Vampires and werewolves are cool, and it makes a strange bit of instinctual sense that they would be natural enemies. It works in Twilight, True Blood, The Vampire Diaries, and other stories. But nowhere is it more distilled than in the all out war that takes place in the Underworld franchise. How do you make vampires and werewolves fighting each other suck? Well, Underworld: Blood Wars has answered that question: just make your audience wish for death. Yeah, that works. Good job, Underworld.
Underworld Five takes place in Eastern European Michigan, where day looks like night and night looks like a goth daydream. The main characters are Seline (Kate Beckinsale), a leather-clad catsuit model, and her pouty-lipped platonic baby-faced vampire partner, David (Theo James). There’s also a bunch of other white people in various shades of black, and later, some brown and white. The whole thing looks like an AFI music video filtered through a half-empty bottle of blue Aqua Velva. Seline and David are running from the Lycans (werewolves) and vampires who hunt them, but that really doesn’t matter. Nothing much does. This is a movie about cool looking vampires killing dirty, ugly Lycans, for reasons. Anyway, a whole lot of people stand around and talk, the action sucks, and the movie is a surprising bore. Underworld: Blood Wars is a literal vampire feeding on fun and it’s own dwindling credibility.
“Grunt if you understand.”
Despite the simple premise of vampires fighting werewolves, the story is pointlessly dense. Four separate double crosses occur across about five different acts. Boredom and confusion go hand in hand. Just when I thought the movie was going to end, another act began. When the movie did end, it still felt like another act was coming (or worse yet, another sequel). The war between the two species doesn’t make sense, despite the previous four(!) films. It doesn’t make sense that we’re rooting for the Vampires, either, until you realize that they’re the attractive ones. The vampires are good –or at least, good-looking– and the Lycans are evil because they’re poor and dress in brown. We hate them and their non-black, dirty-brown clothes! Boo Lycans! It borders on political propaganda, but is too distressingly muddled and banal to be effective.
If you’re a fan of the existing films and their mythology, then buckle up! This movie is full of it. If you’re a fan of good ol’ vampire on werewolf action, well…settle down. You won’t get any action until the fancy people are done talking. Shame on you for asking, shame! The action that exists is edited so poorly that you can’t tell if the characters are fighting or reenacting fetish porn. Somebody probably got fired for this, but between all the recreational Adderall and cocaine, they surely didn’t notice. The special effects are on par for what looked bad ten years ago, and the set design isn’t much better. Yes, there are fancy vampire castles, but it’s all very superficial and lifeless. And the story spends entirely no time making any of it seem cool or impressive at all. If it sounds good, trust me–it isn’t.
“She killed one of her own!”
Since Underworld: Blood Wars is the fifth movie in the Underworld franchise, it references previous events in the series. But every time the movie makes an effort to catch you up, it confuses you with more silly plot. Long exposition and blood-drinking flashbacks give us most of the backstory in the film. Yes, there’s a lot of blood drinking, despite the presence of no humans whatsoever. When vampires drink each other’s blood, they see each other’s memories. This means whole swaths of the movie are flashbacks to previous films, including 2009’s prequel, Underworld: Rise of the Lycans. But what should have been an ingenious way of getting exposition out of the way turns out be another waste. This movie was originally a reboot. After seeing it, I can safely say it should have remained one. And considering how horrible reboots are, that is definitely saying something.
Perhaps there would be some novelty to the proceedings if the movie had any self-awareness, but it doesn’t. Underworld: Blood Wars is insufferably self-serious. There’s barely any comedy to glean from its shortcomings, depriving hardcore movie fans from even ironic enjoyment. The off-topic Hot Topic criticism of the movie’s wardrobe and set design can only do so much. This is an action movie with terrible action and special effects. It’s a Gothic drama with no understanding of either term. It’s a supernatural thriller staking the entire genre in the heart. This movie is a photocopy of a photocopy of a prequel of a photocopy of a lukewarm original image. It was released in Europe well before its debut in the U.S. and Canada to avoid negative reviews. One only hopes it reads better in a different language because it’s absolute shit in this one.
“All I need…is your blood.”
But hey, this film might still appeal to many people. That’s okay–you’re a bad person, but I still accept you. Hugs. If you want to see Kate Beckinsale in form-fitting leather, then this is the (fourth) movie for you! The outfits look like sex-cult garb in the fucking Matrix, but they’re nice if that’s what you’re into. If you’re super keen to learn more about the complex vampire politics of the Underworld universe, then you’re in luck. They’ve got that, all while dressed like 2003 MTV Music Award rejects on their way to a formal BDSM munch. And if you like the sight of respected British thespians earning embarrassing paycheques, this movie ticks another box. Underworld: Blood Wars is the gift that keeps on giving, if you hate gifts, and movies, and yourself.
The fifth Underworld film would’ve been better left as unread fan fiction. The story is tedious, the action is underwhelming, and the whole thing is an insult to film fans everywhere. For die-hard Underworld aficionados, your patience will be tested, but you might find something to like. For everyone else? Avoid this film like the undead plague it is. Underworld: Blood Wars is a terrible film. I hope it’s the final nail in this franchise’s black lace and leather-lined coffin.
My Rating: 3/10