A Review by Frank Ochieng
by Frank Ochieng
"Some things will never change within the tedious and surprisingly long-running sci-fi/horror saga **Underworld** film franchise. The vampires will still feature sharp fangs that can pierce a hardened leather sofa with one bite and the werewolves will be hairier than the local women’s wig shop. Of course the curvaceous heroine of this Gothic gumball machine of a flick–_Love & Friendship’s_ Kate Beckinsale–will predictably wear leather-clad attire that will cling to her shapely body tighter than a preschooler hanging on to his mother’s leg because he is scared to enter the classroom for the very first time. What also is expected not to change anytime soon is the sluggish intrigue, overblown supernatural creatures acting more obnoxious than your drunk Uncle Jake wearing a bra at the family cookout and Beckinsale’s womanly warrior Selene acting as the badass bloodsucking babe out to mediate the conflicting forces that persist. Yes folks…you heard correctly that this is the fifth installment of the **Underworld** universe that sits there and makes its presence known with all the force and feisty relevance of unwanted luggage left at the airport.
First-time feature director Anna Foerster (from TV’s “Outlander”) takes a crack at instilling some frolicking freshness in the turgid, cheesy **Underworld: Blood Wars**–a banal B-movie confection that Dracula would refuse to acknowledge even if there was a free showing at the local blood bank. Relentlessly flat, unimaginative and woefully recycled, **Blood Wars** offers nothing inviting or challenging for its aforementioned fifth time around the block and should have resisted the need to go beyond its 2003 Len Wiseman-directed release nearly fourteen years ago. Nevertheless, the devoted fanboys gave battleground beauty Beckinsale a theatrical movie gig (along with the rising popularity of the vampires/werewolves craze in cinema) that has lasted for an impressive long time as inexplicable as that sounds. However, lasting power does not necessarily mean a hill of beans with the one-note notion of a former orphaned vampire gal transforming into a beastly butt-kicking wrecking ball as the fatal feuding between the Lycans (a.k.a. “lycanthrope” or werewolves) and vampires escalates to a new level of chaos. Sure, Selene is not exactly as convincingly clever or calculating as Aliens’ Ripley (then again who is, right?) but she certainly is cut out of the same generic cloth as _Resident Evil’s_ Alice (for which pre-dates the **Underworld** experience as well as offering a longer string of sequels).
Foerster assures that **Underworld: Blood Wars** wastes no time in getting to the punchy antics of its silly-minded action sequences–some mired in empty-headed fun while other takes are needlessly monotonous. Screenwriters Cory Goodman and Kyle Ward stock up on the fluffy cliches of this toothless tease of a frivolous fable as the thin plot flies every which way more than Beckinsale’s golden locks during a heated scuffle. Sophomoric dialogue, formulaic confrontations and the dullness of opposing fierce factions set aside **Blood Wars** does make reasonable usage of its lethal leather-wearing lass Selene/Beckinsale in eye-rolling combat and the CGI visuals are engaging when not looking choppy in some instances. The fact that Selene has to negotiate some compromise for either side does introduce some slight sense of tension amid the roguish warfare and Beckinsale sells this quite accordingly to a certain degree. However, **Blood Wars** will definitely serve as comfort junk food for those legions of followers that have familiarized themselves with Selene’s jolting journey as she maneuvers through the manic mess that involves her blood-thirsty species taking on the hellish hairballs that are the defiant Lycans.
For first-time **Underworld** viewers or the casual crowd they will witness an under-cooked, ridiculously trite terror tale of an actioner that is sure to leave **Blood Wars** as nothing more than a false sense of second-hand stimulation. A generic exercise in the making, Foerster’s brooding bombshell in Beckinsale’s Selene is serviceable for a fifth go-around but that is really not saying too much given that the material never seems to revolve her from some of her past misadventures through the four previous **Underworld** entries. The supporting players–such as Charles Dance’s elder vampire Thomas, Theo James’s David (the male Selene perhaps?), Lara Pulver’s Semira and Tobias Menzies’s Marius–are accomplished performers in their own right but they add little atmosphere to the hackneyed hedonism that toils within this supernatural stupor.
No need to put the stake through the heart of these returning vampires and werewolves because they have proven time in and time out over again that the sultry Selene and her creature feature bickering buddies are not budging anytime soon after almost fifteen years of conjuring up surreal nonsense. Kinda makes you consider putting a stake through your own chest, huh?
**Underworld: Blood Wars** (2017)
1 hr. 31 mins.
Starring: Kate Beckinsale, Theo James, Charles Dance, Tobias Menzies, Lara Pulver, James Faulkner, Clementine Nicholson, Peter Andersson
Directed by: Anna Foerster
MPAA Rating: R
Genre: Sci-Fi/Horror/Action & Adventure/Fantasy
Critic’s rating: * 1/2 stars (out of 4 stars)
(c) **Frank Ochieng** (2016)"