Stars: Kate Beckinsale, Theo James, Tobias Menzies, Lara Pulver, Charles Dance.
Director: Anna Foerster
The Underworld franchise returns for its fifth installment and the good news is that it vastly improves on the disastrous previous episode, Awakening, which failed to raise even a two star rating from yours truly nearly five years ago.
The Lycans are forming their strongest army yet led by the ambitious Marius (Menzies). Vampire covens have fallen in their numbers at the hands of this army and with no death dealers remaining the Vampire council take desperate action and invite Selene (Beckinsale) to return to their fold on the understanding that all that had gone before would be overlooked. In return Selene would train a new generation of death dealers to defend the remaining coven under the watchful eye of Semira (Pulver). Marius, meanwhile, is looking to capture Selene in order to locate her daughter and secure the pure blood he needs to enhance his powers. Motives are a plenty, some clear, some not, some honest, others devious but one thing is certain; a battle is coming. With Allies David (James) and his Father, Thomas (Dance) alongside her, Selene must use all her death dealer skills to face the oncoming attack.
Put simply, Blood Wars has a great British cast. You may not know some of the names but if you are no stranger the fantasy genre either on the big screen or small, you will know the faces.
Kate Beckinsale slips back into the PVC quite comfortably and doesn't seem to be tiring of the role and although this is never going to be a role to win her any critical acclaim it does seem to be one she cares about. Nothing to stand out from her but it's her role, she is Selene. Nobody else could really take her place. Charles Dance and Theo James return as vampire Father and son and lend valuable support to Selene. Dance can clearly do this in his sleep and to be fair he seems to be a little more immersed in the role than he was in Awakening. James, on the other hand, shows some potential. He has the right sort of vampire brood about him and as the film goes on he really starts to get his teeth into things, so to speak. Lara Pulver, Tobias Menzies and Merlin's Bradley James make up the key forces for evil in our tale. Menzies and Pulver are well versed in the bad guy role and both display particular grit and determination to rule all before them. Bradley James switches from his rather more clean-cut Arthurian image in Merlin playing number two to Semira but he's more henchman than mastermind and is often kept in his place.
As mentioned earlier, Awakening was terrible so it was a great relief to see Underworld get back on form with Blood Wars. Creatively it doesn't present anything all that new but it does expand its story so much better than its predecessor although it does overlook some very key elements from it, you could go so far as to say maybe the writers forgot about those events for a while. What Blood Wars does do is present a very real battle scenario with more than a few protagonists with their own agendas and the question was who would come out on top and more importantly who would live to tell the tale. It stands alone very well as its own story and makes stark improvements to the ongoing saga as a whole. It's certainly left open for more and I for one would be happy to see more.
3/5 Stars Underworld bites back with some form.