Movie Review: 'Underworld: Blood Wars' (2017)

Beware of what critics have said about "Blood Wars" because this fan of the long-running “Underworld” franchise considers its latest installment, an absolute knockout. Kate Beckinsale, Theo James, and Charles Dance return for "Underworld: Blood Wars," a slick and enthralling follow-up to "Underworld Awakening."

"Blood Wars" picks up shortly after the events of the previous “Underworld,” as a new Lycan-led threat hunts Selena (Beckinsale) to learn the whereabouts of her and Michael's daughter. Meanwhile, Selene is still on the run from her former coven.

As always in the "Underworld" franchise, nothing is what it seems and as "Blood Wars" wears on, the heroes and villains switch hats with ready ease. It is a storytelling tactic that has always served the “Underworld” series well, and “Blood Wars” proves to be no exception.

In other majestically-conjured worlds, fans can always be certain of who the hero and the villains are. While “Underworld” has always managed to provocatively pose the question as to whether you can be so sure.

[Image by Screen Gems]
It is an added depth of storytelling that remains remarkably one-of-a-kind. While other franchises have flirted with “Underworld's” look, its twisty narrative is the one area they have left remarkably untouched. So is having a strong protagonist, another asset “Underworld” wields better than its peers.

In “Blood Wars,” Selene is still as likable an anti-heroine as she has ever been, and the rich cast of characters that surround her, provide her with something delicious to sink her teeth into. As one of film's groundbreaking female action stars, Beckinsale proves that she and Selene are vibrant and viable.  

After five movies Beckinsale's Selene is still feisty, feminine, heroic and vulnerable. Rooting for her is easy because she does not pretend to know everything and she openly cares for others, including male characters, a rarity among “Underworld’s” current slate of genre rivals.

As the revelations come pouring in, Selene remains constant. She, and relative “Underworld” rookie, David (a terrific Theo James), are the only certainty we have in an ever-evolving universe, where double crosses, and secret agendas remain the norm.

[Image by Screen Gems]
Charles Dance's welcome return to the franchise allows his character to be better explored. In a rare outing, Dance gets to play a good guy, but in typical “Underworld” fashion, you are never quite sure he is. “Underworld” uses its casting choices to cleverly play with viewers' expectations and it succeeds. A lot of that is thanks to Dance's scene-stealing performance, which runs rich with his earnest gravitas.

With six films under its belt, “Underworld” is still kicking tail with a rich storyline that has countless places to go, and a lead character who remains consistently engaging enough to want to explore them. First-time director Anna Foerster helms “Blood Wars” with a finesse that keeps the pace flowing, without losing its needed rhythm.

The action is taught, though a little too punishing on our heroes, at times. The sequences are still well-choreographed and the hand-to-hand combat remains fraught with entertaining chills and fancy thrills.

“Underworld's” now-iconic and heavily repeated aesthetic continues to best suit its signature storytelling; which is appropriately gloomy and full of gray areas. After six installments "Underworld" knows what its fans want to see and has no problem giving it to them, in cobalt spades and silver bullets. Rating: 8/10

[Featured Image by Screen Gems]

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