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Movie Review

It's hard to keep a good vampire down.

Now, we might not be used to thinking of the words good and vampire in the same sentence. But that's how the latest installment in the long-running Underworld franchise wants us to think about at least a handful of its blood-slurping undead protagonists.

Chief among them is Selene (played by Kate Beckinsale, who's playing that role for the fifth time since climbing into her violent vampire's skin-tight leather outfits in 2003).

Once again, Selene is on the run. Once again, Selene is the key pawn in the seemingly interminable—and perpetually gruesome—war between her vampire kin (who recently sentenced her to death for killing one of their own) and the Lycans (a fancy word for werewolves). Once again, Selene is forced to unleash a set of particular skills as an expert in Lycan extermination.

This time around, however, everybody wants to get their paws on Selene. That's because they're all convinced she must know the whereabouts of her daughter, Eve. That young girl is a hybrid vampire-Lycan whose blood will enable one side or the other to gain the upper, um, claw in the conflict.

Now, all that information for newbies to the franchise is narrated up front, complete with flashbacks to previous films, in about the first two minutes of this film.

As for the remaining 89 minutes? Well, there's a lot of fighting—and not just between the vampires and the Lycans, led by their cunning leader, Marius. No, the vampires spend almost as much time fighting among themselves as they do focusing on their real enemies.

Unfortunately, Selene finds herself smack in the middle of all those conflicts as she once again tries to broker—as in, violently broker—a lasting peace between these two warring races, each of which is snarlingly determined to wipe the other out.

Positive Elements

The plot is a convoluted one here for sure, both ethically and logically. Suffice it to say that Selene is the main hero we're invited to root for. She's aided by another brave and honorable young vampire fighting on her behalf named David.

As mentioned, of the two races, the vampires are generally more noble than the Lycans. But there's plenty of treachery among those blood-suckers that must be recognized and resisted, too, especially when it comes to a power-hungry and manipulative female leader named Semira. Selene and David spend almost as much time bringing Semira's manipulative plots to light as they do fighting Marius and his Lycan hordes.

Spiritual Content

Selene and David end up fleeing to a remote vampire outpost in the north and they discover a coven (as they're called) of peace-loving vampires. While there, they witness vampires who are in an induced coma-like state being wrapped in mummy-like cloth and submerged in water, then hung in cocoons.

One of those conducting the ceremony says that it's a path to a "sacred world." She also says, "We've long known this world isn't all there is." That vampire further relates that she's visited the sacred world many times herself before returning once more to this one, a spiritual journey that's enabled her to "see the world with new eyes." After taking that trip, members of this vampire coven sport almost angel-like white hair and white garb, and they have a ghostly teleportation ability as well.

[Spoiler Warning] It's unclear in the film whether those who make this journey to the sacred world do in fact have to die in the process. But Selene does die in combat, and later she's resurrected after undergoing the same process. At the end of the movie, she says, "I no longer fear death. … I am reborn."

A deceased vampire couple is said to be "side by side for eternity." Dialogue references concepts such as redemption and forgiveness when it comes to letting go of past mistakes. When vampires drink anyone's blood (even their own!), it gives them a mystical flashback of sorts of the other person's memories.

Sexual Content

Semira wears cleavage-revealing outfits for the entirety of the film, including a couple of scenes in which she's wearing a nightgown of sorts that just barely keeps her figure from being more fully revealed. As mentioned, Selene also wears form-fitting outfits.

A scene suggestively depicts oral sex between two vampires. It's clear what's happening, but the camera focus is mostly obscured by clothing. A flashback shows a sex scene between Selene and her beloved, Michael, from a previous film; the camera is focused exclusively upon her ecstatic facial expressions (though her bare shoulders are visible too). Ecstasy is also the word I'd use to describe Selene's expression as she hungrily sucks blood from David's arm (something he's offered to help her) in one scene.

Two pairs of characters kiss; one of those kisses is between women, though it turns out very quickly to be a kiss of betrayal. Elsewhere, a female vampire licks blood off a knife very suggestively. We see male vampires shirtless in a couple scenes.

Violent Content

It's honestly difficult to estimate which number is higher: the total number of vampires and Lycans slaughtered over the course of 91 minutes, or the variety of bloody ways that these creatures are dispatched.

The film's combatants use just about every kind of weapon imaginable, both medieval and modern, to eviscerate each other. Scores fall from "mundane" wounds from machine guns, for instance. But there are sword fights, thrown knives and crossbows in action, too.

All of which serve up grisly ends for many, many characters onscreen. We see decapitations, heads split in two vertically, an entire Lycan who's sliced stem to stern through his body like a side of beef, impalements, sword thrusts through stomachs, heads, mouths, chests. Someone's severed head is held aloft as proof of victory in a battle. And on and on it goes, with a great deal of blood spurting like geysers with each deadly blow.

Even the sun gets in on the deadly action, with rays of sunlight vaporizing many vampires and turning them into vaguely human-shaped piles of ash.

Some of the most wince-inducing moments here actually aren't mortal injuries. Lycans try (and fail) to subdue Selene with harpoon like hooks that embed themselves in her from multiple directions and enable her foes to momentarily immobilize her. (We also watch as she tears the bloody hooks out of her flesh). Selene operates on David with a scalpel (we watch as she makes a bloody incision), then dives into his innards with a surgical tool in search of a bullet with a drill bit on it that's boring deeper into his abdomen.

There's also a great deal of hand-to-hand combat, including kicks, punches, body slams and falls—often between fighters of different genders. And Lycans' metamorphosis from human to wolf form is frequent and horror-movie grotesque as well.

Crude or Profane Language

There's surprisingly little profanity in this R-rated horror actioner: We hear one use each of the f-word, "d--n" and "h---."

Drug and Alcohol Content

There's surprisingly little profanity in this R-rated horror actioner: We hear one use each of the f-word, "d--n" and "h---."

Other Negative Elements

Within the vampire ranks, there are betrayals cloaked within betrayals, with multiple characters trying to execute their own secret—and wickedly deadly—agendas.

Conclusion

"I have seen so much killing, so much war. I cannot bear more."

So says the heroine Selene near the end of Underworld: Blood Wars. And you know what? I feel exactly the same way about this franchise.

The particular characters involved shift from film to film. But the overall result is the same: another grim and gruesome sequel that just becomes another excuse to pit vampires and werewolves against one another one more time … and to plop a leather-wrapped Kate Beckinsale right in the middle of all that gory action one more time, too.

One has to wonder if Beckinsale really knew what she was getting into when she signed up for this action franchise some 14 years ago. I suspect she might be as weary of her character's bloody way of life by now as I am.

Pro-social Content

Objectionable Content

Summary Advisory

Plot Summary

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Profanity/Violence

Kissing/Sex/Homosexuality

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Kids
Teens
Adults

Credits

Rating

R

Readability Age Range

Author

Cast

Kate Beckinsale as Selene; Theo James as David; Tobias Menzies as Marius; Lara Pulver as Semira; Charles Dance as Thomas; James Faulkner as Cassius; Peter Andersson as Vidar; Clementine Nicholson as Lena; Bradley James as Varga; Daisy Head as Alexia

Director

Anna Foerster ( )

Distributor

Screen Gems

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Performance

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In Theaters

January 6, 2017

On Video

Year Published

Awards

Reviewer

Adam R. Holz

We hope this review was both interesting and useful. Please share it with family and friends who would benefit from it as well.

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