At First Glance: “Underworld: Blood Wars”

As exciting as it can be to see a franchise return, sometimes it’s not for the better. Worse, you may not know if it truly is for the better or not. In fact, you’re probably conflicted in ways you haven’t been before. This is also the problem with sequels, and studios that think it’s a good idea to keep pumping them out.

The upcoming Screen Gems film “Underworld: Blood Wars”, may have what looks like awesome action, but none of that will matter if the story, which looks problematic, truly is problematic.

This action film stars Kate Beckinsale (upcoming “The Disappointments Room”, “Love & Friendship”), Theo James (“Allegiant”, “Insurgent”), Tobias Menzies (“Outlander”, “Game of Thrones”), Trent Garrett (“Boost”, “Pocket Listing”), Lara Pulver (“Da Vinci’s Demons”, “MI-5”), Clementine Nicholson, Bradley James (“Damien”, “iZombie”), and Charles Dance (“Ghostbusters (2016)”, “Me Before You”).

The film is directed by Anna Foerster (“Outlander”, “Madam Secretary”) and written by Cory Goodman (“The Last Witch Hunter”, “Priest”).

It is set to be released on Jan. 6, 2017.
After the disastrous, but somewhat entertaining fourth entry in this aging franchise, I was all set for the series to be over. Then I started hearing stories and got a bit excited. Somehow I got it into my head that there would be hope for another film. The biggest upside was that Beckinsale was set to return. Then, as tends to happen, the year of the film’s release arrived (which has now changed, which sucks in some ways, but doesn’t in others). A set date was planned for and I got excited about an eventual trailer. Now that that day has arrived, as well as a terrible release date for a series that should’ve ended a decade ago, I’m less than enthusiastic. I’m quite skeptical. This franchise now seems to have taken the same path that led “Resident Evil” so far off any course that would’ve made the series truly worth it.

Okay, so as I’ve said, Beckinsale is returning. Yay! Everybody cheer for that small kernel of good news. That so far, seems to be where it begins and ends.

My biggest issue is the story. Sure it’s more or less the same damn story that’s been told in all of the preceding films, which now really sounds sad, but I think it’s the way it’s being presented here that makes it worse. We’ve done this song and dance before. 13 years ago, with the original film. No, I’m serious. It all looks the fucking same. It’s back to the gothic look and feel, which never truly went away, but was toned down a bit in the most recent entry. That’s actually another issue with this film. The previous film had a decent storyline, one that made sense, even with its “twist” . Let the general public know about the existence of these two warring species and get them to be on the brink of extinction. It’s the only saving grace for that film. And then, of course, there’s the fact that this film’s trailer seems to indicate that Goodman and company are going to ignore what happened in it. I definitely have a problem with that. I know I’m going to be distracted by all the continuity errors or logic that’s not in the film.

Firstly, how is Dance supposed to be in the film? Last I checked, which wasn’t that long ago as I can’t recall the uneventful events of the previous film, Dance’s character was dead. Vampires don’t come back from that. Well, unless you’re Kris Kristofferson. Seeing as he’s not, I’m confused and probably won’t buy whatever bullshit reasoning that’s given.

Next, and then I’ll try to move on, but where’s Beckinsale’s daughter? Sure she was a little girl, and maybe the studio couldn’t get the actress to come back. If that’s the case, why not recast her? It just seems weird that she’s there one moment, being protected and hunted, and not even mentioned at all. Granted, the trailer did spend almost a full minute showing scenes from the previous films, so it’s not that surprising that we weren’t told. I’m also skeptical about the explanation that will be used. It’ll probably be crap. It’s funny too, that even while Michael was recast, at least in the hybrid form, which is how we last saw him, he’ll be featured in this film. How does that work? Did the two decide to abandon their daughter? Did she die somehow, which really would be ludicrous? See? I don’t think the answers, if given at all, will be believed or received well.

Based on the trailer, other than Beckinsale, I guess there is one positive. The action. It looks exciting and original enough! Beckinsale’s kicking ass again, and that’s one of the reason’s anyone still gives a shit about these films. It’s certainly not the plot. Which brings me to this film’s story, again. I don’t think it’ll be strong enough. For an action film, the story needs to at least be mildly interesting and believable. It also needs to remember, and acknowledge what came before. Perhaps this film’s trailer is just shitty, which could also be indicative of the finished film. If that’s not the case, or is the case as well as the fact that the film’s story does suck, then the action really won’t matter. You’ll be excited for small bursts and then remember you have to sit through some of the most uninteresting plotting you’ve ever seen. Okay, slight embellishment, I’m sure, but you get the point. It won’t be fun. It won’t be worth it.

One thing that truly must be considered, other than the studio behind this franchise doesn’t have a good track record of late, lies within the writer’s and director’s resume. Neither are stellar. If you haven’t read the fun little trivia I always include or if you have, let me lay out a few examples. Goodman, the film’s writer, has two film credits. “Priest” and “The Last Witch Hunter”. Right away I knew to skip the latter film, but stupidly watched the former. Goddamn it, Maggie Q. Critics hated both films, and I vow never to see them again. When I learned he was responsible for those two films, and now this one, I cringed and a part of me died. Instantly.

Foerster, who is a female director, in case you didn’t know (coz you skipped over the trivia section), well, she’s not much better. I think this just sucks, because when it comes to female directors, with franchises or big budget films from major studios (which I guess Screen Gems kind of is), they are few and far between. I’m already predicting, that even if this film does decently at the box office, which it might as it’s early January and nothing much will be showing (except Oscar contending films), that won’t really matter. Critics will rip this film to shreds. They did the previous one. I’ll be actively seeking out the various reviews, which is something I don’t typically do. But, the other reason I’m skeptical is the fact that she’s only directed television episodes. In the last two years, just five episodes between two shows, which is also (more likely) indicative of another issue regarding female directors, but that’s not for now. Before then, she mostly directed smaller shows. Shows that squeaked by, or aren’t really the standout sort. “Criminal Minds”, “Unforgettable”, “Army Wives”, “Madam Secretary”, and even “Outlander”, which yes is better received than the others, but hasn’t really made as much of an impact as many other dramatic series. Since I can’t recall any of the one’s she’s directed, I can’t say this is good or bad. Television’s fine, but at the same time, it has it’s drawbacks. This is one of them. How are people supposed to judge her abilities or expect anything good, if she hasn’t really had anything that says, “Look at me!” And therein lies that problem regarding female directors that I said was for another time.

I’m torn about both of these creative people, and it’s not the first time I have been when it comes to writers and directors. I want to have faith, but I’ve seen the trailer. Something’s not working already, and I’m not sure what that is. Maybe it’s all of it. I guess we’ll have to wait and see.

It may seem like a good trend right now to keep franchises going on and on, but without much benefit for the studios or audiences, but usually it’s not. It’s not just sequel fatigue or reboot fatigue, but the simple fact that the creative well has run dry. Some films only need one sequel to signal it’s time to put that franchise to rest, others, well, they never learn. The thinking seems to be that if it’s making money, why stop? “Resident Evil” is finally ending, but it’s pretty much too late to salvage the series, which a lot of people could argue was never possible from the beginning. With this franchise, regardless of financial outcomes or critical opinions or even another sequel being given the green light, there’s no saving this action series. Whatever you loved about the original film has long since been stomped on and will never be seen from again.

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