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, sees a spectacular January release date. We all know what that means for films like these so let’s now take a look at how well it 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. 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 before you yell action? I cringe throughout moments of gunfire here because it’s like watching Padme shoot a blaster in the 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 upcoming 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.
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. 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.