Underworld: Blood Wars is the fifth in the ‘Vampires vs Werewolves’ action/horror series, only four of which have started Kate Beckinsale as ‘death dealer’ Selene, but if you’re not up to speed, then Blood Wars begins with a very brief potted history of events so far.
For anyone new to the franchise, I would recommend you check out the first four movies initially, but note that the Underworld films never make a great deal of sense, and at times they do drag in the talky bits, but when the action hots up between good guys and girls and the baddies, it’s kick-ass big-time!
In what feels like a ‘side mission’ of a plot – in that it doesn’t really hang together in the way that you’d expect a good story to do, there’s now an Eastern Coven and a Nordic Coven, plus a new baddie in Marius (Tobias Menzies), and he’s trying to find Selene’s daughter, Eve (from Underworld Awakening) for her blood, so Marius’ power will be limitless, as she is the offspring of Vampire and a Lycan, and for the purposes of storytelling… etc. yep, you just want to get to the double hand-gun action.
But where is Eve? Selene is like Manuel in Fawlty Towers – she knows naaathing!
So, what to do about the new enemy? Well, the Vampires don’t like Selene for killing all the Elders, before now, but they need to get the band back together to sort out the Marius and the rest of the Lycans, so needs must when the devil drives (almost, literally!)
So prepare for some action and some heesy dialogue, eg between Selene and colleague David (Theo James):
- Selene: “I’m finished with this war”
Dad: “Well, it’s not finished with you.”
Also, when one of the new characters, Semira (Lara Pulver) says she fears “a large-scale Lycan attack”, and then Thomas (Charles Dance) says “there’s *never* been a large-scale Lycan attack”, you just KNOW… THERE’LL BE A LARGE-SCALE LYCAN ATTACK!!!
Oh, and once again, the good and the bad need somewhere gothic and gorgeous to parkour around, so this time, step forward my perfect location, Prague. Of course, it’d look better in the day time, but… well, y’know vampires and stepping out when it’s light!
I did wonder whether the 15-certificate would lead to a cutting down of blood and guts, since the Underworld movies are usually an 18-cert, which (when I double-checked) has been the case for movies 2-4, leaving just this and the first with a 15. However, this film is as bloody and violent as I’d want from an Underworld movie, and if I hadn’t known of the certificate before watching, I would’ve assumed it was an 18.
Unlike Underworld: Awakening, this one wasn’t shot in 3D, so the effect was added in post-production. Quite often, that leads to a sort-of “cardboard cut-out” effect, like the original Paddington Bear cartoons in the ’70s. And, normally, that’s more a hinderance than a help, but in this film, at times, it actually works, since it enhances the ‘comic book’ feel, and feels more like an entry in the Sin City series.
However, there are times when it would’ve benefitted from being shot natively in 3D, such as in scenes when Thomas and Semira are chatting early on; She’s in focus in the foreground, and he’s out of focus in the background. That’s normally how it is in 2D, but for 3D, both would’ve been in focus to give the proper effect – but… there’s no extra picture information to play with when creating the 3D version.
Generally, for the third dimension, this feature is most effective in the fight scenes. But when they’re talking… not so much.
All that said, shooting in 3D proper can add another $10-15m onto the budget, and when you crunch the numbers, Underworld: Awakening had a $70m budget and took $160m worldwide, while Underworld: Blood Wars cut the budget in half like a dead Lycan – taking it down to $35m. So far, prior to home sales, it’s taken $80m worldwide.
Of course, the studios want a big return on their investment, so if you want to see a sixth entry in the series, you need to fork out the moolah.
Interestingly, there’s no Underworld 1-5 Boxset, but last October, a 1-4 Collection was re-released with new packaging, so if you buy the Blu-ray version of that, then No.4 will be in all its 3D glory, as the Blu-ray was only released as a 3D/2D combo, whereas for No.5, the 3D version is a separate released.
You get the 2D disc with its extras, plus a 3D movie disc on its own. If they’re not doing an all-in-one, then this makes sense rather than producing a 3D disc with the extras INCLUDING a 2D version (since the spec of 3D Blu-ray insists that should be in the package, too). Given that there’s a separate 2D and 3D Blu-ray versions for sale, I figured before I opened it that this would be the case, as my unboxing video, below, shows.
Roll on Underworld VI, and I hope we don’t have to wait FIVE YEARS for that one!
The film is presented in the original 2.35:1 widescreen ratio and in 1080p high definition and you’d be surprised if it was not a top-notch transfer for a brand new film, showing off the action and special effects to great effect, even when almost every single scene in the movie is set in the dark.
As fans would expect, there’s some incredible split-surround effects in many action scenes and in 5.1 DTS HD-MA, it’s shooting, punching and more shooting all over the shop from start to finish!
The 2D disc contains some moderately interesting extras, although there’s nothing to particuarly… get your teeth into (ho ho ho…):
- The Evolution of Selene (8:09): Clips interspersed with chat from key cast and crew members (just like the subsequent supplementals), showing how Kate Beckinsale’s character has gone from film one to film five… skipping No.3, since she wasn’t in it. It also tells the whole plot of No.5, since make sure you don’t watch this before you see the film. That said, it’s the kind of fluff which the studio will have allowed Sky to show inbetween films to give it a plug while it was in the cinema.
- Old and New Blood (6:15): This one’s about how they brought a new coven into the franchise… so they had a plot upon which to hang a new film.
- The Evil Evolved (6:07): How to deal with Lycans, as well as a look at the new cast members.
- Building A Blood War (12:03): A behind-the-scenes look at the fifth film, and how new Underworld director Anna Foerster has previously worked in special effects and cinematographu, as well as aerial director of photography on Roland Emmerich’s end-of-the-world actioner 2012.
- Audio description: Does exactly what it says on the tin.
The disc contains trailers BEFORE the main menu, as if we’re still in the age of rental video. This should NOT be the case, so I won’t name them. But, just to add insult to injury, they DO also show up in the extras section.
In addition, there are subtitles in English and French (the latter on the 3D disc, only), and there are 16 chapters – better than most releases from other distributors, and since I go by the rule of thumb of one every five minutes, and since this film is just 91 minutes long, it’s almost spot-on, which is quite a rarity.
Running time: 91 minutes
Studio: Sony Pictures
Released: May 29th 2017
Picture: 1080p High Definition
Sound: DTS HD-MA 5.1, DTS 5.1
Languages: English, French
Subtitles: English SDH, French (3D version only)
Format: 2.35:1 (Redcode RAW (6K))
Disc Format: BD50
Director: Anna Foerster
Producers: David Kern, Gary Lucchesi, Tom Rosenberg, Len Wiseman and Richard Wright
Screenplay: Cory Goodman (based on a story by Kyle Ward and Cory Goodman, and characters created by Kevin Grevioux, Len Wiseman and Danny McBride)
Music: Michael Wandmacher
Selene: Kate Beckinsale
David: Theo James
Marius: Tobias Menzies
Semira: Lara Pulver
Thomas: Charles Dance
Cassius: James Faulkner
Vidar: Peter Andersson
Lena: Clementine Nicholson
Varga: Bradley James
Alexia: Daisy Head
Gregor: Oliver Stark
Vampire Council: Zuzana Stivinova, Brian Caspe, Jan Nemejovsky
Amelia: Driga Sveta
Lycan Pack Leaders: Dan Bradford, David Bowles, Tomas Fisher, Rotislav Novak
Reviewer of movies, videogames and music since 1994. Aortic valve operation survivor from the same year. Running DVDfever.co.uk since 2000. Nobel Peace Prize winner 2021.