Blood Wars really goes back to the roots, the mythology, the ways of the past
The fifth installment in the hugely successful series, Underworld: Blood Wars celebrates a return to the brooding aesthetic introduced in the original 2002 hit Underworld, directed by Anna Foerster (Outlander, Criminal Minds) from a screenplay by Cory Goodman (The Last Witch Hunter, Priest), story by Kyle Ward and Goodman, based on characters created by Kevin Grevioux and Len Wiseman & Danny McBride.
Vampire Death Dealer Selene (Kate Beckinsale) fends off brutal attacks from both the Lycan clan and the Vampire faction that has betrayed her. Aided by her only allies, David (Theo James) and his father Thomas (Charles Dance), she must end the eternal war between Lycans and Vampires, even if it means making the ultimate sacrifice. The fifth film in the hugely successful action-horror series picks up the action where Underworld Awakening left off. The Lycans have found a powerful new leader in Marius (Tobias Menzies), who has injected a fanatical sense of purpose and discipline into their previously ragtag ranks. Marius will stop at nothing to track down Selene in order to learn the whereabouts of her daughter Eve, a Vampire-Lycan hybrid. Joined by David, Selene barely manages to elude her Lycan trackers until a truce negotiated by David’s father Thomas allows her to take refuge at the Eastern Coven, ruled by the ambitious Semira (Lara Pulver). In abject fear of the escalating Lycan threat, Selene’s former Vampire adversaries hope her legendary fighting skills will help them eradicate the Lycan scourge once and for all. But when Selene discovers that some of her Eastern protectors have traitorous agendas of their own, she and David are on the run again, forced to seek sanctuary behind the walls of the mysterious Nordic Coven, a peaceful sect of Vampires living in monk-like seclusion in the northernmost regions of the earth. But their newfound sense of security in the snow-covered lands of Var Dohr is fleeting, for wherever Selene goes, the centuries-old war between Vampires and Lycans always follows.
”Blood Wars pushes Underworld mythology into exciting new realms while drawing on the strengths that continue to thrill fans 14 years after the series’ inception. “The thing that makes Underworld so successful is the fact that you’re immersed in this vampire world which is not real, and yet the drama between all these creatures is universal,” says director Anna Foerster. “I hope audiences are wowed by the action but I also hope people enjoy where Selene goes emotionally. After all this fighting and hardship, at the end she comes to a place where she has a new outlook on life. Selene is ultimately a tragic character, but if she can also evoke hope for audiences, then I think that’s a pretty big thing.”
Beckinsale expects Underworld: Blood Wars to satisfy a key expectation for fans of the franchise by showcasing Selene at her most warrior-like. “All sorts of horrible things happen to Selene but then she manages to dispatch everybody because she gets really pissed off,” the actress says. In between the fast and furious combat scenes, Underworld: Blood Wars offers a darkly thrilling cinematic vision of uncommon integrity.
“It’s difficult these days to get a genre movie of this type made if it’s not based on an existing comic book or video game or something like that,” Beckinsale muses. “Underworld is original, and given the fact that it also has a female lead there are a lot of reasons I feel really privileged to be one of those few women who gets to do this kind of movie. I think audiences like to see women taking names and kicking ass but I also think at this point, there’s a historical legacy element to Underworld that people find appealing.”
“Blood Wars really goes back to the roots, the mythology, the ways of the past,” says producer Richard S. Wright of Lakeshore Entertainment. “The set design, the costumes, the whole vision follows more from the first Underworld film than the fourth one.” Making her franchise debut, director Anna J. Foerster savored the idea of bringing the series back to its roots. “I really liked the first Underworld because it made a big statement at the time about a look and a world,” she says. Shot in Eastern Europe, like the original Underworld movie, Blood Wars evokes an Old World atmosphere that pays homage to the series’ aesthetic DNA. But screenwriter Cory Goodman’s script also expands the franchise’s mythology, introducing a chilling new realm that pushes star Kate Beckinsale’s character Selene to her limits. “One of the most exciting components of the film is the Nordic Vampire Coven,” says Lakeshore Entertainment president Gary Lucchesi. “We have never seen these vampires before.”
To invest Underworld: Blood Wars with a fresh point of view, the producers recruited Foerster, a versatile German-born filmmaker who brought a wealth of action expertise to the project. She had previously directed second-unit action sequences on big-budget spectaculars including The Day After Tomorrow, worked on visual effects for such blockbusters as Independence Day, and directed Starz’s Emmy®-nominated time-travel series “Outlander.” “Anna’s action resume, combined with the skill she showed in directing actors for episodes of ‘Outlander’ made me feel she was the perfect choice to direct Underworld: Blood Wars,” producer Lucchesi says.
Franchise producer Tom Rosenberg welcomed Foerster into the Underworld family with enthusiasm. “Anna really understands action, she understands the camera and she understands special effects, which is a rare combination,” he says. Foerster reveled in the opportunity to honor the Underworld aesthetic with her own take on the material.
“My approach on Blood Wars was to respect the fact that you already have this strong mythology, you have a very clear palette, you have rules for the Lycans and the vampires about when and why they transform,” she says. “I was excited to keep all those things because I think it would be a mistake to say, ‘Okay, now we do everything differently.’ Instead, I decided to take everything I thought was exciting about Underworld and build on top of that with new, unexpected elements.” The idea of having a woman direct a franchise about a strong female character was a nobrainer, says Richard Wright of Lakeshore Entertainment. “Anna’s been able to breathe new life into the franchise in a way I don’t think anybody else would have done.”
As the star of four of the five Underworld films, Beckinsale continues to navigate subtle changes from one movie to the next. “It’s interesting to come back and play a character that you played before,” she says.
“I’m always dressed as Selene but the worlds have changed quite a lot for each movie. The first one we shot in Budapest and it looked sort of industrial and steam punk. Now, Blood Wars has a quite a medieval vibe to it. My outfit might stay the same but what the character’s going through and the world she’s moving through has been quite different each time. The reason I was interested in Blood Wars is that Selene goes through so much emotional stuff during the movie. That was really appealing to Anna as well.”
For Beckinsale’s character, the stakes have never been higher. “There’s been this longstanding feud between Vampires and Lycans but in Blood Wars, Selene’s very much disenfranchised from both factions,” the actress explains. “She’s not really part of the team of vampires anymore and she’s on the run from everyone. Selene’s tough and incredibly inventive about killing monsters and all of that, but her motivation has always been love. In Blood Wars, it’s the love for her daughter Eve that keeps Selene going.”
Selene faces an even deadlier adversary in Tobias Menzies as Marius, the Lycan leader determined to find Selene’s daughter Eve so he can feed on her “hybrid” blood and spawn an invincible Lycan-Vampire army. Menzies, who earned a Golden Globe® nomination for his role in “Outlander,” savored the experience of playing the alpha werewolf. “It was wonderful working with Anna,” he says.
“You can feel her pushing the bounds of the genre, trying to reinvent the form and make it something fresh.” Although the Underworld franchise has featured numerous acclaimed British thespians, including Michael Sheen, Bill Nighy and Derek Jacobi, producer Wright singles out Menzies’ Marius as one of the most colorful characters to share the screen with Beckinsale.
“Marius has a style and a flair and a verve to him that previous villains in Underworld haven’t had to the same extent,” Wright says. “Tobias was a great choice for Marius because he’s played villains before and attacked this role with great relish.”