Underworld: Blood Wars

underworldbwsmIt would have seemed unthinkable when Underworld was released into a niche market to modest fanfare in the late summer of 2013 that, entertaining as it was and undeniably well designed and crafted, that the continued success of each sequel would now see the release of a fifth film, Blood Wars, the franchise seemingly as unstoppable and immortal as the vampires and werewolves who drive it.

Directed by Anna Foerster, her feature debut though she has extensive television experience on such demanding shows as Criminal Minds and Outlander, the script is by The Last Witch Hunter‘s Cory Goodman from a story written in collaboration with Machete Kills‘ Kyle Ward, and for those who have followed the saga through the previous four films it will come as no surprise that harmony and tranquillity do not yet rule the night.

underworldbw5Having inherited the pure Corvinus blood which can fuse the two strands of the family tree into a hybrid from her father, the missing Michael Corvin, Selene has hidden their daughter Eve from the Lycans who seek to use her blood to claim that power. An outcast from her own people who hold her responsible for the death of two of the Elders, Selene’s only ally is David (Divergent‘s Theo James), son of Thomas, leader of the Eastern Coven.

When an invitation arrives from Thomas (Game of Thrones‘ Charles Dance) with an offer of clemency Selene is naturally suspicious, but the war against the Lycans and their new leader Marius (Outlander‘s Tobias Menzies) is going badly and her expertise is needed in training new Death Dealers, Thomas having been persuaded against his better judgement by the ambitious Semira (Sherlock‘s Lara Pulver) to recruit Selene in that capacity.

underworldbw1Effortlessly agile and endlessly lethal in her PVC second skin, it is the fourth time Kate Beckinsale has played Selene, having only been absent from the historical Rise of the Lycans because it was set before her character was born, and while she is not challenged dramatically her return engagement in the role which made her famous is as flawless – and ageless – as ever.

Opening with a post-apocalyptic montage followed immediately by a scene of outrageously over-choreographed ultraviolence, Underworld: Blood Wars wisely moves the action back to Eastern European, the transfer to America for Awakening not as comfortable a fit as the old world setting of the first two films, its natural home in the moon drenched mountains and ancient strongholds, the grandest buildings retrofitted with the latest technology – save, unfortunately, for internal CCTV.

underworldbw4The first of the series to not feature human characters in any significant capacity, the absence is never addressed and it is unlikely that following the Cleanse any form of a truce could have been negotiated between the hunters and their former prey who are now aware of their existence, but Underworld was always about the supernatural rather than the mundane.

In councils of war in black leather and bosoms hoisted aloft by corsets which could only be worn by those who don’t need to breathe, the vampires scheme among themselves with dialogue which spells out and repeats plot points too literally while the more primal Lycans plot action and inevitably attack, and with predictable betrayals and double crosses much of what is unfolds has been seen before.

underworldbw3Calculated to please those who have followed thus far Blood Wars certainly plays to that established audience, adding in fetish gear training sessions and expanding the vampire mythology with a visit to the Nordic Coven where they are greeted by the Elder Vidor and his daugher Lena (The Vatican Tapes‘ Peter Andersson and Clementine Nicholson) though new light is also thrown on the past, and as with each evolution of the series it also shows a path the next potential film might venture down.

Where Blood Wars does stumble is in a lack of ambition: other than the confrontation between Selene and Marius in the icy north which verges too close to the digital abomination of Van Helsing the action scenes are well done, but besides reaching new heights of silliness it never seeks to break new ground, though in contrast with other long running series based on flimsy premises, the denizens of Underworld maintain remarkable consistency and style.

Underworld Blood Wars is currently on general release and also screening in 3D




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