Underworld: Blood Wars
2017, R, 91 min. Directed by Anna Foerster. Starring Kate Beckinsale, Theo James, Tobias Menzies, Lara Pulver, Charles Dance.
REVIEWED By Marc Savlov, Fri., Jan. 13, 2017
It’s a shame that talented Brit actor Kate Beckinsale’s tombstone will probably read “aka Selene, Death Dealer to both vampires and werewolves, may she rest in pieces.” But with this fifth installment in the crimson-drenched and exponentially long-in-the-tooth-and-nail Underworld franchise, she’s less likely to be remembered for her exquisite performances in Kenneth Branagh’s Much Ado About Nothing or John Schlesinger’s Cold Comfort Farm. But what can you say to a raven-haired, fairly ninja-esque female vampiric-antihero perpetually caught up in a skintight black pleather catsuit who reveals more human emotion than anyone else in this long-running – since 2003 – vamps ’n’ beasties actioneer? For the majority of filmgoers, Beckinsale is Selene. It’s not the worst legacy for an actor, and she’s managed to keep her character prideful yet vicious, film after backstabbing film. (Did I mention the catsuit? Va va voom!)
Blood Wars spends nearly as much time positioning explanations of what has come before, and indeed Underworld initiates are highly recommended to have at least a passing acquaintance of the previous four films to suss out exactly what the myriad power plays going on here are all about. Following the great war between the Lycans (as in “–thropes”) and the varied clans of nosferatu, Selene is called to act as drill mistress to a whole new cadre of Death Dealers on the part of Semira (Pulver) and her protégé David (James). As always when dealing with rival bloodsucker factions, watch your back, Selene, as betrayal is but a bite away. Think of the entire Underworld series as being a supernatural cross between Downton Abbey and some double-dealing Kardashian nonsense and you’d not be far off. And yet the films have their own, if convoluted, interior logic, not unlike Milla Jovovich in the even longer-running Resident Evil onslaught. Both feature strong, empowering female protagonists who battle for a better future for everyone. Well, almost everyone. Not Bill Nighy, for sure.
As popcorn-infused, lazy-day genre fare, you could do a lot worse than watching Selene devour the scenery while both Lycans and the walking dead attempt to defeat and disembowel her at every turn. Nothing new there, of course, but still a fair amount of fun for followers of the misfortunes of Underworld. Still, I hasten to add, if you really and truly seek to put the bite on some stupendous lycanthrope vs. vamp action, I’d seek out UK author Glen Duncan’s masterful and utterly engrossing The Last Werewolf trilogy. The things Duncan can conjure from your imagination alone put 99% of Hollywood’s genre tropes to lowly shame.