Friday 9 December 2016

Film Review: Underworld - Blood Wars

Underworld: Blood Wars is a whole lotta the same – for better and for worse.

Kate Beckinsale slips back into the skin-tight leather catsuit of vampire ‘death dealer’ Selene for another entry in the Underworld series; this time Selene and David (Theo James) are faced with a new threat in the form of Marius (Tobias Menzies), a fierce Lycan ringleader who seeks to unlock untold power through unconventional means.

Love them or hate them, at least the Underworld films know what they are. Every so many years, Screen Gems cobble together a modest budget for another 90 minutes of Beckinsale icily staring off into the middle distance, slinking through dark hallways in body-hugging leather and kicking dudes in the balls. Sometimes those dudes are vampires; most of the time they’re werewolves. There is a bit of lore sprinkled in to conjure up some semblance of a plot, but most of the time it’s just a driving force that propels Selene and her hunky co-stars towards the next chop-suey swordfight. 

And so the formula continues with Blood Wars. Now in the fifth entry in the series, Blood Wars strives to further deepen the narrative without distancing itself too far from what fans know and love. Whilst 2012’s Underworld: Awakening stripped the premise back to its bare bones, Blood Wars pushes the fantasy elements farther than ever before. Incoming director Anna Foerster (TV’s Outlander) unleashes everything the meagre budget can muster and has a lot of fun mashing the modern day setting with heavy Game of Thrones inspired fantasy. 

Towering keeps, royal bloodlines and conflict concerning ancient covens plants the series firmly in the realm of Thrones or Vikings fans, a trait that also extends to newly-introduced characters; Lara Pulver plays Semira, a cut-rate Cersei Lannister type who won’t wear a dress if the neckline can be described as anything other than plunging. Pulver delights in chewing the scenery and smirking wickedly from the shadows, wrapping her mouth around all manner of atrocious dialogue. 

The Westeros influences continue with Clementine Nicholson’s white-haired warrior maiden Lena who is just one CGI dragon away from being a clone of Daenerys Targaryen. I’m not complaining too much, embracing the high fantasy elements once again fits the series well – but maybe those influences could’ve been less on the nose? 

Decked out with more leather than an early 2000’s German nightclub, Underworld: Blood Wars is unlikely to garner the franchise fresh fans; it’s trashy, schlocky pulp that gets in and out in just over 91 minutes, screeching to an abrupt end in fear of overstaying its welcome. Beckinsale is sadly relegated to supporting at times but Menzies makes for a delightfully malicious foe for her to face off against. 

The Verdict: 5/10

In terms of filmmaking, Underworld: Blood Wars rests firmly in the region of 2-stars. It’s silly, cheesy and the action often looks cheap or shaky. But as an Underworld film, you could do a lot worse (i.e. Rise of the Lycans) and thus it garners an extra half-star for generally being among the best of a bad bunch.

Underworld: Blood Wars is in cinemas across Australia now

This review was originally published over at Hooked on Film, a Perth based website where you can find even more new release movie reviews, features, interviews and insight. Click here to check it out.

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