I’d been looking forward to this film for a while. After the dismal effort of ‘Underworld: Awakening’ I was hoping for a return to what made the first film decent. Another drawcard for me was the talent attached to the film. Not only were Theo James and Charles Dance returning with star Kate Beckinsale, Lara Pulver (‘Sherlock’), Tobias Menzies (‘Outlander’) and Bradley James (‘iZombie’) were joining the cast. There’s some eye candy for everyone here, not to mention some solid acting chops.
However, before the screening invites had even arrived, warning bells were sounding. Firstly, the entire plot is given away in the trailer. Secondly, there’s been almost no hype for this film, besides a bus poster or two floating around Sydney’s CBD. And when the screening invite turned up in my inbox, those warning bells got louder: short lead-in (not much time between screening and release) and a very strict review embargo. When distributors insist on these types of measures, it’s often because even they don’t have any faith in the film.
Unfortunately, the warning bells were warranted. ‘Blood Wars’ has to be one of the worst films of the year. While the worst I’ve seen in 2016 has to be ‘Suicide Squad’, this one is definitely in my top five of disappointments. Direction is lazy, writing is even lazier, and I think the sound department must have been on strike. While the special effects are on par with the other films of the series, that isn’t something to skite about.
Speaking of lazy writing, like ‘Awakening’ there’s a recap at the beginning of the film, but you still must have seen the other films for this one to make much sense. The plot again revolves around Selene’s (Beckinsale) blood and its special powers, but at no point in this movie are we told how and why she has these powers – you need to have seen Movie Number 2. Much of the plot involves the quest for Selene’s daughter Eve, because somehow her blood will end the war... um, what? Whose blood do we want? Add to that the token Lycan villain drinking yet someone else’s blood, and we have three different sanguine samples with magical properties.
Not only is there that element of muddled plotting, but we also have more than one villain. Often this works just fine, and since ‘Underworld’ has done the Vampires vs Lycans thing in four movies now, an added element of conflict within should make for a tighter, more interesting plot. #epicfail
Another rather telling indicator of trouble is when a serious moment with a big reveal is so ham-fisted that the audience laughs aloud at the ridiculousness of it.
Lara Pulver does sneaky sensuality very well, but here she’s just wasted. So is Charles Dance as Thomas, whose actions years ago initiated the whole (much more interesting) sub-plot of David’s (Theo James) heritage. But none of this is done justice or used to its full potential. The political machinations within the Vampire hierarchy could have made an intriguing storyline on their own, but they’re glossed over as plot devices to justify another lazily-choreographed fight scene.
Disappointingly, as nice as the cast are to look at, all that pretty doesn’t come anywhere close to compensating for the complete lack of spirit in this film. While you almost can’t blame veterans like Dance for phoning in their performances, when the star of the film is looking tired of the role, you know a franchise is in trouble. Another rather telling indicator of trouble is when a serious moment with a big reveal is so ham-fisted that the audience laughs aloud at the ridiculousness of it.
For a series with so much potential, the latest instalment of the ‘Underworld’ franchise is demonstrating loudly that it’s very easy to lose sight of quality for quantity. Seems to me that the producers of this franchise ought to learn a lesson from those of the ‘Divergent’ series and reserve any future films for the streaming or TV market. And by the last scene of the film, you know that they plan on more...
Do yourself a favour and wait ‘til this one is out on Netflix.