I was initially not into the Underworld series. I saw it ripping off many cool elements from the Matrix and combining those cool gun fights/martial arts/pleather with vampires vs. Lycans (werewolves). My wife would end up introducing me to the first two films and…I was right. Plenty of ripping off the Matrix in these films.
However I did fail to realize the appeal of watching Kate Beckinsale run around in pleather for two hours. Kate Beckinsale in pleather. That may be four of the greatest words ever put together in the English language.
When it came time for a new Underworld flick in theaters I was excited until I learned that Kate Beckinsale wasn’t actually starring in the film. It was Rhona Mitra who is a great actress but certainly not Kate Beckinsale in pleather. 3 years later I finally saw my first (and thus far only) Underworld film in theaters when Underworld: Awakening saw Beckinsale’s return. The plot of Awakening was pretty weak sauce – imprisoned Selene (Beckinsale) is freed and starts wrecking havoc once again but this time she is searching for her secret half vampire/half Lycan love child.
2016’s Blood Wars was a widely panned film that made zip at the box office. You can’t blame the January release date. Awakening was released in January and made $160 million worldwide (against a $70 million budget). Blood Wars made $81 million worldwide – which when compared to its production budget of $35 million can be considered “successful” made 50% less than its predecessor.
So what’s the problem? Did audiences get bored with Kate Beckinsale in pleather? While I’m not tired of her in pleather I was very bored with Awakening and thought to watch Blood Wars when it came to home video in the comfort of my own home. Audiences maybe thought the same. Maybe it is series fatigue. Maybe it was the horrible reviews the film earned.
After watching the film I’ve determined that I was right to not see it in theaters and that the film is a bad film full of choppy action and full of exposition. Even so…as a B-movie it is still fairly enjoyable thanks to the chock full of cheesy goodness and…Kate Beckinsale in pleather.
The film starts with Selene being hunted by both vampires and Lycans. She is still considered a vampire traitor and the Lycans want Selene’s daughter Eve’s blood so they can “end the war.”
Tobias Menzies comes off from Michael Wincottesque as Marius – the new Lycan leader. He sends his Lycan people after Selene who easily dispatches them with the help of David (Theo James).
At the same time Semira, (Lara Pulver) the head of a coven, is trying to deal with “the war.” It is decided with David’s father Thomas (Charles Dance) that Celine and David will be offered clemency in exchange for training a whole new bunch of death dealers (READ: Lycan hunters).
Of course Semira is a raving bitchstick who just wants to take over the entire vampire kingdom and, of course, the whole thing is just a set up. The set up is successful and Semira is able to capture Selene. Theo, in turn, is able to save Selene. Then they look for another coven while everyone continues to hunt for them.
It all finishes with a very boring, very long, very (visually) dark action sequence. Actually the whole film is really, really, really dark. It may be the hardest film to see since Alien Vs. Predator: Requiem – which is a film you can’t even make out.
This film felt quite stale. Again – visually it is a mess. This was a conscious decision by first time feature film director Anna Foerester. The flick is also less Matrixesque under her. She may have been a cinematographer on flicks like Independence Day, The Day After Tomorrow, Aeon Flux, and Pitch Black – but her directing skills are lacking. I believe the film’s failure rests on her shoulders and I’ll get to why in just a moment.
Theo James….blech. I hated him in Underworld: Awakening. A pretty boy type who really isn’t that great of an actor. That was reconfirmed when I saw him in Divergent which featured not only James horrible acting but paired with perhaps the worst actor of this century Jai Courtney. It makes sense to bring James back only because he didn’t die in the last movie. I could do without him.
The real star of this film is baddie Lara Pulver and….Lara Pulver’s breasts. Look, I hate to seem like a brutish uber-male who doesn’t focus on the story and the action while focusing on one character’s breasts. But I’m going to be honest – the best part of this movie is the costumes they put Pulver in and how much her breasts really star in this film. I looked forward to every moment she was on-screen and she was not disappointing.
