It wasn’t until I completed my Christmas Eve review of Underworld on 4K Blu-ray (here) that I realized how hated the franchise was in my inner circle of confidants. I felt like a minority for the first time in my life. However, that’s not to say there aren’t fans out there because there totally are. All you have to do is look no further than the endless forums of fans proclaiming their love for the 2003 film now on 4K Ultra HD to realize there’s still a viable fanbase out there. Although I don’t think any one of them can honestly look me in the eyes without smirking and say 2012’s Awakening was the strongest of the franchise and deserved a follow-up. I would have been A-okay if that was the final nail in the coffin, but low and behold we have a new entry in the seemingly never-ending franchise, that truly lives up to its subject matter…vampires. It’s 2016 folks. Once again the new Underworld film, this time dubbed Blood Wars, saw a spectacular January theatrical release date. We all know what that means for films like these so let’s now take a look at how well Blood Wars fairs down below.
Word on the street is this new Underworld entry was originally intended to serve as a reboot of the franchise. However, that never materialized and an idea was hatched to continue the storyline with the familiar Kate Beckinsale as Selene and the never-ending Corvinus Strain plot. It’s officially dubbed the fifth installment. God help us all, huh? Exactly! So with all this on the line why don’t we just throw this franchise to a brand new motion picture director? Well that’s exactly what they did as Anna Forester makes her directorial debut here. In addition to Beckinsale the main cast here also includes Theo James, Tobias Menzies, Lara Pulver, Peter Andersson, Clementine Nicholson, Bradley James and Charles Dance.
So the Vampire death dealer Selene (Beckinsale) continues her plight from where we last left her in Awakening. She’s on the run hunted by both the Lycans and the Vampire faction that betrayed her. Both sides want to obtain and use the blood of her and her daughter to become Corvinus Strain hybrids, walk amongst the sun and all that jazz. In case you forgot from 2012 Michael and Selene had a hybrid daughter, Eve, and since we last left them that’s the last time Selene ever saw either of them. However, it’s safer for everyone if they all remain hidden. But the nevertheless the Vampires are able to lure Selene out of hiding with the help of both David (James) and his father Thomas (Dance). Because they fear the newly risen Lycan leader, the Vampire elders want Selene to train new death dealers to end the eternal war between the two rival parties. Yawn is right!
Now of course there are a few twists and turns here or there throughout Blood Wars’ 90-minute runtime, but it’s ultimately the execution of things here that completely unravel any life the franchise still has left. Let me tell you why. Remember the bad acting, ridiculous action sequences and story of 2012’s Awakening? Well it’s pretty much more of the same here, but worse. It even gets wordy here too muddied down with endless politics. Action-wise it’s like do you even give the actors 5 minutes worth of how to hold a gun and fire it training before you yell action? I cringe throughout moments of gunfire here because it’s like watching Padme shoot a blaster in the Star Wars Prequels or something. Yes, it’s really that bad!
Besides Kate’s Blu-ray eyes, pasty white skin and tight leather outfits that Beckinsale squeezes into the only redeeming quality of Blood Wars for me was the character of Semira (Pulver). I like her motivations and evil actions, but come on a sword fight? I know Underworld films have all that Gothic undertone to it all, but the sword fights here made me feel like I was watching Pride, Prejudice & Zombies. And what the hell are you doing in this Charles Dance? You’re actually a great actor. I can understand Theo James, who returns to this installment (Selene brought him back to life), but why are you back Charles? Like Matt Damon in that ridiculous The Great Wall film they got him to do, you have so much more potential and talent than this. I guess it’s like they always say that every one has a price. Just think of Bruce Willis and Nic Cage.
Last but not least we get to see how Vampires and Lycans fare in the harshest of environments, cold, ice and snow (since wolves are warm-blooded). While that battle is quite laughable and forgettable it’s nothing compared to how bad and I’ll use the word again, laughable, the main Lycan baddie, Marius (Menzies), looks as he transforms into some kind of human/wolf. You’re not supposed to laugh at terrifying moments like that, but that’s exactly what you’ll do. You can take that to the bank. Honest to God, 90-minutes never feels so long as it does when you’re watching this one. Rest assured, you do find out why Selene sports blonde locks so there’s always that. But those friggin’ wigs. There’s nothing that takes me out of a film faster than faulty hairdressing. When your main antagonist has such a horrible looking wig how the hell am I supposed to take the film even remotely serious?
