“Underworld: Blood Wars” (2017): Novice Nirvana

I’m pretty unaware of the Underworld franchise. Aside from vaguely remembering the first film from a cable watch over a decade ago, the world of Lycans vs Vampires is pretty unfamiliar territory for me. So, Underworld Blood Wars was a cold experience going in. One can only expect the type of silly over the top Matrix style action with little story investment if they’re coming from an outside perspective. And… that’s basically what Blood Wars delivers. Endless amounts of bad werewolf CG, skin tight leather outfits and more than enough exposition about this society that was essentially covered rather well in the opening monologue. Yet… there’s still a surprising amount of fun to be had during this rather overt schlockfest.

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As previously stated, the opening prologue narrated by Kate Beckinsale gives a novice the essential rundown of her character Selene and the ongoing war between werewolf and blood sucker. It’s over complicated, but boiled down well enough to give us the essential context. Unfortunately, the first half of Underworld Blood Wars continues down the track of endless exposition. Constantly talking about “convents” and “the council of pureblood vampires” and all this other tripe, leaving little to any room for the silly action sequences that people have come to see. This is particularly the case after a dumb yet fun motorcycle chase that opens the modern action, showing off cinematographer-turned-director Anna Foerster‘s knack for weird camera angles and abrupt elements coming to the fray that make the experience a silly joy to watch.

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The only other element that saves that drawn out set up in the first half is Lara Pulver as Semira the secondary antagonist. Underworld: Blood Wars allows Pulver to bask in a scenery chewing part that was oddly refreshing in its dominant female perspective. A devilishly conniving vixen with aims of power, Pulver gives a role that could be so throw away so much conviction. With every step she takes and facial contortion, she breathes raw sexual energy and absolute control into every scene she has. This is particularly present in any scene she has with her boy toy Varga (Bradley James), who she wields like a staff to punctuate her evil deeds, including some vigorous oral sex that makes her evil machinations ooze out of her in pleasure. This is especially chuckle worthy given James has all the enthusiasm of Mads Mikkelsen reading tax returns to contrast with her extreme over acting.

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She’s especially more refreshing when compared to Tobias Menzies as the lead Lycan, who mainly just transforms into the film’s greatest flaw: terrible CG werewolves. Werewolves that haven’t apparently aged from the original film. Points for consistency, but all other points lost for how unconvincing they are at every turn. It doesn’t help that my screening was in a Dolby cinema, where the crisp picture highlighted just how much they stand out in a frame. It honestly felt watching the werewolves from Hugh Jackman’s Van Helsing were popping up to terrorize us over a decade later.

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Yet, part of the charm of Underworld: Blood Wars is how super serious everything is treated. The build up of lame exposition isn’t fun to watch while it’s happening, but the stone faced seriousness with which they treat all this nonsense about “purebloods” and “councils” makes the elaborate gun-kata sequences all the more hilarious to watch. We just go from scenes of deliberation and supposed intrigue to a vampire capping a werewolf in the feet before running him over with a car. It’s hysterical to see all of this transpire, particularly with Kate Beckinsale’s no-nonsense stone face delivering so many monologues about her daughter and the responsibility of the Lycan fight as if she’s straight out of a soap opera. There’s not an ounce of irony in her delivery, making her eventual upped power set that comes out of nowhere all the more impressive in hindsight.

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Underworld: Blood Wars succeeds at being entertaining in spite of itself. No amount of lengthy exposition or random heroic sacrifice can make any of this worth legitimately investing in. Yet, the insanely unbridled action and stupid plot contrivances make the ride an unintentionally hilarious ride through nonsense. The attempts to not only still emulate the post-Matrix style of action, but also integrate aesthetics from The Hunger Games and Game of Thrones into the mix make this pop cultural collage of stupid all the more bizarre in a gut bustingly moronic fashion. Underworld: Blood Wars is the kind of trash that charms through the scraps. It’s the little things in life that stick with you and sometimes the little things involve vampires fighting each other in a castle with uzis.

Rating: 2.5 out of 5 Vampires Wielding Uzis

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