Kate Beckinsale still looks great in pleather some ten years after the first film. She has barely aged a day which is good when you are making a vampire movie where you aren’t supposed to age. She’s a great actor, she seems to do well in this role, and, you know, black pleather. It’s a shame she is saddled with such a subpar film.
It was great seeing Tobias Menzies and Charles Dance in the flick – anytime you put multiple Game of Thrones actors in a flick it makes me smile. Menzies is actually really good. Again I’ll point out that he is totally stealing Michael Wincott’s schtick but he does it WELL. As a matter of fact if they focused more on his character and less on the vampire coven intrigue it may have been a better film. As for Charles Dance I believe his role in this and Awakening is a bit beneath him (dude is a quality actor) but I guess he’s gotta eat. Maybe it’s a ton of fun for him too.
Overall if you are a major Underworld fan you may have great enjoyment out of this. If you are a casual fan you will probably be disappointed like I was. And if you have never seen an Underworld movie you will be way fucking lost. Go watch the first two films.
The Special Features on the disc are actually a bit better than the film so kudos on that.
The Evolution of Selene: talking about the franchise as a whole from the first movie and how the plot continues up to the current film. It’s great to have Kate Beckinsale and the producers talking about the early films and how they all connect together. They also talk on how Blood Wars “grows the story”. It’s a great ten minute featurette.
Old and New Blood: Talks on the new Nordic coven. Interesting enough. The main coven chick is way hot. 6 minutes long.
The Evil Evolved: Talks about the Lycan’s agenda and how the vampire covens are also coming up with their own agendas for their own truly evil extent. The actors all talk about the characters and their motivations/agendas. This is perhaps the most boring of the featurettes. Also 6 minutes long.
Building a Blood War: Foerster talks about how she “took everything exciting” from the past films and built on it. Basically what she says is she put her own personal touch on this film. So, because I think this film is the least exciting out of all of these films, I can personally blame the director for how this film turned out. The producers and Foerster toot their own horns about this film and how their decisions made this film a better film…even though they made it much worse. Except for Pulver’s costumes. That person should win an Academy Award. You can watch them tout their egos for 12 minutes. Pulver does talk about her costumes and how great they are. They also talk about a scene where she was supposed to be naked but they felt it was out of character. So FUCK YOU PRODUCERS. My eyes are very disappointed in you.
Finally there is an Underworld: Blood Wars graphic novel by Darkstorm Comics which was what I was most excited about. A graphic novel on the actual disc? What a lovely idea! The graphic novel is a direct adaptation of the actual movie – something akin to what DC Comics and Marvel Comics used to do in the 80’s and 90’s. The adaptation doesn’t read that great and I really didn’t dig the artwork. Here’s Selene…
…and it does not impress. Perhaps an Adam Hughes or a J. Scott Campbell could have rocked this comic but when you take one of the hottest actresses ever and make her look like this…it is not appealing.
But there’s Semira. Once again Pulver’s breasts take center stage. SEE! IT’S JUST NOT ME!!! The artists of this graphic novel noticed it too.
I wouldn’t recommend doing what I did and reading the comic right after you watch the movie because you’ll probably be as bored as I was. Reading it was not easy even on my huge flatscreen. They might have done better if you were able to download the comic – or simply a digital code to get it free from ComiXology.
There’s a ton of trailers on this disc but there are zero trailers for Underworld: Blood Wars. Why they don’t have their own trailers on the disc astonishes me.
Still…all the talk on the franchise as a whole was really fun and something more franchise films should do. It really is great if this is your first Underworld and have no clue what is going on. It’s a primer.
Conclusion? If you came to see Kate Beckinsale in black pleather you get it. If you came to see Theo James you may be a 14 year old girl. If you came for a decent story it may be pushed down by the very dark visuals and horrible look that the director gave the flick. If this is the end of Underworld I wouldn’t be so sad, I’ll be honest. There is still talks of ANOTHER film but this gave an actual conclusion. Combine that with the box office receipts and it may be the well deserved finale.
SPECIAL FEATURES: B