Leatherface
Jason Voorhees

Being a big fan of the Underworld series, I’ve been anxiously awaiting Selene’s return to the big screen after four long years, and thankfully, that wait comes to an end with the release of Underworld: Blood Wars this weekend. For the most part, my patience was rewarded, as there’s a lot of fun stuff to be found in Blood Wars. Although the film does have its share of issues (more on that later), by and large, Kate Beckinsale’s “badass as usual” re-emergence as everyone’s favorite Death Dealer is highly enjoyable, and director Anna Foerster does a great job infusing this latest chapter with enthralling action sequences that rank among some of my favorite fights yet from the Underworld franchise.

Blood Wars picks up after the events of 2012’s Underworld: Awakening. Selene has had to say goodbye to her hybrid daughter, Eve (India Eisley), after sending her into hiding to keep her safe from the world at large. Unsure of just who she can trust anymore, Selene is now at odds with both the Lycans and the Vampires who have betrayed her loyalties in previous films.

That’s not to say Selene doesn’t have any allies in Blood Wars, as Theo James’ Awakening character David, the son of Vampire Elder Thomas (Charles Dance), also returns, offering Selene his assistance once he realizes that the Lycans are not only growing in numbers, but are also readying themselves for an all-out war that they hope will finally eradicate the world of their bloodsucking adversaries. There’s a lot more going on in Underworld: Blood Wars than what I’ve mentioned above, but most of it ventures into spoiler territory, and I definitely don’t want to ruin the experience for fans by saying too much.

Overall, I had a lot of fun with Blood Wars and I think most other fans will, too. But if I’m looking at this film alongside the other entries in the franchise, it ranks towards the lower end of the Underworld spectrum, as much of it feels very truncated in comparison. That’s not to say that Blood Wars isn’t satisfying for fans—it is—but there’s a bit of depth missing to the story here, almost like what we’re getting is a whittled-down version of a much more grandiose story that I wish we could have seen instead (yes, I would absolutely be down for a longer Director’s Cut if such a thing were to be released in the future).

In Underworld: Blood Wars, Selene’s biggest Lycan nemesis is Marius (Tobias Menzies), who is busy preparing his werewolf brethren to wipe out the Vampires once and for all, especially once he realizes that Selene’s daughter holds the key to ensuring their victory. But beyond some action scenes and one moment when he’s overseeing preparations at the Lycan hideout, Marius isn’t a very compelling villain because frankly, we hardly spend much time with him at all throughout Blood Wars. When we finally get to his showdown against Selene, it doesn’t have nearly the impact that it should for an epic battle between the film’s main protagonist and antagonist.

Additionally—and this is my own personal quibble—I was quite fond of the direction that Underworld: Awakening took just a few years back with the introduction of a human threat into the mix, but with Blood Wars, we’re back to just Lycans and Vampires once again battling for supremacy. That’s fine and dandy, but in some ways it’s a step backward story-wise (there’s also one big reveal that practically gets glossed over in the third act). Frankly, I’m probably nitpicking the sequel far more than most would, but that’s just a product of my own fandom.

That being said, Beckinsale is fantastic yet again at exuding her trademarked cool confidence, and the rest of the action in Underworld: Blood Wars is spectacularly bold and thrilling to watch. I must also commend Foerster for bringing a timeless approach to the sequel’s fight scenes that really raise the bar for the franchise. Beyond all the intricate fight choreography and gunplay that we typically see in an Underworld movie, we also get several great sword fights in Blood Wars that are reminiscent of the swashbuckling adventure movies my grandpa used to love. I applaud Foerster for taking some chances while at the helm of an already ambitious project.

For those of you who enjoy the Underworld movies, I’m still keen on recommending that you see Blood Wars on the big screen. While it may not necessarily be my favorite installment so far, the story is another direct continuation from everything that has preceded it, so if you’ve been invested in the Underworld universe thus far, you won’t regret going just a little further on Selene’s journey in Underworld: Blood Wars (plus, there’s a final scene with a nice payoff that certainly helps make up for what had been lacking in the rest of the film). I really dug a few more elements, too, but if I go into them here, it would definitely give away huge plot moments that I don’t want to ruin. Suffice it to say that if you’re an Underworld enthusiast, you’ll definitely enjoy them, too.

Movie Score: 3/5