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'Underworld: Blood Wars' 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray Review: Kate Beckinsale is back in black — leather, that is

April 21, 2017Ben MK

When the first Underworld movie debuted in 2003, who would have thought that the bloody feud between vampires and Lycans would still be raging on nearly a decade and a half later? Yet, here we are, five films deep into the ongoing saga; and the odds of the franchise ending anytime soon are probably as likely as its central protagonist, Death Dealer Selene (Kate Beckinsale), ditching her black leather ensemble for ripped jeans and a t-shirt.

Picking up after the events of 2012's Underworld: Awakening, Blood Wars finds Selene hunted and on the run (again). This time, however, it's not just her former Death Dealer brethren who want to punish her for the slaughter of respected vampire elders. The Lycans — led by new alpha wolf Marius (Outlander's Tobias Menzies) — are tracking her as well, in the hopes that she will lead them to her half-vampire, half-Lycan daughter, Eve, whose unique, hybrid blood may help them emerge victorious in the centuries-old conflict between the two species.

The plot thickens when the leader of one of the two remaining covens, Semira (Lara Pulver), extends an invitation to Selene, offering her clemency in exchange for her much needed help in training a new generation of Death Dealers to battle the growing Lycan threat. As Selene quickly discovers, though, there's an ulterior motive and a coven power struggle afoot. And it isn't long before she and fellow vampire David (Theo James) find themselves caught in the crossfire of yet another tooth-and-nail showdown between the vampire and Lycan clans.

Suffice to say, the film itself offers little more than more of the same, which isn't necessarily bad news, so long as you're an Underworld fan looking to indulge in another round of glowering staredowns and CGI-infused battle sequences. For more discerning audiences, however, director Anna Foerster and screenwriter Cory Goodman seem disinterested in setting this sequel apart from the ones that have come before. The result is a followup on autopilot; so if the last installment was meant to be an awakening, then this one is best described as a power nap.

Movie quality aside, Underworld: Blood Wars' 4K presentation registers as quite enjoyable, falling in line nicely with what fans have come to expect from the series. The image is razor-sharp, from the Lycans' grimy industrial hideout, to the vampires' Gothic castle abode, which has been retrofitted with all manner of high-tech gadgets; black levels are altogether absorbing; and the familiar blue-and-black color palette is rendered robustly. Similarly, the sound design is one of the best aspects of the film; and the 4K disc's Dolby Atmos sound mix is an absolute blast, whether it's the sounds of gunfire, the roar of motorcycle engines, the clanging of swords or ferocious howls.

Sony's two-disc Ultra HD Blu-ray release includes no special features on the 4K disc. However, the following extras can be found on the Blu-ray copy of the film:

  • The Evolution of Selene (8:09) - Director Anna Foerster, star Kate Beckinsale and the filmmakers give viewers a taste of Selene's journey throughout the franchise so far, and where the character could go from here.
  • Old & New Blood (6:15) - A look at the fates of Underworld: Awakening characters Thomas (Charles Dance) and David, the introduction of Northern Coven characters Vidar (Peter Andersson) and Lena (Clementine Nicholson), and the contrast between the featured Eastern and Northern Covens.
  • The Evil Evolved (6:07) - A look at the vampire characters of Cassius (James Faulkner), Semira, Varga (Bradley James) and Alexia (Daisy Head), as well as the Lycan character of Marius.
  • Building a Blood War (12:03) - A look at Foerster's contribution to the film, the visual effects, and the production and costume design.
  • Underworld: Blood Wars Graphic Novel - A digital presentation of Darkstorm Comics' 79-page graphic novel adaptation, written by Kevin Grevioux and drawn by Agustin Padilla, Mario Guevara and Roberto Castro.

Underworld: Blood Wars is available from Sony Pictures Home Entertainment as of April 25th, 2017. The 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray features English Dolby Atmos, French DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 and English Dolby Digital 5.1 Descriptive Audio tracks. The film is presented with English, English SDH and French subtitles. The total runtime is 1 Hr. 31 Mins.

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