The start of 2017 is pegged to see the premiers of a lot of great films. Unfortunately, Underworld: Blood Wars is the first film out of the gate. I’m not exactly saying this is a bad thing – the Underworld spinoffs are very well made films. I own the entire series in point of fact. The problem that comes with Blood Wars is that you feel like you’ve seen it before. Television director Anna Foerster makes her feature debut with Blood Wars and plays it safe. Blood Wars sees Kate Beckinale reprising the role of the vampire death dealer, Selene – a role she’s been playing for nearly as long as Hugh Jackman has been playing Wolverine – wanting nothing to do with the vampire/lycan (werewolves for the uninitiated) war after the events of the previous film, Awakening. But the new ruthless leader that has organized the lycans, Marius, payed by Tobias Menzies, fanatical search for her brings her back into the war.
It’s a solid story that builds off of the previous films in the franchise. It offers some great moments of action and character. But never truly takes any time to go deep into the character of Selene. You can almost say that the war is forcing Selene not to get emotional – but there’s only so many films in this franchise that I can watch that are essentially the same film. Selene is an incredibly strong female character. I went in hoping to see them build on a character that is now two centuries old but what I got was nothing close to that. With this film, it’s definitely not what you look on the inside that counts. It’s about looking pretty on the outside. And boy, does this film ever look good.
Foerster’s eye for detail that she took into the period world of the Outlander television series is awash in the deep hue that comes with the Underworld franchise. The vampires’ modern/aristocratic culture truly shines. Showcased especially with Lara Pulver’s Semira and James Faulkner’s Cassius. But where Foerster shines the most in this film is the action. The sequences in this film are tight, brutal and violent. With the advances in technology and larger budgets, you finally get the feeling that this indeed a war between vampires and werewolves. And through these battles, Foerster ensures every character’s story is showcased. This may be Kate Beckensale’s movie, but this isn’t just her world anymore. Theo James reprises his role as David the vampire. In Awakening, James was almost criminally underused. In Blood Wars, he’s given the weight of the third act. And he more than lives up to the task, giving the audience perhaps some of the best moments in the film.
Sherlock’s Lara Pulver delivers as the incredibly unlikeable vampire Semira. But is almost completely overshadowed by Tobias Menzies in his performances as Marius. Dark, brooding, powerful, he plays Marius with a quiet intensity – although nowhere near the original lycan badass played by Michael Sheen in the first Underworld. These two characters represent the second largest problem of the film. It’s overly complicated back alley relationships. And we really don’t care about any of them. At this point in the franchise, Marius has rallied the lycans and there are fewer vampires than ever. And it just gets to the point where you wish the vampires would get their heads out of their asses and start fighting a war to save their dying race.
And I just came to the largest problem with Blood Wars. The character of Selene. The film makers upgraded (for lack of a better word) her abilities in Evolution and, as the trailers for Blood Wars shows (and I’m not spoiling) they upgrade her abilities again. Where do you go from here when she’s got two centuries of experience in killing lycans and has the abilities that ensure nothing can stop her? Certainly the climax in this battle between Marius and Selene proves my point. Ultimately, the results of this battle never live up to the hype the film does a pretty good job of hyping.
Blood Wars is the 5th film in the franchise that’s two films too bloated. But having said that, the the franchise has found a recipe to make some solid B grade films. Blood Wars, like Awakening before it, are some great films to kill a few hours with. Blood Wars gets 3.5 stars out of 5 because of that. You will enjoy the film, but you’re going to forget about it almost as soon as you walk out of that door. But the film makers behind this franchise need to find something new to bring in new audiences, as well as keep the fanbase, before they find out that film franchises, unlike vampires it seems, can actually die.