Underworld: Blood Wars (2016)
Every bloodline must end.
Did you know this movie existed? I know I didn't, until I was refilling my DvD queue - and then thought to myself "Oh what, they made another one of these? Well I saw the others might as well add this in." The old latex-clad killer of nocturnal creatures is back, but is it something that's worth coming back for? Yeah, we enjoyed the fresh and new take in the first movie, but surely by now it's novelty has waned enough that it couldn't possibly be fun anymore, right? Sharpen those teeth, and let's sink in to this artery to find out.
Man, I have had a knack for finding incredibly dark movies lately. When I say dark, I don't mean in tone either - I mean visually dark. Granted, it's a movie about werewolves and vampires, of course it's not going to be super-astonishingly lit - and indeed, I don't recall the others every being super bright affairs - but I do recall plenty of indoor environments being bright enough to see the details of things going on in the first one. Here, there's a dark murk that prevails more than is really necessary, although there is enough generous back lighting - mostly in that blue day-for-night shade that it prevents the movie from being painfully dark like (for example) AvP 2.
Actors do a pretty decent job with their roles in this. I'm not saying anyone is gonna be nominated for any awards here - but I do feel largely any complaints I would have on the acting front are both due to how its written and in-following of it's predecessors. This was never exactly a Oscar gold mine - although I do feel after the first you really lost a lot of the "big name" draw outside of Beckinsale who returns again for this one. Still, they play their parts well enough, with only a character or two feeling particularly questionable when it comes to acting - the rest comes down to more of a "I hate sand" issue, where it might feel a bit bland or unimpressive due to design. I mean, there's only so many ways you can deliver lines as "snooty vampire whose comic-villain power hungry" or "mean werewolf whose super-focused on a mcguffin." It certainly ain't perfect - but it's totally passable, with a few moments that actually come through as quite nice.
Which is a bit more than I can say for the action scenes. I'm starting to think that I'm just noticing it more often, but this movie conveys "frantic action" or "fight" as lots of cuts. Not sword cuts either - an opening scene had a cut for every single action our heroine took. Punch? Kick? Flip? Head turn? Cuts for everyone! It's done a bit nicer later on in the movie, where the cuts feel more appropriate - such as showing a different part of the action scene, such as balcony two's fight and cutting back to werewolf aggressors and then to balcony one's fight - but that opening scene really sets you up to just have a bad taste in your mouth and a headache for the movie. Considering the number of action scenes in this movie, I'm glad it doesn't feel as heavily edited later on, even though it's honestly about the the same or slightly less. It may literally just be the fact that most scenes beyond that first have more combatants, making it feel less "for the sake of covering or confusing" and more "to cover all the battle" helping steer the mental rudder for that feeling though.
The darkness hinders and the darkness helps some when it comes to the action scenes and effects in general. On the one hand, I'd have loved to get better looks at the white-haired vampire Valkyries outfits in better lighting, but at the same time the werewolves this time around don't fair quite as well as when they were first introduced. It's not incredibly terrible, but their insistence to set the main baddie apart by having his human face on his werewolf body makes it feel much more like something in an older Hulk movie than a "that effect was almost as believable as the actual suit" I recall from the first of the series. The vampire eyes still have a beautiful shine to them as do the "UV bullets", and the new "ghosting" effect all look great though, so it isn't all for a loss. The blood is somewhat a mixed bag however. Sometimes it's rather convincing, somethings it's more fake than something I'd catch from Asylum.
Costumes are all nice to look at, and it's still quite easy to tell the two factions apart visually - darkness be darned. The audio also comes across right where you'd want it, with the same punch to growls and yells. There is oddly some times where the movie repeats itself as a whisper (as in the captioning will literally tell you it's whispered) just after it said something - and I'm not entirely sure what that's all about. It is nice to have the recap at the beginning of the movie though, as if it's been a while like me you'll probably have forgotten a lot of things, and they do bring up quite a few things during the movie (such as during one of the less thrilling vampire politics segments). Despite that, most the plot hinges most largely upon it's immediate predecessor, as the werewolf McGuffin is the location to our heroines kid, while the vampires are still up to their normal political power plays despite the slightly more pressing issue of impending complete destruction. I mean, who needs a people to rule over when they've just been completely wiped out right?
Weakest point of this movie is certainly that story I just alluded to. Granted, it's Underworld - I'm not exactly expecting a tale that makes me want to pick up a book and read it. Even the first was somewhat of a thin line despite it's novelty - this dude that can be both, so both sides want him or want him dead and Juliet just fell for Romeo. I would argue that I was probably more invested in that then I was here, although the addition of the Ice-vampires and the sudden incredible effectiveness of the werewolves with the change of a simple competent leader to unite them all was nice additions regardless. Whereas the last one felt unnecessary but tried to further the world, this one feels largely just like an excuse to have another one while making a few tweaks.
If I were to pick one of these movies to watch, it'd largely still be the first. Although this one is perfectly passable, there isn't a whole lot to it that stands out as particularly demanding for it to be seen. The dark lighting and somewhat generic villain motivation keep it from being more than it is, but the effects are still largely good and the idea of a bunch of ghost-walking valkyrie-themed vampires is fun. If you enjoy the other movies, there isn't much reason why you shouldn't have fun with this, but you won't find anything to finally sink your teeth into if you weren't already a fan of the series.