Movie Review - Underworld: Blood Wars
By Ben Gruchow
January 10, 2017
I have had it up to here with this series. Five films in, and there are crucial questions that I have about the universe of the Underworld movies that remain stubbornly unanswered by this latest chapter (subtitled Blood Wars and yet containing only one war, one that seems more like a distracted skirmish over lineage and hematology; I suppose Distracted Classist Vampire Slap Fight wouldn't have worked as well at the movie’s 3D title transition point, though). We have progressed through wars, evolution, awakening, and risings, and I can only dream that the inevitable next chapter will take us to explication.
Classism and genealogy are at the root of this franchise’s continuation; what I imagine elevates the intrigue among the devotees of the series is the exploration of arcane backstory and vaguely-recognizable mythologies, dressed up in pseudo-Gothic, conspicuously underlit (and usually rainy) surroundings. This implication of world-building is a pretext, or maybe just an excuse, to conduct action scenes with lots of gunfire and acrobatics and bloodshed between the two warring factions: vampire “Death Dealers” led by Selene (Kate Beckinsale), and werewolf “Lycans” led by…well, by a revolving door of special guest stars, I guess. Similarly to the Vampire Nation in the like-minded (and superior) Blade series, the bureaucracy seems to change with each film.
No explanation for the turnover at headquarters is given by Underworld: Blood Wars, and senescence has taken all but the faintest bitter memories of indiscriminate DI and blurry CG in the first three films, so I can only assume it's due to ruinous incompetence on the part of the senior staff or inadequate vetting of the junior staff. Consider their engineering of strongholds. The Lycans are mounting an army for an offensive against the movie’s coven of vampires, we’re told early on. “It will be their downfall!” claims the head of the vampire council (he has a name, but let's not kid ourselves: these movies are stuffed to their icy contact lenses with councils and covens and tribes and tribunals and heads of things, and their names are all beside the point).
“Nobody has mounted a successful attack on this fortress! We are too strong!” Never mind that roughly 20 minutes later we see a single car successfully barrel through the fortress’s outer gate, and you might not be surprised to learn that, in a movie subtitled Blood Wars, a successful attack against the fortress is very much indeed mounted. Perhaps it's less engineering and more a general failure to comprehend the enemy: a vaguely Nordic coven to the north has never been attacked by Lycans, we are told. Too far out of the way, and far too cold. Almost no sooner have these words been spoken than an army of Lycans pops up on the horizon, ready for a blood war. Not cold enough.