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It seems incomprehensible that the Underworld franchise has come to its fifth installment, the series never big hits but always profitable, the audience by now, like any property beyond a trilogy a highly select group of die hard fans. The last entry, 2012’s Underworld: Awakening saw a return to the series of Kate Beckinsale, the hero of sorts from the first two movies, and admittedly there was some genuine fun to be had with a shift to more horror, but any hope the franchise had in evolving to better things has all but been buried in this latest release, a bland, dark, poorly-made film that should effectively end the whole affair (but probably won’t).
The story starts not long after the events of the last, with the vampire coven nearing an end as their ancient rivals the Lycan horde have all but cleansed the world of them. Both sides of the war are on the hunt for Selene (Beckinsale), one of the last remaining Vampire Death Dealers, blood suckers who hold the best defense against their enemy. The vampires want her back to stand for murderous crimes she committed against them while the Lycan want to use her daughter Eve’s blood, something that holds the key to creating an army of hybrid vampire-werewolves.
With their demise seemingly fast-approaching though, fellow Vampires Semira (Lara Pulver) and Thomas (Charles Dance) convince the others to grant Selene clemency and allow her back to train the other Death Dealers to better be prepared for fighting. Selene accepts the tenuous offer and uses the situation to regain power yet, along with her protégé David (Theo James), learn that she’s not entirely as welcome into the fold as she thought, and faces betrayal and mistrust as she prepares for the biggest battle of her life.
Directed by Anna Foerster, in here debut, Underworld: Blood Wars is a step back, if that’s possible for the series, with a slower pace and less action, continuing to rely on extended colorless CGI set-pieces to drive the thin plot forward. The run, chase, fight, and repeat formula is back but is gutted by long moments of melodramatic political speeches concerning mistrust and double-crossing that attempt to uphold and expand the lore of the fighting factions with leather-bound model-types extolling exposition throughout. It’s all rather convoluted and confusing and will make little sense, though most won’t try to follow.
Anyone looking for answers left open from before won’t really find any either, and in fact, Blood Wars churns out a few more to add to the pile, most notably the absence of Eve, portrayed by India Eisley in the last film, seen only in archival flashback images in this one. The movie is more interested in introducing further layers upon the mythology, including a new location called the Nordic Coven that grants Selene a resurrection (and some cool new hair).
Beckinsale got her start in a Shakespearean adaptation of Much Ado About Nothing in 1993, and while she headlined in a few maudlin romantic comedies after, has found herself wallowing mostly in horror films since. Her return to the franchise had many excited, naturally, as few look as good and sell the role in tight leather outfits as well as she does, but Blood Wars doesn’t do her any favors. She knows the moves well by now, the dull choreography, the slow glowering walk, the piercing stares and does them all with perfuctory ability. It feels detached, as the does the film itself, like a relic from twenty years ago clinging for relevance. And still, an unnecessary cliffhanger opens the door for yet another sequel.
Underworld: Blood Wars will satisfy die hard fans, but unfortunately, there is little to recommend for others. A dull, dark and listless film that should have taken the series in a new direction instead hunkers down to the well worth path of its predecessors and ends up forgettable.
Movie description: Underworld: Blood Wars is a 2017 action horror movie about the continuing war between the Lycan clan and Vampires, and the one woman who stands between the
Director(s): Anna Foerster
Actor(s): Kate Beckinsale, Theo James, Tobias Menzies
Genre: Action, Horror