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Underworld: Blood Wars (2017)

Sony Pictures Home Entertainment
4K UHD Released: 4/25/2017

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Review by Mike Long, Posted on 4/3/2017

I've been reviewing movies for nearly 30 years and in that time I have done my best to not be a typical, close-minded mainstream critic. I try to see every movie as an individual work and judge it on its own merits. I make every effort to not pre-judge movies based on their genre or lump movies together. Even when it comes to franchises or movie series, I take it one movie at a time...usually. There's always the exception to the rule, where you run into something which challenges your personal rules. And that movie, ladies and gentlemen, is Underworld: Blood Wars.

Underworld: Blood Wars takes place not long after the events of Underworld: Awakening. That film attempted to take the series in a new direction, as it showed vampire Selene (Kate Beckinsale) engaged in a new war with the Lycans (werewolves) which revolved around her daughter, Eve (India Eisley), a hybrid whose blood could change the world. In order to protect the girl, Selene sent Eve into hiding, ensuring that even she didn't know where her daughter was. As Blood Wars opens, the Lycans are still hounding Selene for Eve's whereabouts, and she is assisted by fellow vampire, David (Theo James). Meanwhile, the Lycans have a new leader, Marius (Tobias Menzies), who wants to mount a massive assault on the vampire's fortress. Sensing this impending attack, Semira (Lara Pulver) suggests to the vampire council that they rescind Selene's ban and have her train a new army of warriors. Wary of this invitation, but tired of being on the run, Selene accepts this invitation, but it only leads to a road of betrayals.

The mere existence of Underworld: Blood Wars makes one take pause and think about how we got here. The series began in 2003 with Underworld, a movie which was decidedly style over substance, but did a good job of melding action and horror. From there, we got an entry every few years, including the misguided flashback of Underworld: Rise of the Lycans. But, here's the question: What do filmgoers like about these movies? Do they like the action? Do they like the characters? Do they like the vampire politics? Do they like all of those blue lights? Did the makers of Underworld: Blood Wars take any of these things into consideration?

In its short running time 82-minutes before the credits roll, Underworld: Blood Wars offers a lot of talking and relatively little action. So, if you like to hear vampires discuss their hierarchy and history and how no one can get over the fact that Selene killed Viktor, then this is the movie for you. I've seen the other movies and I still got lost in all of the chatter about covens and history and who did what. The movie opens with a brief action sequence and then there is just one scene after another with speeches and discussions. The second half of the film does contain two action sequences, but they are somewhat brief and uninspired.

So, we've questioned the appeal of the movie and the fact that it's somewhat boring, but what's Underworld: Blood Wars' worst sin. The vast majority of the film doesn't feel the least bit original. About 80% of the movie could have easily been made up of deleted scenes from the other movies and I would have been none the wiser. Yes, the Underworld films have a certain aesthetic with the overall looks of the film (blue!) and the costumes, but I don't think that anyone would have protested if they had changed things up a little bit. The vampires complain about being pursued by the Lycans. Here's a clue, quit dressing like Euro-goth vampires and maybe the Lycans wouldn't notice you. The only thing here which is new is a coven of blonde vampires which use more mysticism in their practices. Although they do look like something from Game of Thrones, at least the viewers eye is drawn to something which doesn't look like everything else from every other frame of the film.

I liked the first two Underworld films. I like Kate Beckinsale. I will often defend horror movies. But, Underworld: Blood Wars is indistinguishable from the other films in the series. It's conspicuous arrival five years after the last movie just feels like a cash-grab. The movie has the slick look which we've come to expect from the series and the sets don't look cheap, but it's also incredibly hollow. This one is only for the die-hard fans of the series who will actually care about the vampire jibber-jabber.

Underworld: Blood Wars takes place in a vague Europe where things are really close to each other on 4K UHD courtesy of Sony Pictures Home Entertainment. The film has been letterboxed at 2.35:1 and the Disc contains a 2160p HD transfer. The image is extremely sharp and clear, showing no overt grain and no defects from the source materials. I'll be honest, I was wary about watching this film on 4K, as I've noticed that darker movies don't show the same results as lighter films do, and Underworld movies are notoriously dark, but it looked fine. The image was never overly and the blues look great (we really don't get many other colors here). The image has a nice crispness to it and the depth is impressive, even in this 2D version. The level of detail is good as well, and the image is never soft. The Disc contains a Dolby Atmos (7.1) audio track which provides clear dialogue and sound effects. As one would expect, this is a muscular track, providing deep bass during the action sequences. These same scenes show off detailed stereo and surround effects, and we can pick out individual sounds coming from the front and rear channels. The sounds also move smoothly from front-to-back and side-to-side.

The extras for Underworld: Blood Wars are found on the accompanying Blu-ray Disc. "The Evolution of Selene" (8 minutes) offers clips from the other movies, as Beckinsale discusses the character and she actually says that she didn't think that she'd be coming back for a fifth one. None of us did. "Old & New Blood" (6 minutes) gives an overview of the film's characters, paying particular attention to David, his father, and the new coven. "The Evil Evolved" (6 minutes) is yet another overview of the film, exploring the vampiric relationships and double-crosses. "Building a Blood War" (12 minutes) opens with the statement that it would be a mistake to do things different. No, that's where you went wrong. After that, we get a brief overview of the film's production, complete with comments from the creative team and cast, as well as some on-set footage. "Underworld: Blood Wars Graphic Novel" is a comic book which can be viewed on-screen.

Review Copyright 2017 by Mike Long