Director: Anna Foerster
Cast: Kate Beckinsale, Theo James, Lara Pulver
Release Date: April 25, 2017
A Review By: Kevin Lovell
Film Rating: 5/10
Disc Rating: 7.5/10
In the next installment of the blockbuster franchise, UNDERWORLD: BLOOD WARS follows Vampire death dealer, Selene (Kate Beckinsale) as she fends off brutal attacks from both the Lycan clan and the Vampire faction that betrayed her. With her only allies, David (Theo James) and his father Thomas (Charles Dance), she must stop the eternal war between Lycans and Vampires, even if it means she has to make the ultimate sacrifice.
Marking the fifth installment in the ongoing franchise, ‘Underworld: Blood Wars’ rejoins our anti-heroine Selene (Beckinsale) sometime after the events of ‘Underworld: Awakening’. Having safely hidden her daughter away where not even she can locate her, Selene now finds herself wanted by all sides, even her own people seeking her demise. But when a deadly Lycan called Marius (Menzies), possibly the first true threat in recent memory and with power the likes of which none have ever seen threatens their existence, her people offer her a chance to redeem herself by assisting in his eradication. After reluctantly accepting the offer, Selene along with the assistance of David (James), the one man she can currently trust, set out on a bloody journey filled with danger, betrayal and higher stakes than ever before, as a massive blood war builds, the result of which just may determine the course of the foreseeable future for their kind.
Directed this time around by franchise newcomer Anna Foerster (TV’s Outlander) from a screenplay written by Cory Goodman (The Last Witch Hunter), Foerster does a pretty competent job at the helm of ‘Underworld: Blood Wars’ which also marks her feature length directorial debut. The latest entry features a cast comprised of some returning stars from previous installments, along with a number of first timers and includes Kate Beckinsale (Pearl Harbor), Theo James (Divergent), Tobias Menzies (Casino Royale), Lara Pulver (Edge of Tomorrow), Charles Dance (TV’s Game of Thrones), James Faulkner (TV’s Da Vinci’s Demons) and more, the majority delivering fairly decent performances for the most part in each of their respective roles.
‘Underworld: Blood Wars’ marks the fifth entry in the series, and the fourth featuring Beckinsale in the lead, and sadly it seems that the franchise is beginning to feel its age in many regards. The latest entry certainly provides some enjoyable action sequences (even if many appear to be notably heavier on the CGI than previous entries which can occasionally become distracting), along with Beckinsale in her famous leather getup doing her thing, and of course a healthy supply of bloody violence and mild horror-level carnage which should appease many fans to some degree, although it regrettably offers little else, especially in the way of contributing anything truly new or unique to the series. It has its moments and enjoyable scenes, but it continually feels like its struggling to be more than it is and a mass of violence amongst a fairly silly and uninteresting storyline doesn’t offer a great deal of help. Director Anna Foerster does a decent enough job guiding the story along and a relatively capable cast led by returning franchise favorite Kate Beckinsale does somewhat help to at least keep things familiar. I would recommend fans of the franchise and folks who enjoyed the previous installments to try and give ‘Underworld: Blood Wars’ a chance when you have the opportunity to do so, for many fans the lengthy (and fairly bloody) action sequences and/or simply the return of Kate Beckinsale may be enough to satisfy them, and while far from perfect and also easily the weakest entry in the series, it should provide a satisfying selection for an evening of mindless action-packed fun for many folks.
Overall, ‘Underworld: Blood Wars’ provides a healthy amount of bloody supernatural action, as well as the return of fan favorite Kate Beckinsale reprising the lead role of Selene. Unfortunately the film also suffers in numerous areas, such as a silly and unnecessary story, an excess of somewhat noticeable and at times fairly disappointing CGI, and an obvious struggle to attain more than it can with the material. As a whole, it’s safe to say that it’s the worst entry in the ‘Underworld’ series so far, but fans of the franchise and those who desire nothing more than some simplistic, stylish (and of course bloody) action along with Beckinsale tearing things up in her usual getup may be fairly pleased with this entry, if not at least thoroughly entertained for the most part. It’s definitely still worth a watch if you enjoy the series, although it might be best to catch it as a rental or on your favorite streaming provider when available before dropping the funds on a blind purchase.
The Blu-ray release of ‘Underworld: Blood Wars’ features a full 1080p High Definition presentation utilizing the film’s original 2.40:1 Cinemascope Aspect Ratio. The video presentation looks pretty great as a whole and delivers a sharp, detailed and fairly clean presentation from start to finish with no notable faults to be found along the way. It holds up impressively even during the nearly constant darkly lit and fast moving sequences, never resulting in anything occurring on screen to become negatively affected, let alone rendered indiscernible. Overall, this is a solid high definition video presentation from Sony that should have no trouble satisfying the franchise’s fans.
The Blu-ray release features a lossless 5.1 channel DTS-HD Master Audio soundtrack. This lossless multichannel soundtrack provides a clean, crisp and often quite aggressive audio presentation throughout. It frequently takes full advantage of all five available channels in order to send a mass of bullets, debris, weapons, and vehicle activity, plus plenty more zooming throughout the speakers with regularity, and never causing any dialogue which might be occurring simultaneously to become distorted or rendered inaudible in the process. Overall, this is a fantastic 5.1 channel DTS-HD MA soundtrack that contributes another layer of fun to the overall viewing experience and shouldn’t disappoint.
The Blu-ray release of ‘Underworld: Blood Wars’ includes a few solid extras. Included on the release are a few behind the scenes Featurettes that take you deeper into bringing the latest installment in the franchise to life and including behind the scenes footage, interviews/comments with the cast and crew, plus more. The included Featurettes are: ‘The Evolution of Selene’ (running approximately 8 minutes in length), ‘Old and New Blood’ (running approximately 6 minutes), ‘The Evil Evolved’ (approximately 6 minutes), and ‘Building a Blood War’ (12 minutes). A Digital version of the ‘Underworld: Blood Wars Graphic Novel’ is also included.