“Now I’ve come full circle.”
I’ll gladly admit that I’m an Underworld fan. Since the first one arrived in 2003, I’ve loved them. I know they’re a bit shit, I know they’re not everybody’s cup of tea, but dammit they’re fun popcorn movies that I can happily watch over and over again. Even after 2012’s Awakenings essentially felt like a poor man’s Daybreakers, I was still somewhat interested in Blood Wars, the fifth film in the Underworld series.
After the events of Underworld: Awakenings, disgraced vampire soldier Selene (Kate Beckinsale) is on the run from the vampires that betrayed her, as well as the werewolves who know that her young daughter is the key to their evolution towards immortality.
Offered forgiveness from the coven (whose elders she ploughed through over the years) in exchange for her experience training the vampire “Death Dealers”, Selene is brought back in to the fold by her people, only to be quickly betrayed again by her power hungry kind.
Meanwhile, the growing Lycan horde, led by a powerful werewolf named Marius (Tobias Menzies), are simultaneously planning to wipe out the last remaining vampire coven in Europe and kidnap Selene. Their plan is to use her to find the daughter that she promised to never look for. Double crosses become triple crosses as everyone tries to one-up and kill everyone else. Chaos ensues.
Let’s get this out of the way, straight away: If you aren’t a fan of Underworld, if you’ve not seen any of the four that came before this one, then there is nothing here for you. This is a series that has sold us on more than a decade of sucking people in after one good film. It’s a franchise that, like any other that’s gotten to its fifth instalment, will have a fan base that this is specifically for. So, if me saying that hasn’t turned you off already, then read on.
Blood Wars has moved on from the semi-futuristic aesthetic of Awakenings and has instead gone back to the purely gothic feel of the earlier films. While this is an artistic style that suited the film more back in 2003, it makes this latest incarnation feel undeniably Underworld – and that’s not a bad thing. Assuming you’re a fan.
Theo James and Charles Dance return from the previous entry as vampire warrior David and his loyal-to-his-people-to-a-fault father Thomas. James plays the part of Beckinsale’s partner and together they get the meatiest bits of action in this out-of-date fantasy-thriller.
Beckinsale is on excellent form once again as the betrayed elite soldier. Her action scenes are well done; they look great and she fights very well on screen – as I would expect of someone making as many entries as she has into a franchise such as this. Beckinsale is always fun to watch in action roles and Blood Wars is no different. Her support is decent, but even someone with the pedigree of, say, Charles Dance, seem a little disinterested and not really up for the 90 minutes that we are asking of them.
Eastern European castles, and classic vampire and werewolf lore, are all mixed up with some modern stuff too. There’s a ton of action from start to finish; this is Underworld all the way through.
Overall, Blood Wars is a functional action movie that adds nothing to a fourteen year long franchise (bar a few extra dollars to its overall profit margins). It’s a film for people like me that saw and enjoyed the other films as they came out. There is nothing here for newcomers to the series, although there’s no barrier for entry if you’ve never seen one before. In what should be – what needs to be – the last in this series of fun junk food movies, even the most avid fan will find themselves questioning the point to what they just watched.