Director: Anna Foerster
Starring: Kate Beckinsale, Theo James, Tobias Menzies, Laura Pulver and Charles Dance
Release Date: 13 Jan
Haemophobia sufferers beware! The Underworld saga has returned for its fifth instalment, entitled “Blood Wars”, which is one promise it truly delivers on.
For the uninitiated, Blood Wars begins with a brief flashback montage of previous events of the franchise. This is a technique debutant film director Anna Foerster is not shy of using throughout, so be prepared if you are easily disoriented.
The narrative begins with the vampire race having been hunted almost to the point of extinction by their arch nemeses, the Lycans. The former have been forced to retreat to the last remaining strongholds they still possess, as the Lycans continue their merciless advance.
As in the previous film, Awakening, the McGuffin of Blood Wars for the Lycans is the half werewolf, half vampire daughter of Selene, Eve. Due to her dual identity, the Lycans continue their pursuit of her, believing she can assist in creating a powerful army of hybrids. They believe that by capturing Selene (Beckinsale), she will lead them to her daughter.
The vampires, meanwhile, wish to recruit Selene in order for her to train fighters for what they perceive to be the last stand against the advancing Lycans.
Naturally, nefarious vampire leader, Semira (Pulver) has other ideas, wishing to lure Selene to the eastern coven in the belief that whoever attains the “blood of the hybrid girl…will be invincible”.
Charles Dance reprises his role as Vampire elder, Thomas and is assigned the unenviable task of delivering much of the initial clunky exposition scenes. What follows is a pattern of bloody fight scenes punctuated by muddy attempts to explain what’s going on or to remind the audience of events of the previous films.
It is here that the film falls between two stools by trying to appease franchise fans whilst also attempting to make the saga narrative accessible to new audiences. The flashback routine is excessively employed in this regard. By the end, one wonders what film they are watching or where they even are.
The plot device of blood having memory (homeopathy for vampires), and whoever it is transmitted to receiving those memories, is hackneyed and all the more confusing in conjunction with the flashbacks. Towards the finale there is more plasma swapped between characters than a transfusion board and audience members could be forgiven for desiring a glass of orange juice or a sugary snack afterwards.
Returning fans of the series will no doubt enjoy the series’ now established “Shakespeare Sisters meets Marilyn Manson music video mise-en-scene”. And one imagines that auditions for much of the cast merely involved the ability not to express any type of emotion other than a permanent scowl.
Rounding it all off, thanks to the vampires’ aversion to sunlight, the cinematographer and lighting crew felt they could take the afternoon off for Blood Wars. Drowning almost every scene in pitch darkness, it is more often than not difficult to discern the bondage-gear clad cast from their surroundings.
At a merciful runtime of 91 minutes, this film should satisfy Underworld-philes (producer and writer Len Wiseman has already hinted at a possible sixth film) but will not appeal to any haemophiliacs or newcomers to the franchise.
Written by Cian O’ Donnell