Underworld, one of the best vampire franchises other than Twilight, is finally getting a new installment, but the question is: Will it be enough to revive interest in the franchise? The first two Underworld movies really set the tone on how modern vampire stories have evolved. They did away with the mystical beginnings of the genre and introduced a scientific twist that brought a breath of fresh air into the way we see both vampires and werewolves (Lycans).
Directed by Len Wiseman and written by Kevin Grevioux, who played the werewolf Raze, Underworld has provided a boost to the vampire genre by bringing fans back to the movies. Sorry Twilight fans, but real vampires don’t shine in the sun. It also helps that they cast Brits Kate Beckinsale as the lead vamp Selene (a role for her that was all too perfect) and Michael Sheen as the tragic Lycan leader Lucian. The superb job by the cast, the lighting of the movie, the pace, and the way it was musically scored really created a formula that appealed to the children of the night.
Then came the sequel Underworld: Evolution. It told the story of William and Marcus Corvinus (played by Tony Curran), twin brothers — one bitten by bat, and one by wolf, after the pair contracted and survived a deadly plague virus. They also added an additional twist to the beginning of the Lycan legend with werewolf William — a white wolf who inflicted a bite from which there was no return. William's wolves were forever bound in their Lycan form, making the war to keep the Lycans at bay very interesting.
Although the story was mainly fueled by Kate Beckinsale’s Selene and the Vampire/Lycan hybrid Michael (played by Scott Speedman), the absence of Michael Sheen's Lucian and the Vampire Elder Viktor — portrayed gloriously by Bill Nighy — weighed heavily on the sequel in a negative way. The movie did well at the box office but got slammed by critics. Rotten Tomatoes gave it 16% and IMDB gave it a 6.8/10 rating.
Then came the prequel to the franchise, Rise of the Lycans. The movie finally gave us the answer on how the war started by introducing Underworld fans to Viktor's tragic daughter Sonia, played excellently by Rhona Mitra. However, the most important character of the whole franchise, Selene, was absent in the tale so the movie didn’t do as well as fans would have liked.
The last installment of the franchise, Underworld: Awakening really turned things upside down. Set twelve years and six months from the end of Underworld: Evolution, Selene and Michael are captured and imprisoned by a government initiative to bring an end to the war by wiping the floor with the remaining vampires of the coven in a nighttime operation. While in captivity, Selene somehow gives birth to a daughter — the result of the union between her and Michael, who was nowhere to be seen onscreen. The story was mostly Selene chasing the answers as to the whereabouts of her lover, dealing with the fact that she had a tweenie daughter who was a hybrid like her father, finding the new elder of the last vampire coven (played by Game of Thrones star Charles Dance), and facing off against a Super-Lycan who was ridiculously monstrous in size. The movie was slammed by critics though:
Not a complete disaster, but also not the vampire / werewolf mash we've always wanted. - Kim Newman·Empire
Underworld movies haven't gotten the best reviews from movie critics, but no one can say that they don't do well at the box office. Opening weekend numbers have never been impressive but the movies make their budgets back and then some. There is value here and the franchise is worth keeping alive.
This brings us to the fifth installment — Underworld: Blood Wars — offering the franchise an opportunity to give vampire fans something to be excited for at the movies. Blood Wars will focus more on the characters introduced in Awakenings like David (played by Theo James). The movie will also introduce some new characters, as the story is aimed at expanding the Underworld universe instead of rehashing any elements that have come before.
'Underworld: Blood Wars' cast:
Kate Beckinsale as Selene, a Death Dealer and a Vampire-Corvinus Strain Hybrid.
Theo James as David, formerly a Pure-Born Vampire--now a Vampire-Corvinus Strain Hybrid, and Selene's protégé and ally.
Tobias Menzies as Marius, a Lycan leader.
Lara Pulver as a fiercely ambitious Vampire who is the main female antagonist.
Bradley James as the villain.
Charles Dance as Thomas, a Vampire Elder and David's father.
Clementine Nicholson as Lena, the Nordic Coven's greatest warrior and daughter of Vidar.
Daisy Head as Alexia
Oliver Stark as Gregor
Brian Caspe as Hajna
Scott Speedman will not return as Michael Corvin. Trent Garrett however, plays him via motion capture and prosthetics. According to Fashion Style, writer and producer Len Wiseman didn't want the relationship between Selene and Michael to take away from the relationship between Selene and Eve, played by India Eisley, who, by they way, hasn't been announced in the cast for Blood Wars.
"You can’t just have Michael in there as a sub-character because he’s so important and if you’re going to have another important character show up, it just washes that relationship entirely," Wiseman said.
Blood Wars may be the last shot at reviving the Underworld franchise, and it can reinvigorate the vampire genre as well. Should the story follow the successful formula that launched the first Underworld movie, we may have a new vampire universe to enjoy for a long time. If it bombs badly, it may put the final nail in the Underworld coffin for all time.
'Underworld: Blood Wars' is set to open October 14, 2016.
Do you think 'Blood Wars' can revive the 'Underworld' franchise?
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