16/01/17, Underworld: Blood Wars
I'm not sure what was more comforting last night in Cineworld, the film or the audience, who all seemed to be in their thirties and forties. The Underworld series has created a particular following, and for good or ill, I am part of it.
I'll start with the film's design. It has better settings than the previous entry (Awakening, 2012), especially the Norwegian fortress under Northern Lights – a memorable addition. Truly, if Underworld gets one thing right, it's the importance of visuals – it's as if Lana Wachowski had designed the entire franchise (though given that Underworld copied The Matrix in so many important ways, perhaps this isn't so fanciful). Kate Beckinsale's character Selene continues to kick ass in black PVC, but towards the end, adds a Norwegian fringe of virgin white. Her blue eyes, when they illuminate, remain one of the sexiest images in cinema. The werewolves continue to play their part by opposition, their feral monstrosity an unavoidable villainy that the sleek, Gothic vampires must destroy if they are not to be destroyed themselves.
Thus, with its style established, do I mention the story. Hmm. It ends as the previous one ended, on a weak cliff hanger; these films stopped being self-contained masterpieces of Gothic noir a long time ago. The story moves from one scene to the next, with plot and sub-plot, but I'm left feeling empty: is this really the best they can do? The story continues to be a weakness, a triumph of style over substance and that's a shame. Case in point: an important protagonist from the first two films, Selene's lover the hybrid Michael, simply disappears from the fourth part, and here in the fifth, we learn he died. It's done with all the poetic power of a daytime soap that failed to renew the contract of an actor. Underworld as a series deserves better than to bring people in and out like this.Conclusion: I love the Underworld style, but would a non-fan like this film? As harmless candy for the mind, why not? Sit back and watch a gothic world of shadows, of beauty and monsters, open up before you. You won't remember the ending, your life will move on while this midnight realm slips peacefully away from you, and perhaps that's just as it should be.