‘Underworld: Blood Wars’ Has a Weak Bite
Underworld: Blood Wars
Review by Daniel Rester
Uggghhh. Time for that January movie season yet again. It’s always a time for catching up on great Oscar-hopeful movies in limited release from the previous year and a time for Hollywood to dump bland action and horror movies into wide release. Enter Underworld: Blood Wars, the first in that latter category for this year and the fifth installment in its film series.
Blood Wars’ “plot” sees the return of vampires Selene (Kate Beckinsale), a “Death Dealer,” and David (Theo James), her ally. The two of them – along with David’s father Thomas (Charles Dance, clearly just collecting a paycheck) — attempt to end the war between the lycans and vampires while both sides seek Selene’s blood in order to become Corvinus Strain hybrids.
That’s about all there is to the plot this time around, with flashbacks and constant (and unsurprising) betrayals between characters mostly filling out the short runtime. Thin plots can still work in favor of terrific action films, as is proof with recent films like John Wick (2014) and Mad Max: Fury Road (2015). But you have to have some exciting action and interesting characters in order for that to pay off. Blood Wars lacks such characteristics.
Anna Foerster, who has done second unit and visual effects work for years, makes her directorial debut with Blood Wars. Unfortunately she doesn’t do much in terms of showing a distinct style. The film contains the same murky black and blue visual strokes, annoying quick-cut action, and other interchangeable touches from previous entries.
None of Blood Wars is offensively terrible looking (except for the CGI werewolves), but there also isn’t anything really aesthetically pleasing. There is a thrilling scene involving swordplay on a lake of ice, and another involving a brutal spinal rip, but that’s not enough. We’ve simply seen most of these things done before — and better.
Blood Wars tries to give a little bit of backstory to David, but it feels like the filmmakers have mostly run out of intriguing things to do in terms of the world-building and Selene’s story. That’s unfortunate since Selene and Beckinsale’s performance have been the glue of the series. Perhaps that’s a sign for Beckinsale to hang up the black vampire outfit and focus on better work, especially since she showed signs of brilliance in last year’s Love & Friendship.
The first two Underworld films were flashy, decently-made B-grade action pictures. There’s no reason we should have five at this point though. Here’s to hoping this will be the last so that these things don’t turn from being semi-watchable trash into gouge-my-eyes-out-with-a-vampire-stake trash with further entries.
My Grade: D+ (on an F to A+ scale).
MPAA Rating: R (for strong bloody violence, and some sexuality).