‘Underworld: Blood Wars’ review

'Underworld: Blood Wars' poster art

‘Underworld: Blood Wars’ poster art

  • Story by Kyle Ward & Cory Goodman
  • Screenplay by Cory Goodman
  • Directed by Anna Foerster
  • Starring Kate Beckinsale, Theo James, Charles Dance, Lara Pulver & James Faulkner

Death dealer Selene (Kate Beckinsale) must fend off brutal attacks from both the Lycan clan and the vampire faction that betrayed her. Joining forces with allies David (Theo James) and Thomas (Peter Andersson), she embarks on a quest to end the eternal war between the two races, even if it means making the ultimate sacrifice.

‘Underworld: Blood Wars’ is in cinemas now!

Judging by the sparsely filled cinema that we witnessed this film in ‘Underworld: Blood Wars’ is a film that very few expected. I however was pretty excited to see it. I’ve been a fan of this franchise from the first film (almost fourteen years ago?!) and have come to appreciate its few charms.

‘Underworld’ films are not for those who expect Oscar worthy performances or heavy; multi-layered plots. These films are for action fans who like a dash of horror and some well thought out backstory. They’re the action-horror equivalent of a ‘Fast & the Furious’ perhaps.

‘Underworld: Blood Wars’ can only really be described as an in-direct follow on to the previous film ‘Underworld: Awakening’. I say that because several plot elements from that film going entirely unmentioned here. The larger aspects such as Selene and Michaels daughter are still important. However much of the last film revolved around humans discovering the existence of vampires and lycans yet that is entirely forgotten.

Kate Beckinsale & Bradley James in 'Underworld: Blood Wars'

Kate Beckinsale & Bradley James in ‘Underworld: Blood Wars’

Instead ‘Underworld: Blood Wars’ shifts the focus of the franchise back on to its history and its legacy. The second film, ‘Underworld: Evolution’, gave us a lot of developments to the story of the vampire covens and elders which was reinforced by the third film ‘Underworld: Rise of the Lycans’. This in turn was shelved in ‘Underworld: Awakening’ only to return in this film. The franchise is at its strongest when it plays upon the huge wealth of backstory which has been developed.

The story of this film feels like it is trying to find a hybrid of the newer style (‘Awakening’ onwards) and older films. The technology is modern, the setting is bleak and very Eastern European. But it is Selene who is the most affected by this. Fans of the first ‘Underworld’ film will remember a cold and emotionless Selene. Robbed of her family, her elder vampire in deep slumber, she was focussed on her mission to wipe out the lycans. In the second film some were disappointed by the choice to remove the tension between leads Selene and Michael by stepping up the romantic subplot and having them perform a cheesy love scene.

That romance was only cemented in ‘Underworld: Awakening’ by giving the pair a daughter. However to its credit that film played on the mother-daughter bond and reinvigorated the character of Selene by giving her a new purpose.

This newest film finds Selene with absolutely no purpose. Existing only to survive which still seems to make her miserable. It makes sense to have separated Selene and her daughter but fails to capitalise on it properly. What would have made this film more compelling would be to have had Marius finding her and Selene coming out of hiding to save her.

There’s still enough of a war in to keep the film from become a total bore-fest. The war between vampires and lycans is renewed by the idea that Selene (or Eve’s) blood will help them win. The growing desperation of the vampires is a definite source of appeal for the film. I’d like to see this explored more in the future.

Interestingly the film ends of a vaguely positive note. Should the franchise continue the story is such that a new generation of characters can step in whilst the franchise stalwarts take a breather.

Casting on the film is appropriate. Bradley James tries his best to keep up with the returning Theo James but Varga comes off as more of a lovesick sidekick than a true villain. Tobias Menzies makes a great Lucian 2.0 and on a couple of occasions has us all fooled that he isn’t taking over from Scott Speedman as Michael. It’s Lara Pulver who chews up the most scenery as yet another villain: Semira.

Lara Pulver & Bradley James 'Underworld: Blood Wars'

Lara Pulver & Bradley James ‘Underworld: Blood Wars’

She exudes a vaguely campy yet wicked evilness (yes that’s a phrase) in all her scenes. If she didn’t enjoy making this she hides it well. The only regret is that she never gets to fight Selene first hand. Her death scene is easily the best ‘Underworld’ death since Viktor in the first film.

 

As expected the fight choreography is one of the films highlights. We saw the film in 3D which meant it was overly dark at times. We’ll be going back for a 2D showing to pick up more of the finer details. Kate Beckinsale is still in fine fighting form even after all this time. If my memory is correct this may be the first time Selene doesn’t perform her superhero jump though.

‘Underworld: Blood Wars’ is one of the lower budgeted films in the franchise but still looks great. Director Anna Foerster is better known for her TV work and there are moments that becomes evident in the film. Some of the films environments feel more constrained. Rather than allowing the camera to open up and exist around the characters they become more of a backdrop. It’s still an impressive effort given the number of locations in which the film takes place.

The CGI also doesn’t suffer from the minimal budget. There’s a few shaky moments, most evident when Marius takes on his werewolf form, but other than that ‘Underworld: Blood Wars’ maintains the franchise standard for sleek, sexy visuals.

Verdict

‘Underworld: Blood Wars’ is not the best film in the franchise but it is not the worst. It suffers from a lack of engaging story but makes up for it with well choreographed action and huge respect for its lead character. A film for ‘Underworld’ fans and perhaps not for general audiences.

3 stars

 

 

Here’s our playlist of trailers, clips and featurettes for ‘Underworld: Blood Wars’:

 

Neil Vagg

Neil is the GYCO Editorial Chief. He has a BA in Film & Tv and an MA in Scriptwriting; he currently works 9-5 as an office manager and 5-9 as a reviewer/web designer. He has been subscribing to comics for around nine years but has been reading them as long as he can remember. Favourite comics: Batman; Nightwing, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and All New X-Men Favourite films: Batman (any apart from & Robin); Star Trek Generations, Underworld, Beetlejuice Favourite TV shows: Fringe; Buffy, Arrow, TBBT, Being Human UK and Star Trek TNG

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