UNDERWORLD: BLOOD WARS

Reviewed by GREG KING

Director: Anna Foerster

Stars: Kate Beckinsale, Theo James, Lara Pulver, Charles Dance, Tobias Menzies, James Faulkner, Clementine Nicholson, Peter Andersson, Bradley James, Trent Garrett, Daisy Head.
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This fifth film in the franchise comes four years after Underworld: Awakening, but it has little that is new to offer. Maybe it’s time to bring the saga to an end.
Kate Beckinsale dons the skin tight leather outfit again to reprise her role as the kick ass death dealer Selene, who has been trying to keep her daughter Eve out of the clutches of the power hungry vampires and lycans who want to use her blood to create a new line of superhybrid creatures. Selene has sent Eve away to top secret location that not even she knows to protect her. She has been fighting a dual war against the lycans and the vampire factions that betrayed her.
When this film opens, Selene is welcomed back into the coven in order to train a new line of vampire warriors in the fight against the lycans. But she is quickly betrayed by the evil and ambitious vampire elder Semira (tv actress Lara Pulver, from Da Vinci’s Demons, True Blood, etc). With the help of David (Theo James, from the Divergent series, etc) Selene helps to ward off an attack from the new lycan leader Marius (Tobias Menzies, from tv series Outlander, etc). However, since the first Underworld film set up the mythology of the ongoing war between the vampires and the lycans the series seems to have become more confused and convoluted and lost sight of its original intentions. The plotting now gets lost in myriad betrayals, double crosses and uncertain loyalties that will have even long time fans of the franchise scratching their heads in bemusement.
Underworld: Blood Wars is the first film in the franchise to be directed by a female. Anna Foerster hails from a background in television drama (Outlander, etc), but she doesn’t pull her punches in her feature film debut. There are some strong, visceral action scenes here, and the film racks up a high body count, especially in the climactic battle between the vampires and an army of heavily armed werewolves. Some good visual effects show what happens to vampires when exposed to direct sunlight, but for the most part the effects are run of the mill. And there also several scenes of expository dialogue that slow the pace.
With its gothic stylings and cold looking surface, it would seem that Underworld: Blood Wars is aimed squarely at the Game Of Thrones crowd. The film has been shot in a cold bluish pallet by cinematographer Karl Walter Lindenlaub (Independence Day, Stargate, etc), and much of the action is staged against a murky nocturnal backdrop. But the choppy editing style and use of close ups during some of the action sequences makes them hard to watch.
The cast are largely drawn from the world of television drama, and do what they can with the cliched one dimensional characters. Veteran Charles Dance has a bit of a twinkle in his eye as Thomas, the vampire elder, although last time we saw the character his head was cleaved in two. Obviously vampires have a wonderful ability to regenerate themselves for subsequent sequels. James has little to do beyond play the stoic action hero. For an action film, this has a fair quota of strong female characters. Beckinsale looks good and acquits herself well as an action heroine, although there is little depth to her character, and she also goes missing for large chunks of the film. Pulver is good as the tough and power hungry, manipulative Semira.
The film’s non-ending sets the scene for yet another instalment in this increasingly disappointing franchise.

★★☆

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