I still remember seeing the first Underworld in the theatre and enjoying it very much, though I didn't see any of the subsequent films at the cinema, only on DVD. I re-watched them in preparation for seeing this film and, as it stands, the original's still the best, with Evolution and Rise of the Lycans vying for second and third place, alternating between the two depending on my mood, while Awakening remains my least favourite. I'm afraid Blood Wars isn't much better. Whilst the fourth film felt like it was just non-stop gory action with little to no story, this film seems to have the opposite problem. Gorehounds needn't fear, there's still some quality violence (most of which the Lycans seem to wind up on the receiving end of, like being split in half and having their spines ripped out). The main problem is the vampire politics are brought to the forefront.
The other problem? Super sexy latex-clad vampire Death Dealer, Selene, feels as though she's no longer the focus of her own franchise (though at least she gets some memorable lines/moments). Let's be honest, most people come to see Kate Beckinsale rocking the black latex catsuit like nobody else can. So it remains a mystery as to why the writers appear to be slowly phasing out her character. Please note filmmakers: These films wouldn't be worth continuing without Ms. Beckinsale. Some tend to dismiss her acting ability, but she's what's held this franchise together. So it's disappointing her character is absent for what feels like long stretches. Blood Wars begins like Awakening did, with Kate's/Selene's voice-over (now with added echoing repeating what she's already said!) and clips from the previous films...though, really, if you haven't seen the others, why're you even here? Theo James's David character from Awakening has a much more expanded role this time (now fully replacing Scott Speedman's Michael as the franchise's male lead. Yes, Michael's dead. Barring some future "We only SAID he was dead/were only pretending!" reveal pulled out of the writers' arses, the Smurf is no more). Whether you're a fan of David or not will likely contribute to your enjoyment of the film, as he seems to take over the movie from Selene for significant portions.
I'll miss the Selene/Michael relationship, but am not opposed to David's character helping Selene, though it might rub some the wrong way how his backstory/ancestry's delved into so deeply it almost feels like *he's* the film's main star. Those who paid attention to the first films will appreciate references to a certain character who had minimal screen time, yet plays an important part in this film's storyline, while everyone else will be left wondering, "Who?". The blood of Selene and her daughter, Eve (who's referenced aplenty but only appears in the film's closing seconds), also proves important, as there's much exchanging of said blood between different characters. Other than Selene and David, the only significant returning character is Charles Dance's Thomas. Whilst not as memorable as Bill Nighy's Viktor, an actor of his caliber lends some weight/credibility to proceedings. His relationship with his son and heretofore untold connection with a past long-dead character is given prominence. Playing well off Dance is Lara Pulver, sporting constantly changing hairstyles as Semira. They do what they can with the material they're given. Semira's character also provides a cautionary tale in why you shouldn't treat your henchman/lover like crap, as we see play out between her and Bradley James' Varga.
Outlander's Tobias Menzies, as Lycan Marius, isn't given anywhere near the complexity of his character from that series, as here he's mainly just another complication in an already rather convoluted story. Nor is his relationship with vampire, Alexia, given much depth...though at least Daisy Head is quite striking, so you don't forget her character. Also memorable on account of their physical appearance are the Nordic Coven, the best of which is Lena (resembling a vampire Daenerys Targaryen). She kicks major arse with a sword and shield (apparently the Nordic Coven *do* bring swords to gun fights), plus also possesses a "teleport" ability of sorts. For a newcomer, Clementine Nicholson fares better with what little she's given compared to others who're given more. She also plays an important part in Selene's physical transformation (including her picking up that handy teleportation ability) to becoming 'more' than she already is...which is just as well, as poor Selene's put through the wringer this time around. It pained me seeing our heroine beaten up/knocked down more than ever, but allowed for a triumphant return, stronger/faster/better than ever...and now with white blonde highlights in her jet black hair.
The last couple of films' over-reliance on CGI versus the practical effects for the Lycans of the earlier films is to the movies' detriment, as the CGI creatures just aren't as impressive (and in the case of the Marius man-wolf creature, rather laughable/dredging up bad memories of the Scorpion King from The Mummy Returns...though not quite THAT bad). Note for future movies: Refrain from going half/half, either human or full beast is the way to go. Clearly this isn't intended as the franchise's final film, but assuming another one does indeed happen, that probably *should* be the last. The earlier Underworld films weren't exactly 'high art', but they felt like they had more substance to them than these last two. Given how much time was devoted to Eve previously, it's strange she's mainly absent here (perhaps she'll play a more significant role in the next movie?). I feel the franchise lost something after delving more into the world of men, but at least this one LOOKS more like an Underworld film than Awakening did (though the music/score's sadly lacking Wedard's 'Leidenschaft'). Say what you will about Len Wiseman, but I feel these later films' direction have suffered from his absence. My main hope for the next movie? That the filmmakers remember who this franchise's star is and give Beckinsale/Selene the attention/importance/prominence she deserves.