I’ve spoken of this before, but for the new readers please know I am the Vampire Queen of Tucson. It may be a type of prison for a vampire lover like myself, but it is where I am. I love Vampires. The first book I ever read on my own (and by choice) was one on vampires. I have a room in my house dedicated to vampires and general gothicness; working on a second even. I believe I have every book published by White Wolf on Vampire the Masquerade as well. I will consume almost anything Vampire related. So what does that have to do with Underworld?
When the first one came out in 2003, I think I watched my DVD copy of it once a week for 3 months. I *like* this franchise unironically. It has entertained me end to end. Sure some of the installments can be classified as
But that doesn’t mean they aren’t entertaining. Even the weakest of the franchise tends to put a smile on my face.
So should part 5 be left in the sun or does it continue to entertain?
First, unlike last film the rule of 3 is not invoked – technically. We have the based on characters by Kevin Grevioux, Len Wiseman, and Danny McBride credit, which is required. Then we have a story by Cory Goodman and Kyle Ward, screenplay (comes after the story) by Cory Goodman. Kyle Ward was writer on Machete Kills, which I hear was a blast and this project; while Cory Goodman is responsible for The Last Witch Hunter and Priest. As I said in the LWH review Goodman isn’t known for complexity in his plots, but he does have a taste for atmosphere and a certain air about the project with always a strong touch of the supernatural.
As with all Underworld films, time is subjective. We’re not sure when the year is, how long between films has actually occurred and it really doesn’t matter. The story so far is recapped again bringing anyone new to the franchise up to speed, then jumps in head first. It plays on one of the more annoying conceits to give the set up, by if you can swallow that pill you can move on. Selene is on the run from well everyone, but is still a level of wicked in a fight that it rarely pans out for the hunters. Now they hunt for her in a bid to find her daughter, the pure blood hybrid of what should be incredible power. Who is they? The Lycans lead by a new mysteriously powerful leader Marius and the vampire council who really just want her dead – save one member of the new vampire council Semira. Selene must avoid capture and find a new way to survive against the threats from all sides for the purpose of….something. Yeah, ok so much like the others this won’t win any awards for depth or meaning. Power for the sake of Power is the theme of the day and Selene is mostly on the defensive trying to survive against all-comers; which thankfully she is skilled to do. The question you need to see the movie to answer is “for how long?”
Kate Becksinale returns 13 years later from the origin of Selene and full disclosure – I have a massive girl crush on her so I could be more forgiving. She goes for a more weary, battle fatigued Selene; one who has loved and lost and in that she nailed it. Theo James (Divergent) returns as David. He is still trying, but his performance is so wooden I could use him as a stake. I give him credit for trying and there are so many hints of someone who can act and can emote I think he might be fine in the next one….maybe? Conversely Lara Pulver (Edge of Tomorrow, True Blood) as Semira is a joy to behold. This woman went all out for her vampire and while her performance dances a needles line on campy and sexy she brings it all together. Tobias Menzies (Edmure Tully on Game of Thrones, Outlander) playing Marius is one of the more credible villains the movies have had since we lost Michael Sheen. I have to also acknowledge Daisy Head (Fallen later this year) and Bradley James (Damien and Merlin TV series) both turn what I thought would be unremarkable, forgettable characters into something just a bit more. They are still largely a third class character in the hierarchy, but at least these two made it interesting.
Director Anna Foerster (Second Unit director on 10,000 BC, Aeon Flux, Day after Tomorrow) does a good job with her ideas being executed. The actors turn out decent(ish) performances. She (or Cory) made the decision to give both Vampires and Lycans a few new tricks in their arsenal. She introduces some interesting new concepts and unique visuals. Though her combat sequences and cut choices will need some work before the next movie as the further these movies progress the worse the combat gets – save one scene. It may be reminiscent of other scenes from better movies, but they made it their own under a beautiful (even if it was CG) sky. It also evokes a gothic, sexy vampire feel I’ve been missing.
Underworld Blood Wars is a solid continuation of the franchise. It brings in new ideas, new concepts, while tying up some loose ends and per usual Underworld films sets up a next one. I am not tired of the series and really was entertained for the majority of the film. It has some pacing, continuity, and editing issues but I have seen worse in higher budget films. It won’t likely make its budget ($35 million) back here in the States, but it’s combined worldwide gross should probably double it by the end of its run in a few weeks.
I may have to sit down with some like minded friends to ask why this franchise has such staying power when others of its ilk fail. Kate Beckinsale’s physique not withstanding.
Should you see it?
If you like this series or Vampires? Yes, yes you should. We get precious few GOOD Vampire movies, much less entertaining ones and this fits at least in the latter category.
You talk as if you don’t like it, but say its good?
No. I am commenting on its flaws of which there are many which I can’t in good conscience ignore for the purposes of the review. I still think its OK and I am still entertained by it. I still continue to enjoy these movies without a hint of guilt or irony about it.
I do like this movie. No if’s, and’s, or but’s.
Yeah, but you’re biased.
Maybe, but I also do like movies that entertain me. Last year had so much mediocrity I am not particularly hopeful for this year. At least I felt something as I watched it.
Will you watch it again?
Sure if someone wants to take me out on a date to watch it. Or hell just take me out to watch it.
Without a doubt it will be mine.
As far as this series’s staying power, I think it’s more a matter of what it doesn’t do rather than what it does.
It doesn’t try to be more than it is, which is an entertaining supernatural action flick with a mythos so straightforward it doesn’t double back and trip on itself. From the moment Selena started kicking ass followed by the… accentuating camera work in the first movie, I knew what this series was.
This series is an ode to everyone steeped in the vampire/lycanthrope mythos that are truly upset with the Ann Rice and Stephanie Meyer treatment of their favorite monsters. It’s a mix of the head to those that want to see their monsters be… well, monsters. I liken (heh) it to Blade I and II. Action packed supernatural badassitude that doesn’t try to provoke thought other than “that was awesome!”
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*nod of the head
I agree with you It knows what it is. It doesn’t try to be more and fully embraces everything that it represents. In addition it does give you a vampire that we don’t see often – outside of Blade.
Sure 30 Days of Night gives you combat vampires, but it plays to horror. Everything else is just pure romantic, pure horror. Not “action” and action makes it accessible.
The only other series even close to this at this point is Resident Evil.
Right there with you on the girl crush — and that’s saying something since Kate’s only “playing” a Vampire…
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Her sometimes stunt double and “past life” actress Rhona Mitra may be more than playing. Based on her comment about fangs during Lycans filming.
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