'Underworld: Blood Wars'
Hey, remember when everyone was obsessed with those ‘Underworld’ movies? I’ll bet you don’t because that never actually happened. Yet here we are, 14 years later, and there are still sequels being made. ‘Underworld: Blood Wars’ is the latest title in the franchise. It’s not particularly better or worse than any of the previous handfuls of nonsense. It’s just the same old crap refried and served up again.
It would be nice to say that this one is so bad that it’ll finally put an end to this ongoing cinematic nightmare. Sadly, this garbage fire will likely keep burning. Why? Who knows? I mean, bellbottoms once made a comeback. Stupid doesn’t die. It just gets stronger.
So what’s this one about? I honestly have no idea. On a certain level, the ‘Underworld’ mythology is brain dead simple. There are vampires and there are werewolves. They fight an ongoing war. Selene (Kate Beckinsale) is at the center because of fate or whatever. She has some sort of halfbreed monster daughter who’s a secret to something or other. That’s important. Just not enough for that character to be in this movie. That would allow the overall narrative to advance and this sequel is all about wheel-spinning. Instead of building new ideas, the flick just replays old ones. Once again, Selene is caught up in vampire politics, which I guess are bad. Once again, she fires handguns at werewolves and jump kicks some naughty vamps. Once again, it’s all pointless. Whatever. Who cares? Clearly not any of the army of ‘Underworld’ screenwriters.
On the plus side, the latest director on the ‘Underworld’ chopping block is TV veteran Anna Foerster. She doesn’t do anything to change the moody blue aesthetic of the series, but she does clearly have fun staging big action scenes that look glossy and expensive. There’s no shaky-cam. You can see the fights. Some are even stylish. For this series, that’s a big step in the right direction. However, none are particularly memorable. After all, when the ‘Underworld’ saga kicked off in 2003, this brand of leather-clad gun-fu was already going out of style. As much as Foerster tries to deliver some thrills, she’s stuck treading through tedious action beats that have been played out endlessly before, especially in ‘Underworld’ movies.
Kate Beckinsale also continues to do a remarkable job of maintaining her dignity at the center of these monstrosities. She can kick ass in all the required ways and manages to lend gravitas to cornball dialogue that doesn’t deserve it. The actress could have been a beloved action movie star if she’d gotten a franchise worthy of her talents. Instead, she’s stuck being the best part of these bad movies almost every few years. You need only look at any of the other cast members to see how good Beckinsale is. The indistinguishable collection of catalog models/actors (plus an underused Charles Dance) pose like action figures in frames and look like they’re squeezing out a fart while spitting out meaningless gibberish in a series of growls.
It’s pretty laughable, but unfortunately just boring enough to never cross the line into accidental camp comedy. The ‘Resident Evil’ movies have been running to similar inexplicable success alongside ‘Underworld’ for the last 14 years, but those are at least unabashedly silly and over-the-top in ways that can be fun and accidentally hilarious. ‘Underworld’ is too po-faced for that. These movies are the sad goth ‘tweens of bad fantasty franchises. They claim to know pain without any evidence. They put on a dark and cool image without any substance. They’re a waste of time. I guess the best approach is just to ignore the ‘Underworld’ movies and hope that someday they’ll disappear. That’s a dream that feels increasingly impossible, but a dream worth clinging to.