The Underworld franchise is back with its 5th installment, and the first since 2012’s Underworld: Awakening. If you were hoping for more of the same then you are in luck, because this is much the same as what has gone before. With the vampire v Lycan war fought in super tight leather whilst the vampire’s in politics tears them apart, there isn’t much new here.
I’ve always seen huge parallels between this and the Resident Evil franchise. Both fantasy series are essentially carried by the lead, in Resident Evil’s case Milla Jovovich as Alice, and in Underworld it’s Kate Beckinsale as Selene. Beckinsale has always been the stand out of the series, and I think the film without her did suffer because of it. And she’s certainly still the best thing about Underworld: Blood Wars. Beckinsale is incredibly watchable, and if you’re a fan of the series, then she’s probably a large part of the reason why.
The rest of the supporting cast is actually stacked full of some good talent. Alongside Beckinsale the film also stars Theo James (War on Everyone), Tobias Menzies (Game of Thrones), Lara Pulver (Sherlock), Bradley James (Merlin), and of course Charles Dance returning from Awakening. But despite having all this talent, none of them come close to Beckinsale in terms of watchability and really selling the material. I do think the franchise is missing supporting characters of the caliber of Bill Nighy and Michael Sheen.
The big problem with Blood Wars is that now the plot is just getting so convoluted. I’ve always enjoyed the politics of the vampire world in the franchise; it has always been what separates Underworld from other vampire fantasy films. But in this film it just got so hard to follow. There was so much betrayal and backstabbing going on, quite a few characters are just turning on everyone around them, and quite often out of the blue, seeming like it was done more for shock value than for great storytelling. There were also a few subplots that just don’t really end up going anywhere, as if the writers were not really sure how to resolve them.
First time director Anna Foerster comes in and does a great job bringing the style of series. The action sequences look as flashy and styalised as you would expect from an Underworld film. Whilst a couple of the early ones feel a little too fake and uninspiring, as the film progresses the action sequences of the middle and final acts feel a lot better. One thing that I wish she could have brought to the film would have been more interesting and less dreary sets. There is a sequence in an icy castle that is one of the few times that setting looks interesting, even the high tech rooms in the vampire’s fortress manages to feel pretty bland.
I can’t really give Underworld: Blood Wars a good score. It’s a highly flawed film, and one of the lesser entries in the Underworld franchise. It is certainly not going to win any new viewers over to the series, as it very much follows the blueprints for an Underworld film. But for fans of the franchise there is certainly some enjoyment to be gained here, and it’s always great to see Beckinsale kick some ass.