Saturday, June 03, 2017

Underworld: Blood Wars – review

Director: Anna Foerster

Release date: 2016

Contains spoilers

This is the fifth Underworld film and my thoughts on the other films in the series can be found at the following links: Underworld, Underworld Evolution¸ Underworld: Rise of the Lycans & Underworld Awakening. Unusually this was the first Underworld film I didn’t see at the cinema – because my most local cinema didn’t show it! Therefore I waited for the DVD.

Now I have a bit of a complex relationship with the series. I really like the first two films (despite one of the performances in the first film) as great action films with a vaguely vampiric story (I say vaguely because it is not overt and could actually stand to have more overt vampiric activity). I was somewhat disappointed with the third film because, as a prequel, it had no sense of danger (we already knew the protagonist and antagonist both survived). The fourth film I actually liked more than others – but not as much as the first two. How would film five hold up?

Kate Beckinsale as Selene
Not brilliantly, to be honest. We get a quick resume of the first films (which manages to get part of the story order wrong – or at least the dialogue allowed such an interpretation) and then we are straight into action as Selene (Kate Beckinsale, Underworld films I, II & IV, & Van Helsing) is chased on a motorbike by a group of goons. She is caught and fights, having been shot with (I guess) harpoon like projectiles to try and capture her. She is joined by David (Theo James, Underworld IV) and the goons are revealed to be lycans (or werewolves to you and I) who are trying to capture Selene for new Lycan leader Marius (Tobias Menzies).

Theo James as David
Selene leaves one lycan alive but wounded to send the message that she doesn’t know where her daughter Eve is (as Marius is trying to get to Eve, and her blood, through her mother). David has been shot and Selene gets him to a vampire safehouse (despite the fact that she has a death sentence judgement passed against her) to remove the projectile, which seems to be burrowing into David faster than he can heal. It turns out to be a drill like thing (that stops turning as soon as removed) and is also described (by the lycans) as a tracer. Suddenly vampires are at the safehouse (it was easy to find her they say).

Charles Dance as Thomas
They are from the last great coven – the Eastern coven. At the request of council member Semira (Lara Pulver, da Vinci’s Demons: The Devil & True Blood), David’s father Thomas (Charles Dance, Underworld IV, Going Postal, Viy (2014) & Dracula Untold) has convinced the vampire council to grant Selene safe passage so that she can train a new generation of Deathdealers (lycan killing troops). They leave, Selene way too easily swayed, as a troop of lycans approach the safehouse.

It means nothing to me... Oh, Vienna
What struck me – as we saw the coven (again an attempt to recreate Ultravox’s Vienna video) in their giant, city central (it would appear) fortress and the lycans all hanging around the main railway station, fighting in wolfman form around the boxcars, is just what were the humans doing? The fourth film established that lycans and vampires has been revealed to the humans who had relentlessly hunted both groups down. This seems to have been utterly forgotten. The rest of the film has betrayal, fighting and some not as good as previous films transformations.

a Lycan
However, for me, it was a story too far. It did nothing new and interesting (except – perhaps – around Selene, an aspect I can’t spoil but was notable for not actually exploring what happened satisfactorily). Likewise, as Selene and David go into the frozen wastes to search out the mysterious Northern coven they (presumably) disembark their train by jumping off in the middle of nowhere (this was implied not shown) and then suddenly are riding mysteriously appearing horses – where’d they come from? What could have bolstered the film was the action but when you compare it to the first two films (the second especially) it lacked the big action set pieces that added a wow factor.

Lara Pulver as Semira
Ok, there are worse out there but this was not hitting the mark for me. 4 out of 10 is generous and reflects the fact that I have a soft-spot for the franchise still, even if this didn’t light my fire.

The imdb page is here.

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