Starring: Kate Beckinsale, Theo James, Charles Dance
Directed By: Anna Foerster
Plot: The fifth film in the Underworld franchise picks up relatively after Awakening, finding Selene (Beckinsale) on her own after having hidden her daughter from the world, only to be brought back into the fold as a new war between lycans and vampires is brewing. Only, things are not always as they seem, and the struggle for power is real.
What Works: I liked the very first Underworld film. I thought it was clever, fun, and somewhat innovative for its time. However, after seeing 14 years of films shaded in blue, I’ve about had enough. That being said, I think this movie got thrown under the bus really quickly. Why not? It’s the fifth Underworld film. I’m not saying that it’s a good film, but I don’t think any of the Underworld films are really terrible. They’re all just “not good”, but in a very safe way. That being said, there’s very little “good” here. I did appreciate the first act plot twist. I didn’t see it coming, and it was nice. I also think, believe it or not, Theo James is a nice replacement for Scott Speedman, who is a bit boring for me. James has much more charisma and screen presence, so when he plays against Beckinsale, it’s a lot more fun. For what it’s worth, I thought Beckinsale did a good job here too, and didn’t just come for a paycheck. And, Charles Dance is always good, even if he’s phoning it in (which he kinda is). And while I’m over the blue haze in the Underworld films, I do still appreciate their costume design on certain characters who aren’t just wearing tactical black leather.
What Doesn’t Work: With this movie working the “multi-villain” strategy, it made it so that the original villain, Marius, never really seemed threatening to me. At no point was I like “Oh this guy is going to be a match for Selene.” Immediately, once the second villain is revealed, Marius and his storyline begin to feel secondary, even though they’re actually what the film is about. This, of course, is due to poor writing and direction, but he never lived up to his potential. The fight scenes are edited in the same annoying fashion that plagued the recent XXX movie. Thousands of cuts to help hide the poor stuntwork. I miss the days when actors actually trained in hand-to-hand combat so they could film these scenes. Instead, now we get films edited by toddlers hopped up on Red Bull. This film is also too long for its own good. It spends way too much time loading us with exposition and flashbacks, and by the time I got to the action sequences (which I didn’t even care for), I was bored out of my mind. I started dozing off during ACTION SEQUENCES.
Final Word: I don’t hate that I saw this film. Honestly, I’d seen all the others, so it felt like I had to see this one to complete the story… even though I knew this wouldn’t be very good, because the last three weren’t very good. I don’t know why I’ve been stuck in this franchise for so long. I guess I keep hoping they’ll find the spark that made the first film great, and I’d say they came closest with Awakening and the introduction of Theo James to the series. But there’s so much else lacking here, that I don’t think it can ever be creatively restored. I’ve definitely seen way worse films, and there were a few parts I did enjoy. Mostly, I’m glad I waited for DVD because this was worth about what I spent at Redbox.
Final Grade: C-