Review: Underworld Blood Wars

Year: 2017

Runtime: 91 minutes

Actors: Kate Beckinsale, Theo James, Tobias Menzies, Lara Pulver

Director: Anna Forester

By Mique Watson

Just in case you haven’t been keeping track, we’re five movies into this franchise. Five movies. Yes, five movies. If you think I’m being repetitively redundant, let me just make myself perfectly clear once again: we’re five movies in. In this latest entry, you’d think that they’d at least have the answer to the question we’ve been asking ourselves since its first installment: do vampires have a biological disposition to do all their shopping at Hot Topic and Blackcraft? 

Pondering this would certainly yield more interesting and cognitively stimulating results than anything on display here. I am sure you will be shocked to learn that, upon its release this film was not screened for critics. You will also likely be absolutely aghast to know that this was given a prestigious January release date.

Beckinsale continues to sport her S&M fetish gear, vinyl pants, and fake teeth as she goes up against stupendously horrendous CGI creatures in unwatchable combat. We continue to follow Selene (Kate Beckinsale) being chased by vampires and lycans. Blah blah blah, Theo James shows up shirtless early on, something something, vampires want Selene to come over and train them to go up against Lycans–or do they? Cue the merciless sound of someone slamming their enclosed fist onto ivory piano keys to indicate that suspense is occurring.

Look, I liked the previous installment–2012’s “Underworld: Awakening”– quite a bit. I appreciated that the franchise had finally begun to take itself less seriously. It was far campier, more self-aware, and had just enough satisfying gore to satiate even the most basic and undemanding viewer’s bloodlust (I recall a throat getting ripped out at one point; it was epic). I had fun laughing out loud at its knowing ridiculousness. Also, it was mercifully short. 

This film, on the other hand, wrongfully assumes anyone cares about the plot. It’s a film about vampires in fetish gear. It’s a self-serious slog that covers territory so familiar it’ll likely convince skeptics that deja vu is real. I promise you, people care as much about the plot of this as they do about German dungeon porn.

So, what about the stuff we do actually care about? What about the fight scenes? The gore? Sadly I don’t have much good to report to you in this department either. There is barely any actual hand-to-hand combat… and when the combat does happen, the choreography barely counts as choreography; most of it looks like CGI. I was about ready to walk out when one character opened up a door to racks upon racks of semi-automatic weapons. 

As for Kate Beckinsale, she is woefully misused here. In the previous film she was powerful beyond belief. Although this isn’t good storytelling per se, it does at least keep the franchise’s promises of watching Selene kick ass and take names. Over here, they’ve weakened her to the point of patheticness. She barely wins any of her fights and she walks right into obvious traps. Later on in the film, she supposedly undergoes this “spiritual” transformation of sorts (aka a new hairstyle, and even tighter clothes)… yet she continues to get her ass handed to her and has to continue to rely on guns.

As it stands, “Blood Wars” adds absolutely nothing new to the story, and it ends with the promise of a sequel that *checks notes*–four years later–still hasn’t been made. If this sequel ever sees the light of day, I will eat a raven. Gothically. 

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