Movie Review: Underworld: Blood Wars

Underworld: Blood Wars opens in New Zealand cinemas on December 1

Underworld: Blood Wars (R16, 91 mins) Directed by Anna Foerster ★★½

In 2007, I found myself running a grip-truck out of Wanaka and generally getting in the way of some great people who were trying to film a hilarious load of old rubbish called 10,000BC.

The shoot was a lot of fun, mostly because I got myself attached to a second-unit crew who didn't have to worry too much about the dialogue and drama of the film. Our brief was to charge about the mountain tops near Coronet Peak, mostly in waist-deep snow, while pretending that Cliff Curtis was being chased by a mammoth. 

And the director and DOP of our little gang of rogues was a fantastic young woman called Anna Foerster.

So it kind of made me smile to walk in to Underworld: Blood Wars and see Anna's name on the poster. It's been a long time – maybe forever – since I've genuinely looked forward to an installment in the Underworld franchise. But at least for Blood Wars, I could spend an hour-and-a-half quietly urging on my old boss to stamp her own mark on what is usually a pretty dispiritingly cookie-cutter series.

Kate Beckinsale is back for more lycan-bashing in Underworld: Blood Wars.
Supplied

Kate Beckinsale is back for more lycan-bashing in Underworld: Blood Wars.

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And, to be fair, I reckon – or fondly imagine – that Anna has managed to get a bit of her own personal style past the cold, dead hands of the money men and producers who control these films.

It's there in the swinging crane shots, a few nicely staged fight scenes and maybe in the sly reversal of the sexual politics that is usually served up in any film aimed at teenaged male audience. In Blood Wars it's the boys who are the sexual playthings and – mostly – the women who call the shots. And quite right too.

But, apart from a few nice moments, Blood Wars is mostly business as usual from the Underworld series. And that means it's pretty bloody dire in all the ways that really matter.

The script is – and there's no other way to put this – a complete dog. Kate Beckinsale, Lara Pulver (Sherlock), Charles Dance (aka Tywin Lanister and that old bloke in the Post Office ad) and Tobias Menzies (Rome) are the guts of a surprisingly top-shelf cast, but even this award-winning line-up of thespianic firepower is pretty helpless in face of dialogue like "the Lycans are forming an army. Damned canine insolence!"

Helping not at all are some utterly demented wardrobe choices. I haven't seen so much layered black cloth, superfluous bucklery and upswept hair since Clare's nightclub in Garrett Street, circa 1988.

Pulver, when she's not straddling some acquiescent male model, is crammed into an ever-more unlikely series of plunging black leather ballgowns, before the costume designer apparently just thought "the hell with it" and chucked an old fishing net over her for the big finale.

By any standard that matters Underworld: Blood Wars is a pretty lousy film. But, it's good-natured, doesn't take itself seriously for a minute, over in an hour-and-a-half and probably providing a fair bit of work for film crew from all eastern Europe.

So, y'know, if you're a fan of the series, you'll probably come out happy. And we can do it all again in another year or so.

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 - Stuff

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