Kate Beckinsale reprises her role as Selene, the vampire Death Dealer, in Underworld: Blood Wars, the fifth film in the Underworld franchise. The Lycans are now organized under a new leader, Marius (Tobias Menzies), and are once again trying to wipe out the vampires — like they’ve been doing for centuries of time and 4 movies now. Kind of reminds me of Pinky and The Brain trying to take over the world every single day.
The top vampire leadership keeps getting killed, so Blood Wars introduces a new set of power players. There’s a new Council along with a new set of treacherous schemers plotting to seize control. Semira (Lara Pulver), the sexy but malevolent vampire bent on supreme power, fails to fool the audience even briefly, but manages to take the improbably gullible vampires completely by surprise. Several times. As usual, the machinations of her own kind pose as much or greater danger to Selene as the invading Lycans.
Director Anna Foerster serves up the visuals that have become franchise staples, with Lycans firing guns until they get bored, turning into wolves, and ripping vampires apart. Emo goth vampires parade around in leather outfits. Semira particularly outdoes herself in this department with her numerous costume changes – Goth Princess, Goth Lingerie Model, Goth Badass Fencer.
As usual for the Underworld series, the fighting is completely over the top. Blood, evisceration, burning, it’s all there. Selene and Marius throw each other against and through walls without taking noticeable damage. Marius and David (Theo James), Selene’s sidekick and protégé, stand about 6 feet apart and fire full auto at each other. Then they both strain like they’re constipated and push out all the bullets. Eventually, the script decides it’s time for the fight to be over, and someone, usually Selene, pulls out a big finisher.
If you follow the Underworld franchise from the beginning, it plays out like a Dungeons and Dragons campaign. There’s a Big Bad, and Selene, the hero (or at least the protagonist) must go on a quest and level up to defeat it. Then, next movie, there’s a Bigger Bad, and she goes on another quest and levels up again. This film is no exception. In Blood Wars, Selene’s power boost comes curtesy of a coven of hippie vampires living far to the north and is accompanied by a new hair color. Not to be left out, David also gets some power-ups in the form of a special sword and some game-changing information about his heritage.
The lazy plot device prize for Blood Wars has to go to the trivialization of blood memory. It was portrayed in the first movie as an exacting process for the transfer of memories through blood transfusion more or less restricted to elders. By the time of Blood Wars, it can be done by almost any vampire by simply licking a bloody knife, enabling virtually any character to quickly learn whatever the script needs them to know.
As awful as this movie is, it pains me to admit that I thoroughly enjoyed it. It presses all my buttons. I like campy goth costume fun. I like sword fights. I like watching women in leather kick butt. Yes, the fight choreography was more theatrical than practical, and Semira’s swordplay was more posing than fighting, but it was good enough to provide campy entertainment, and everyone looked good doing it. And I found the overacting amusing. There may have been little scenery left unchewed, but it was fun to watch.
There is a huge difference between a good movie and a crappy movie that one happens to like. Underworld: Blood Wars definitely falls into the latter category. It will be joining the other films in the Underworld franchise on my list of guilty pleasures.
Overall rating 4/10
Personal enjoyment rating: 8/10 (Guess that says something about me)