TL;DR – Honestly this was a surprisingly good film, though that may have something to do with my super low expectations I had going in and that I have never seen an Underworld film before.
Score – 3 out of 5 stars
I think I need to start this review off with this small issue, while I have always been meaning to watch all of these Underworld films until now I have never actually gotten around to it. You know each time a new one would come out in cinemas, I would endeavour to marathon the ones I missed and then watch the new movie, but alas I never actually ever got around to it. Also then Twilight was released and that killed any drive I might have had to watch the battle of werewolves and vampires. However it’s been four years since the last entry so this time instead of making the commitment to marathon the previous films I went blow it, let’s just go for it and see how good it is going in blind. I wanted to make that clear because not only did I come to Underworld: Blood Wars without seeing any of the previous films, I also come to it with really low expectations, like Leo McGarry going to a vice-presidential debate low. But despite this (or likely because of it), I have to say I was quite surprised how well I actually enjoyed Blood Wars. I mean let’s be clear here, this is not a cinematic masterpiece, but it is the best of this type of film I have seen in quite a while.
At the start of Blood Wars, they give us a quick rundown of all the important plot points that happened in the last films that you need to know about. On the one hand for someone who has not seen those films it was quite handy to have, on the other it was a bit of an indictment on those past films when they can be summed up in 30 seconds, or at least the important bits. But here we are, Selene (Kate Beckinsale) is on the run hiding from both werewolf and vampire because of her daughter and she killed some important people or something, I don’t think it matters, though she still has one friend left in the form of David (Theo James). However, as well as this the vampires are on the defensive due to a number of devastating defeats giving Semira (Lara Pulver) room to maneuver and scheme with Thomas (Charles Dance) and the werewolves are on the rise due to the strength of their new leader Marius (Tobias Menzies) and of course everyone is out for blood both literally and metaphorically. This gives an interesting scenario to work with as there are groups on the run, groups on the rise, and groups battening down the hatches, so you can have some interesting interplay between the different sides.
So this set up gives a good basis to tell an interesting story and this story is supported by the cast really leaning into the campiness of it all, which is good, because if you did this super serious it would be a mess. It was also good that they decided not to tone things down and go down the safe PG13 rating, there are some really Mortal Kombat-ish moments here. It was also good to see the werewolves and vampire actually use some decent tactics which usually gets lost in these type of films. It was probably not really a stretch for anyone, but all the actors fit well with their roles, though there is nothing groundbreaking here, but it a solid performance from most of the cast. The story once again is nothing revolutionary, and you will probably guess most of the plot point ahead of time, but it still works.
One of the things I found most interesting was the way the film is set up to cater more for the female gaze than the male gaze that you usually see in this genre. Now, of course, I realise I have just opened a giant can of worms by bringing gender into my review, which for some unknown reason really seems to irk people. However, honestly it actually was quite refreshing to see a different take on the norm, and you could see this from the characters to the costumes, to the themes of motherhood, to how scenes are framed. This gives the film another dimension and makes it a bit more interesting to watch.
This all being said this is not a perfect film, it’s not even a great one as there are a lot of issues holding it back. Firstly, most of the action is presented in that style of editing were you cut shots every half a second, I mean come on everyone can we please stop doing this. Also while for me it may have been helpful that most of the dialogue in the film is people speaking exposition at each other, it does mean that there is very little dramatic weight to any of the script. From a production point of view it’s clear they did not have as much money that they needed with some duplicated animations, and also reusing footage at times as well, though they do make the most of their Prague locations. [SPOILERS ENGAGED] From a plot perspective, there is nothing new here, you will probably be able to spot all the twists and turns in the narrative coming a mile away up to and including Selene ex machina at the end, though not all of them. Also, you spent the whole film talking about how good those defences were, it was a shame we never saw them tested.
Look Underworld: Blood Wars is going to be just a blip on the radar this holiday season as we build up to the Star Wars onslaught, and it’s not a great film in its own right, but it is an interesting one. So in the end can I recommend you watching Blood Wars, well if you have seen the others then you probably will want to go see this one as well, if you haven’t, well then you won’t have a problem following the story, but I would only go if you really like this particular genre.
By Brian MacNamara: You can follow Brian on Twitter Here, when he’s not chatting about Movies and TV, he’ll be talking about International Relations, or the Solar System.
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Directed by – Anna Foerster
Screenplay by – Cory Goodman
Based on – Characters created by Kevin Grevioux, Len Wiseman & Danny McBride
Music by – Michael Wandmacher
Cinematography by – Karl Walter Lindenlaub
Starring – Kate Beckinsale, Theo James, Tobias Menzies, Lara Pulver, Peter Andersson, Bradley James & Charles Dance
Rating – Australia: MA15+; Canada: na; NZ: R; UK: na; USA: na