People tell me Kate Beckinsale is reason enough to go see this movie, but I’m telling you they’re wrong. Kate Beckinsale is the reason why you don’t want to go see this movie. Her career has gone nowhere so why would you think it could be resurrected by yet another unnecessary addition to this franchise? I honestly feel bad for her even though I shouldn’t because she’s making mad money and I’m writing this drudge. Despite all the violence, blood squirts and action sequences it’s essentially the technical aspects of it all that Underworld Blood Wars drowns in. Like I said up above the gunplay is horrendous and the main bad guy’s Lycan transformation is hysterically laughable. Even after my second viewing on 4K Ultra HD once I see his Lycan/human face I embarrassingly lose all interest in this fifth franchise entry. There’s nothing redeeming about this film to me other than the end credits themselves. It’s an embarrassing exercise in filmmaking and one I truly believe that has drained the franchise out of all its blood, but I said that 2012 too and look at where we’re at now. Who knows.
The below video score and related critique of things here are based solely upon my viewing of the 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray presentation of Underworld Blood Wars with some minor comparisons to the 1080p Blu-ray source.
- Encoding: HEVC / H.265
- Resolution: 4K (2160p)
- Aspect Ratio: 2.40:1
- Clarity/Detail: While there’s not much color to be found at all here that doesn’t mean it’s short on any detail. It’s just missing clarity as far as comprehensive feature film goes. Ha ha. I kid! Thanks in part to the HDR nothing gets lost in the shadows and all stubble, moles, freckles, scars, etc. on the vampire character’s skins are as visible as they are when they’re in the dark (get it?). Fine textures can also be seen in the clothing and intricacies in the many elaborate set designs such as in brick, water on surfaces, etc.
- Depth: With the exception of the HDR here’s one of my favorite parts of this 4K presentation the vast depth of field some shots exhibit, almost three-dimensional at times. Take for example this shot where Selene marches into the vampire castle as an outcast and approaches this circle staircase with vampires all up and down it. That looked three-dimensional to me. Thanks in part to the detail the characters all have that 3D pop to them all against their backgrounds. Whether you’re in a tunnel or castle halls the depth of field is pretty amazing here.
- Black Levels: The black levels are heavy, but they’re exactly the kind we want here, deep and inky. I said it before and I will say it again kudos to the HDR here. The Blu-ray doesn’t look awful in SDR, but rest assured this 4K presentation is phenomenal in the way that nothing really gets lost in the darkness of it all. That includes fine detail. One of my favorite darkness/HDR infused scenes has to be the beautiful candle lit vampire party in the gardens held to celebrate Selene’s arrival.
- Color Reproduction: Here’s where things really aren’t worth writing home about in this category. This obviously wouldn’t be your 4K demo disc of choice here as the color is pretty much non existent thanks in part to the dark blues and gothic feel of it all. It’s dark, foggy and hazy pretty much throughout the entire presentation. However, Selene’s Blu-ray blue eyes and UV bullet rounds really pop nicely here. Other than that this feature is pretty void of any coloring. Rest assured it’s to be expected though.
- Flesh Tones: The temperatures of the skin tones are natural and pasty white throughout. I have nothing to complain about here, but members of other races probably would. Sorry. I could not resist after all the strides Hollywood is making to break down oppressive gender and race walls.
- Noise/Artifacts: Other than the darkness, lack of color, foggy scenes and haze there’s absolutely nothing to nitpick this presentation over. I did not discover any anomalies or ugliness other than the depressing color palette that is. Ha ha.
Like I mentioned up above in the video section, the below audio score and critical comments of such are based solely upon my viewing of the 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray presentation of Underworld Blood Wars. I’m sorry to report some bad news folks, but Sony skimps in the audio department here. Oh no! The 4K UHD disc comes armed with a nice, bombastic Dolby Atmos surround track, but the regular 1080p Blu-ray only gets a DTS-HD MA 5.1 surround track. Boo!
- Audio Format(s): English Dolby Atmos (Dolby TrueHD 7.1 compatible), French (Quebec) 5.1 DTS-HD MA, English Audio Description Track 5.1 Dolby Digital
- Subtitles: English SDH, English, French
- Dynamics: I’m really pleased with the Dolby Atmos surround track that bombastically explodes in this 4K ultra HD Blu-ray presentation. There’s a lot going on, but despite all of this the dialogue remains prioritized and audible throughout. You have to love that! There’s also a sense of danger and directionality throughout that ensues during all the onscreen action. Every moment is brought to life with the utmost of clarity and audible intensity. In other words you feel like you’re taking all the blows onscreen and when there’s a mild, quiet lull you appreciate it. It’s quite immersive in that regard.
- Height: Dolby Atmos is used quite effectively throughout in this presentation from bringing the onscreen action to realistic life to adding ambiance and effects to the overall surround sound package. Fine examples of Dolby Atmos use include, but not limited to the following: a helicopter in the film’s beginning, rain falling, thunderstorms up above, arrows being fired at up above targets, throwing stars hovering overhead past you, gun shots and so much more.
