Movie Review: Underworld: Blood Wars (2016)
“Protect the bloodline”
Underworld: Blood Wars (2016)
Director: Anna Foerster
Cast: Kate Beckinsale, Theo James, Lara Pulver
Synopsis: Death-dealer Selene finds herself caught between the warring vampires and lycans.
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There’s something half-hearted about a mid-budget franchise that permits four years to slip by between episodes four and five; it almost feels as if those involved agreed they’d get around to it when they had nothing better to do. If we were in any doubt about the depth of plotting in Underworld: Blood Wars, the brief summary with which the movie begins would leave us in no doubt that the Underworld series considers plot to be of minor importance compared to the high concept of vampires v werewolves, and shots of Kate Beckinsale (Total Recall, Absolutely Anything) in skintight black leather. It is, as we like to say these days, what it is, and there’s nothing wrong with that. Underworld: Blood Wars doesn’t claim to be high art, and delivers with rather bovine dedication, exactly what its fan-base wants of it.
Heroine Selene (Beckinsale) is an outcast who can trust neither her vampire brethren nor the race of werewolves known as the Lycans, both of whom are after the blood of her daughter because of its purity. Truth is, all that doesn’t really matter; she might be frequently referred to, but Selene’s daughter plays no part in this episode. The endless war between Vampires and Lycans sees the hairier side in the ascendancy, thanks to the ruthless leadership of Marius (Tobias Menzies – Black Sea), and the situation is dire enough for the scheming Semira (Lara Pulver – Edge of Tomorrow), to hold out an olive branch to Selene, promising her safety if she will train a batch of novice death-dealers. Of course, Semira’s offer is part of a nefarious plot she hopes will propel her to power and, with the help of protégé and lover, Varga (Bradley James), she is quick to betray Selene, whose only hope of rescue lies with hunky David (Theo James – Divergent) and his high-ranking vampire father, Thomas (Charles Dance – The Imitation Game, Me Before You).
First-time feature director Anna Foerster stages the frequent action scenes that flesh out what plot there is with a brisk efficiency that suggests a strong awareness of budgetary limitations. Despite Selene’s status as a feisty, independent heroine, she is, like a damsel in distress from some dusty old serial, twice snatched by others from the jaws of death to be returned to the realm of the undead. One kind of wonders whether death wouldn’t be preferable to the joyless existence endured by its characters; the Underworld milieu is bleak and perpetually dark – even the few scenes that take place in daylight look like they’ve been shot through a blue-grey filter – and the movie’s deadly seriousness makes it a viewing experience which most viewers won’t be in a hurry to revisit.
(Reviewed 9th December 2016)