The Underworld films are bad for my ADD.
Seriously, I’ve seen all five of the Underworld films and I’m still not quite sure what’s going on. That’s odd because, in every film, Selene (Kate Beckinsale) spends a good deal of time explaining what has happened and why it’s happened. And yet, every time I try to listen, I’m usually left even more confused than usual. I can’t help it. As soon as I hear someone say, “The war between lycans and vampires,” I zone out.
So, I’ll admit it. I’m the person who, after the movie, is always asking, “Is Selene still a vampire? Why are the lycans and the vampires at war? Oh, wait — that was Selene’s daughter? Why would they want to create a hybrid? So, are they in the real world or are they in an alternate world? Is this movie taking place in the past or the future? Why can’t they just call them werewolves? Wait — that character died? When did that happen?”
What’s funny is that, even though I can never understand what exactly is going on, I still tend to enjoy the Underworld films. It’s not that I think they’re great movies and, to be honest, I tend to forget about them within a day or two of watching them. But, that being said, the Underworld films typically have style to burn and Kate Beckinsale always kicks ass as Selene. Every time I watch an Underworld film, I find myself trying to do slow-motion spin kicks. The Underworld franchise has led to me spraining my ankle more than a few times.
Underworld: Blood Wars, the latest installment in the franchise, was released in January and it played for a few weeks before vanishing from theaters and most people’s minds. It says something about the way the Underworld films are perceived that the latest installments are almost always released in January, a month when most movie goers are more concerned with getting caught up with the Oscar nominees as opposed to seeing new releases. Obviously, the Underworld franchise has made enough money to justify five films. (A sixth installment is currently in pre-production.) But, at the same time, no one will ever mistake this franchise for the MCU. Indeed, in most franchises, the challenge is to make each film bigger and more extravagant than the last. The Underworld movies tend to take the opposite approach. Even by Underworld standards, Blood Wars looks cheap. The entire film takes place in darkness, in castles that look like they’ve been constructed for a community theater production of The Lion in Winter.
Blood Wars starts out with Selene narrating a lengthy recap of the story so far. I tried to pay attention to the recap but as soon as Selene said, “lycans and vampires,” my ADD kicked in and I started playing with my phone. As far as I can tell, in Blood Wars, a member of the Vampire Council named Semira (Laura Pulver) offers to give Selene clemency if Selene will come to her castle and train a new generation of Death Dealers. However, it’s all a trick because Semira actually just wants to drink Selene’s blood and gain all of her powers. Meanwhile, the lycans want to get Selene because they’re trying to track down Selene’s daughter because apparently, they can use her to create some sort of hybrid creature that will allow them to finally destroy the vampires. Meanwhile, there’s a bunch of Nordic vampires running around and they’re all blonde because they’re Nordic. (I do have to admit that part of the film made me laugh. It’s as if the filmmakers said, “What can we do to make sure everyone knows that these are Nordic vampires? Wait a minute! Scandinavia. Blonde hair. I’m getting something here!” If it had been an Irish coven, I assume they all would have had red hair. And if it had been a Texas coven, they all would have been wearing cowboy hats.) As usual, the whole thing leads to a big vampire/lycan battle. Blood spurts. Heads are ripped off of bodies. All in all, it’s a typical Underworld film.
The film is largely forgettable and the plot is borderline incoherent but Kate Beckinsale still gives a remarkably committed performance. As opposed to Daniel Craig in the latest Bond film, Kate Beckinsale still seems to be somewhat invested in her most famous role. In typical Underworld fashion, Blood Wars doesn’t offer anything new but, at the same time, it also doesn’t demand much from the audience.
“Sit back and relax,” the film says, “nothing really matters anyway.”