- Low Frequency Extension: The LFE channel can be quite punishing here when called upon during the many moments of brutal onscreen action and carnage throughout. From kicks, punches and gunfire to effects such as rumble, heartbeats and more the subwoofer provides the gusto and underlying aggression of it all. Trust me when I say some of the rapid fire gunshots are quite punishing here.
- Surround Sound Presentation: Here’s what I love. The rear channels are actively and healthily engaged throughout. I can find no fault with them as every direction the onscreen action takes it’s faithfully reproduced around you. You’ll find the rear channels filled with score, ambient moments, effects, various weapons being used, gunshots galore, motorcycles zooming by, rain, ominous tones, trains, Lycan roars and so much more.
- Dialogue Reproduction: The dialogue levels in this surround presentation are all loud, clear and intelligible throughout. Despite not wanting to hear all the bad dialogue I never had a problem missing any of it.
The Blu-ray, 4K UltraHD and Digital releases of Underworld Blood Wars all feature the official graphic novel, an animated rendering of the entire film. In addition, the Blu-ray, 4K Ultra HD, DVD and digital releases of Underworld Blood Wars include the featurettes: “Old & New Blood” and “The Evil Evolved.” Two additional featurettes on the Blu-ray, 4K Ultra HD and Digital releases (not on DVD) include “The Evolution of Selene” and “Building a Blood War.” Don’t forget about the Digital HD file redeemable at your favorite UltraViolet locker. Come on Let’s sink your fangs into all these extras housed on the 1080p Blu-ray disc in more detail below.
- Official Movie Graphic Novel (HD) – Here we have an animated rendering of the entire film. Yay! You kind of have to flip through it page by page like you were reading a comic book. I honestly could not find a way to zoom in sadly. Maybe there is and I’m just dumb. However, I thought the best way to tell you about this extra is just to show you in the screenshot below.
- The Evolution of Selene (HD, 8:09) – This one should go without saying is all about Selene and her growth over the series into the deadliest of all Death Dealers. Through cast and crew interviews we discuss Selene’s timeline over the past 5 films as well as where we meet her here in Blood Wars. I got to say that this one is worth it just to see Kate in full interview mode as she lights up the screen literally with her beauty. She radiates and sparkles on you TV after just watching that dark, drab of a film. Maybe this extra should be a required follow-up after watching the feature. Ha ha. The director even goes on to say working with Kate as the character of Selene is an incredible asset. You got that right! I can agree with the fact that this particular Selene adventure is a very spiritual one. And guess what guys and gals they say a sixth Underworld is not out of the question. Great!
- Building a Blood War (HD, 12:03) – Here director Anna Foerster, her creative team and producers explain what it takes to bring the cutting edge visual effects and the underworld aesthetic to life. This one is the closest thing you have here as a behind-the-scenes making kind of documentary. I did learn there are roughly 650 special effects in the film and apparently is a lot higher than previous entries. They talk about the human hybrid Lycan leader I love so much and how he was created. Yay! It is cool though how they compare in here the tech they used to what they were able to do in the previous films. An example was given like in the third film how one or two Lycans transformed at once and now they can all be transforming at the same time or in stages, etc. They also talk about how they pay homage to the first film with bringing back the Gothic feel of it all. I do love the talks about and seeing the real castle where the vampires make home here. There’s obviously a lot more here as they go into the costumes, set designs, challenges, etc., but I want to leave some for you explore and learn about too.
- Old & New Blood (HD, 6:15) – In this extra fans can receive an in-depth look at some of the returning characters here as well as the new ones. This one starts off with the cold weathered Nordic coven as well as the new concept this introduces in Underworld such as their spiritual practices and different language. Then we also examine Eastern coven and the members we’re familiar with as well as some new ones too. It kind of bounces back and forth between the two here.
- The Evil Evolved (HD, 6:07) – In this extra fans can hear from Lara Pulver, James Faulkner Daisy Head, Bradley James and Tobias Menzies about the evolution of their characters in the film. This one looks at the life of the vampires, their evil, secret agendas within and even the new Lycan leader in here.
So there you have it…another Underworld entry into the franchise that did not need to be. I really wish they could have stopped after Rise of the Lycans. Not only was it a great entry, but it didn’t need any followup. Underworld Blood Wars is what happens when one becomes greedy and can’t reproduce the success they once had, try and try again. I’m not going to bash this one anymore though because if last year’s Suicide Squad taught us anything, it’s that one man’s trash is another man’s treasure. So with that being said your results with this 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray outing of Underworld Blood Wars may vary greatly. I really hope it does too and you’re able to find the good in this Sony 4K release like the A/V presentations. As a reviewer that’s all I could ever ask for. I want you to enjoy the product. Thanks for reading my Underworld: Bored Wars 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray review…err I mean Blood Wars.
DISCLAIMER: This 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray review was judged and graded using the following 4K certified Ultra HD Premium television set found here and player here. Make sure to check out all our 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray reviews archived here.
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