It’s been almost fourteen years since Kate Beckinsale, as Selene, first fit into her skin-tight catsuit, dual wielding her pistols in the direction of dozens of Lycans while simultaneously dealing with betrayal from within her very own coven. Several sequels and a disappointing prequel later, we have arrived at the series’ fifth film and I’m left wondering, did we even ask for more?
The Underworld series started a few years before glittering vampires flooded the big screen in an era where vampires and werewolves were still considered monsters and icons of fear. The series is much like that of the Resident Evil films, crafting sequel after sequel, upping the action and spectacle each and every time. The Resident Evil films; however, have recognized their overall silliness in a way that the Underworld series hadn’t, that is until Blood Wars.
Blood Wars continues the story from Underworld: Awakening, with Eve, the daughter of Selene, being hunted by both vampires and werewolves for her blood. While Eve herself isn’t technically a part of this film, the search for her through Selene is the focal point of the movie as both sides are doing whatever it takes to locate the young girl and attempt to gain unlimited power through her special hybrid blood. Blood Wars also attempts to fix a few issues for Selene that were created during the past few films, one of which; being hunted and somewhat exiled from her kind.
Director Anna Foerster makes her feature film debut here after directing a few small screen efforts like the Outlander series and Criminal Minds, and while most of the action is well framed and shot, there are some moments where the incredibly fast pacing hurts the use of several characters and makes certain events in the film feel predictable and therefore has to rely far too much on convenience. During the film, we are also introduced to a new element to the series and it is painfully obvious on how it would play into the movie, and when.
Kate Beckinsale is back as the main lead in the series, Selene the Death Dealer. While a few characters from past films show up, the focus on this series has always been about her and nothing in this film attempts to change that. Theo James, fresh from his role in the Divergent movies, is back as David. I’m not a terribly big fan of him and felt he doesn’t do a great job balancing this film opposite Beckinsale. There are some pretty big moments that he is part of, but he comes off as more of a supporting character than anything else. Game of Thrones actor, Charles Dance is back as the vampire elder Thomas and is vastly underused due to the quick pacing the movie has during key moments. There is also a massive moment for his character that no one seems to address later on in the film and it made absolutely no sense that they didn’t address it in some way.
Lara Pulver, as Semira is one of the key villains in the movie, and if I had to give an over-acting award to anyone in the past few years, she would win hands down. Her role as Semira is so over the top that she almost feels like she belongs in a completely different movie. Lastly, there is Tobias Menzies as Marius; the leader of the werewolf pack. I’ll address my biggest concern with him in the next paragraph of this review, but as an acting performance, we sadly are given almost nothing from him and by the time that he gets at least somewhat interesting, the movie is over. They do some very interesting things with him, but sadly the build up is so secretive that had we at least knew a little more of his role heading into the final moments of the film, I think he would have been a far better handled villain.
The Underworld movies have always had that blue-tinged look to nearly everything around it and that is still the case here. It does give the film a consistent look throughout the whole series and it generally works quite well. The problem visually with Underworld: Blood Wars is that almost anything created in a computer here is extremely poor and feels more at home with a low budget TV show. There is not a single visual effect in this movie that looks real in any respect. Marius, for example, is one of the worst visual effects I have ever seen, and his design is equally as bad as well, when in werewolf form. Any scene with the werewolf leader in his animal form is made even worse by the fact that he keeps most of his human face when transformed and this does absolutely nothing to strike any sort of fear into the viewer.
Blood Wars is such a problem-filled mess that I’m not sure where to start. There is some weird whispering at the start and end of the film that feels awkward and considering it is just repeating words spoken not even a few minutes prior, it makes no sense why this was even done. There is also a tremendous amount of heavy breathing in several scenes throughout the movie that stands out in a bad way. Anytime anything is mentioned about events in the prior movies or when another vampire tastes the blood of another vampire, there are countless and countless flashbacks to the prior movies. I would have to guess of the 92 minute run time that at least ten of those minutes is material from the prior films. There is also another horrible visual effect in the last few seconds of the film that is used to set up an eventual sequel that is clearly CG and a strong indication they haven’t even cast a real person for the role yet. There are also many more problems with the film, but sadly these criticisms fall well within spoiler territory and cannot be discussed in a review.
I’d have to say, the only thing I rather enjoyed about Underworld: Blood Wars were the northern vampires. They had some cool designs and the powers they use, while cheesy and unfitting with even how cheesy some of this series has gone, were still pretty interesting. I’m not sure why they even made this movie as it does nothing to further the series and in some ways, nothing really happened here. If you were not a fan of the Underworld movies before then nothing here is going to change your mind. I rather enjoyed the previous movies and walked away rather disappointed here. While Kate Beckinsale is still solid as Selene, nearly everything around her is woefully below average. This series either needs a shift back to becoming a bit more serious like the first film started or a complete reboot with new characters and a new direction. As it stands, Underworld: Blood Wars is sadly under-whelming.