think medieval combat mixed with monsters and emo heartthrobs – while others are cast under a shadow of murky, soulless lensing. Vampires march around in all-black sausage casings that can only be described as “Skrillex chic,” while Lycans embrace their hobo vibe with Seattle-grunge resolve – but that’s the only personality Foerster can manage.

It’s all Hot Topic sexy and whatnot, yet lackluster attention to technical details sucks the life out of surprisingly vicious genre bubblegum – the stuff you can chew for days if sweetened just right. Will diehard fans care? Probably not. Only those looking for a bit more substance than Theo James’ perfume-commercial smolder and a few splatter-worthy finishing moves will.

If it makes money, why fix it? Broke or not (based on opinions).

Underworld: Blood Wars Review

Underworld: Blood Wars is the kind of mainstream horror I want to champion, but lacklustre technical aspects nullify Kate Beckinsale's kick-ass performance.