'Underworld: Blood Wars' Review: The Gas Station Taco of Vampire Movies
Some quick fun facts about the Underworld franchise, which is sort of the blue-hued, less fun, equally stupid, equally unkillable sister to the Resident Evil franchise: Blood Wars is the fifth entry in the franchise. Kate Beckinsale, as Selene the Death Dealer (eye roll, also, someone make sure Frank Frazetta’s estate is getting some proceeds) has starred in four out of five of them, with Rhona Mitra starring in the worst of them, Rise of the Lycans. The first entry came out in 2003, which hardly seems possible now. The movies are about a centuries’ long war between vampires and werewolves, which is appropriate because I suspect that Beckinsale is an actual vampire, because she looks the exact same now, at 43, as she did when the first film came out and she was 29. I’m turning 42 and compared to when I was 29, these days I look like I was stuffed into a bag full of bricks and thrown into a vat full of bourbon.
But I digress.
Anyway, the Underworld franchise has generally been nonsense. For many reasons — Beckinsale’s wooden acting, the oddly stiff action choreography, each of its five directors’ respective baffling decision to drown the film in Windex to make everything so. goddamn. blue, the hilariously inept world-building that relies so heavily on cliches (vampires are all brunettes and only wear black, werewolves are always rowdy and dirty and apparently there’s only been a single black person to ever be turned into a supernatural being… ever), the silly decision to eschew the word “werewolf” as if it’s fucking copyrighted and instead using “lycan” even though apparently “vampire” is just ducky… the list goes on. And yet, they’re all weirdly addictive even though you know they’re terrible. They’re like gas station tacos. You know going in you’re making a poor life choice, but on the other hand, it’s late, you’re drunk, no one likes you, and what the hell else are you gonna do when you’re by yourself on a Friday night again, you fucking loser? Yeah, I’m talking to you. You know who you are.
Amidst this nonsense comes Blood Wars, where our heroine is on the run after the last movie, Awakening, wherein she discovered she had a daughter who was the chosen one or some shit. Her hybrid lover, played by that idiot from Flacidity (Publisher’s Note: Grrrr) or whatever that Keri Russell show was called, died (I think? I was drunk), and now she’s on the run from vampires and werewolves (seriously, fuck off with that lycan bullshit) alike. Except the vampires are scared of the rising werewolf threat so they make friends only AHA! BETRAYAL! because Selene, while beautiful and deadly, has never been particularly bright given that she’s been betrayed in EVERY SINGLE GODDAMN MOVIE, because come on Selene, you halfwit.
Where was I? Right, betrayal. Actually, let’s not bother, because the movie follows the same basic formulas that its predecessors did — an evil betrayer vampire, an evil werewolf leader, the fate of their kind depending on a vamp/werewolf hybrid (in this case, her daughter), Selene discovers new powers or abilities or something, a final battle, and then Selene glowering at the camera and mouthing the words “sequel, bitch”.
It’s all so hysterically stupid, but I’ll give Blood Wars this: it’s at least somewhat different and attempts to incorporate some new ideas. It’s fun, even if it’s never funny, and that’s because it embraces its B-movie roots so easily. It helps because there’s a supporting cast that appears to be having a goddamn ball chewing scenery like a motherfucker. Charles Dance is basically Vampire Tywin Lannister, full of cold gazes and dramatic statements, and I want to just clink glasses with him for owning that silly shit. Daisy Head excels as a seemingly innocent vampire warrior, a statement that I can’t believe I just made. Clementine Nicholson and Peter Andersson chomp down on the roles of two Nordic vampires, who have white hair and dress in white and are sort of like vampire hippies. But the gold goddamn medal goes to Laura Pulver as Semira, an ambitious, conniving vampire leader. Pulver decimates the rest of the cast with her performance, Eva Green-ing the shit out of every scene she’s in. She laughs, she crazy eye-fucks every character she looks at, she changes costumes every five minutes, and she wields her cleavage like a weapon of mass destruction. She’s goddamn delightful and she saved this dumbass movie from the brink of unwatchability.
Ironically, the least appealing characters are the leads — Beckinsale frostily stares her way through the film, and Theo James as her comrade David is utterly useless other than to present a very admirable set of abs. Look, Underworld: Blood Wars is rapaciously idiotic. It’s stupid and pointless and full of weird holes in both its story and its mythology. It’s a bad movie. But… I can’t say it can’t be an enjoyable movie. I’m not saying you should watch it. I’m saying pour yourself something strong, maybe hover your finger over the “rent” button, and just drink about it a little, and see what happens. But stay away from those gas station tacos, stupid. That shit’ll kill you.