THE AISLE SEAT - by Mike McGranaghan
"UNDERWORLD: BLOOD WARS"
In 2002, the popular Sesame Street character Elmo testified before Congress. His aim was to generate increased support for the funding of music education in public schools. Putting it succinctly, he said, “Please, Congress, help Elmo's friends find the music in them. I love you, Congress.” Celebrities visiting Capitol Hill is nothing new, but this marked the first time a non-human ever testified before an assembly of our nation's leaders.
What does that have to do with Underworld: Blood Wars? Absolutely nothing. It's just more interesting to write about than this dopey movie.
Kate Beckinsale returns as Selene, the “death dealer” caught in the middle of a centuries-long war between vampires and werewolves. In this installment, she has the chance to end the war permanently. The hitch is that first she must find the daughter she ordered to be hidden away for safety. The girl's blood may be the very thing that brings peace. Helping her is David (Theo James), the son of prominent vampire leader Thomas (Charles Dance). Their search for Selene's daughter is hampered by Marius (Tobias Menzies), a ruthless werewolf who wants to use the girl's blood to make himself all-powerful.
You would think a movie about searching for Selene's daughter would contain an actual search for her daughter, but that plot point is scuttled fairly early on. You might also think a movie about a war between werewolves and vampires would have a lot of, you know, war. In actuality, it takes a full fifty minutes before Underworld: Blood Wars delivers its first real action scene. Most of the film is people standing around yapping about the war and how much they need to find Selene's daughter. One guess how intriguing that turns out to be.
This is barely a real movie. The first five minutes are a recap of the series thus far. The last nine minutes are end credits. That leaves 77 minutes of actual story. I've never seen a movie that seemed to be in such a hurry to get itself over with. (It presumably feels the audience's pain.) The dialogue has been stripped to the bare minimum. Characters enter a scene, say only what needs to be said to justify the sequence, and then we're on to the next scene. There's no development of anything. I've seen Twitter posts with more depth than Underworld: Blood Wars. That extends to the heroes and villains. New characters are introduced in a bare-bones fashion, while Selene's major personality trait seems to be “looks super-hot in tight leather.”
The Underworld series has attempted to concoct a huge mythology with its sequels. Unfortunately, Blood Wars shows signs of the budget being inversely proportional to the scope of the intention. Instead of getting bigger and richer, the sequels are getting smaller and shoddier. If you like watching dull characters and unconvincing CGI beasts engage in generic fighting on bargain-basement sets, this is the movie you've been waiting for.
The only elements that entertain do so for largely the wrong reasons. There are a number of unintentionally hilarious moments in the film, such as a pointless shot of Theo James saying the F-word in slow motion. And Selene's weird ability to learn things about people by licking their blood. And a plot point involving “UV bullets.” (UV bullets? Seriously?) But hey, at least these things have some kind of entertainment value, unlike pretty much everything else here.
Underworld: Blood Wars looks and feels like a cheap made-for-cell-phones sequel to a cheap made-for-DVD sequel to the original. But fear not. The ending sets up another chapter, which will presumably be even more downmarket than this one. Assuming, of course, that such a thing is possible.
( 1/2 out of four)
Underworld: Blood Wars is rated R for strong bloody violence, and some sexuality. The running time is 1 hour and 31 minutes.
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