Underworld: Blood Wars – Film Review by Fran Winston
Directed by: Anna Foerster
Starring: Kate Beckinsdale, Theo James, Lara Pulver, James Faulkner, Charles Dance
In cinemas January 13th
This is the fifth film in the Underworld franchise but if you’ve never seen one of the movies and are worried you won’t be able to follow this, fear not. They have very kindly inserted a segment at the beginning that gives you a quick recap of everything that has happened to date in order to bring you up to speed. And since they had the wherewithal to do this I won’t bother explaining the story arc so far. Suffice to say all you really need to know to follow this review is that Beckinsdale reprises her role as Selene, a Death Dealer – or in lay terms she’s like a vampire super soldier. She fights against the vampires mortal enemies the Lycans – or werewolves to you and I.
In between all the incredibly stylised fighting – which requires everyone to wear skintight leather in order to enter the fray – there is a story, I think. Actually I’m pretty sure there’s something about Selene’s daughter Eve who is a vampire lycan hybrid, being hunted by both sides. In order to protect her Selene has ensured she doesn’t know her location but of course no one believes that and both sides try to capture her and there’s something about drinking her blood because she can walk in the sun and that guy from the Divergent series (James) helps her out and becomes her sidekick. Or something like that.
If I seem rather glib about this tale, that’s because it only serves as a flimsy framework to hang the action scenes on. This is all about the kicking of ass – vampire ass, werewolf ass, hybrid ass – and the action scenes go all out. While they are indeed impressive (and seeing a strong female in a lead role kick the aforementioned butts is great) there is nothing in them that we haven’t seen before. Lots of slow mo, acrobatics, fancy blade work… It’s a case of style over substance.
To be fair pretty much every franchise is running out of steam by the fifth sequel (except Star Wars because technically part five was part two – you know what I mean!) and it is hard to maintain the momentum of earlier offerings. Despite this, there is a pretty impressive cast although they all completely ham it up, including Charles Dance. They are not helped by a turgid script that thinks using classical language will give a gravitas to this and convince you that these creatures are indeed ancient. Dialogue aside though this looks great – leather fetishists will love it!
I actually am a big fan of the vampire genre and I also know the back story so I may have enjoyed this more than some people would. Even if you are a fan of the franchise though, I would recommend keeping your expectations low. There is absolutely nothing new here and many of its trademarks are starting to look older than the supposedly immortal characters are meant to be.
The main problem is that this takes itself far too seriously and the premise is too ridiculous to be as dark as it’s trying to be. If there weren’t so many well known faces in this I’m pretty sure it would have gone straight to DVD. As it stands this will mainly appeal to die hard Underworld fans who will be thrilled to learn that a sixth movie is currently in development.