Movie Review: Underworld: Blood Wars

A lot has been going on with my job that has affected my ability to write. Last week I watched and reviewed Silence in the span of two days in which I also worked 10 hours on 5 hours of sleep. Upon looking at the finished piece, I was not at all satisfied with what I had done. I believe I did not put forth as much effort as I used to in an attempt to reach a deadline and deal with fatigue. Silence was a beast of a movie and I feel I did not do it enough justice. For this reason, I have decided to increase my daylong review-delay to a whole week. This will eliminate the relevance factor, but at least I will be happy with the end result. Hopefully so will you. And now, here is why Underworld: Blood Wars sucks my balls.

After surviving the events of Awakening Selene, played by Kate Beckinsale, is pursued by Vampires and Lycans who want the location of her daughter to turn the tide of their eternal war.

There is a lot you can say about the Underworld series. They are a part of a dying breed of serious-ironic action movies that came about in the late 90s. Mummy, Pitch Black, and Resident Evil were totally ridiculous and stupid, but they knew it and were fun to watch. Underworld follows that same formula with very anime inspired elements that reveal series’ writer Kevin Grevioux to be a giant otaku. He clearly loves Vampire Hunter D and Hellsing (have you watched Ultimate yet?) and did his best to integrate similar concepts into his work.

Underworld also has cool ideas that evolved our understanding of the Vampire Mythos. As a student of microbiology and genetic engineering, Grevioux took the science of blood and applied it to movie monsters. He made vampirism and lycanthropy diseases spread through blood, genetic memories shared through its consumption, and because both kinds are changed in DNA, made their blood carriers of their powers, leading to the overarching Vampire/Lycan hybrids narrative.

Blood Wars uses those same ideas in service to the most technically horrendous film I have seen in years. I am baffled that it came from a major company and cost 35 million to make what amounts to an extended LARP campaign starring a bunch of Czechs with airsoft guns and terrible wigs. Putting aside story details that did not make sense and a magic bath of plot convenience (I am not joking), Blood Wars fails utterly on the technical front.

The editing is the chief flaw where whoever cut the film wanted to finish it as soon as possible. The opening in particular was jarring with flashes and black frames that punched me in the brain. What looked like a decent motorcycle chase was turned into hammered shit by an editor that did not care. Following the chase there was a conversation between two characters in a calm state and it was just as bad. When one finished their line, there was a very quick cut to the next character, followed by another cut until the scene was over. This bastardized editing continued throughout Blood Wars.

While a merciful 90 minutes, the editing makes the movie agonizing to sit through. Even without knowing how a film is supposed to be cut, a typical audience member knows what looks good and what looks bad. Blood Wars is technically bad even with the acceptable parts.

There is one scene that was so confounding I do not believe it was real. Perhaps I imagined this, but at the climax there is an extended sequence where two characters are staring at each other in slow motion, and their vocal gestures (grunts, sighs, and moans) are all you hear. It was like someone took all the groans from a terribly dubbed anime and put them together in a scene for no reason. Why it was included I have no idea because the film just moves on like it did not happen.

Other technical issues are peppered throughout. Similar digital effects were repeated in a couple scenes. There was also one shot of a car pulling up to a mansion that was used twice. Then there was Beckinsale’s narration at the beginning and end that explained things we already knew. For the fifth entry in the series, I doubt anyone in attendance does not know the backstory. It was worse at the end where she retells the movie, explaining the epilogue as it plays out on screen, and sets the stage for a sequel that will never happen.

Many of these issues could be attributed to the absence of Len Wiseman, who was involved in the series from the start. In fact, everyone from the previous movies was present in name only. Those guys knew exactly the kind of film they were making and put real effort into the production. What goes unnoticed is the horror atmosphere that went hand in hand with the action elements not unlike Mummy. Blood Wars tries to be all action and coupled with the horrible technical issues, negates any element of horror that could have elevated the material.

For all the bad there are some good things I feel are worth mentioning. The action scenes were okay and a little creative at the end where riot shields were included in an intense shootout. Charles Dance was a nice addition like his small role in Awakening before they killed him after 10 minutes of total screen time. Beckinsale was also great in a role she made her own. It is also important to note that she remains impeccable since the first movie 14 years ago. It is a shame she is not in more films that are actually good. And that is about it.

“Fuck You, It’s January” has officially begun. Underworld: Blood Wars is the epitome of studio apathy; a film no one wanted but they had it, and needed to recoup costs. I expect nothing less from Sony and this is not the end of their cinematic bowel movement. Resident Evil: The Final Chapter, one of Underworld’s contemporaries, will close out the month in a grand finale of trash. Until then, I must dig deeper into this ever-growing landfill of movies.

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