A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Underworld: Blood Wars is the fifth movie in the vampire vs. werewolf franchise starring Kate Beckinsale as a vampire warrior. Be ready for tons of gory violence. Much of it is computer-generated and fake looking, but there are still lots of blood spurts, bloody wounds, and other graphic moments (a severed head, a werewolf's spine ripped out, etc.). Other action violence includes martial arts fighting, sword fighting, and hand-to-hand combat, plus guns and shooting. Women (and, briefly, children) are involved. Some female characters wear revealing outfits, and cleavage is seen. A shirtless man caresses a woman and kneels down in front of her; she then moans in ecstasy. Language is infrequent but includes a somewhat obscured use of "f--k," plus "s--t." All in all, this is more of the same for this series, with the few fun parts largely bulldozed by the dumb parts.
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What's the story?
Following a brief recap of the previous four movies, UNDERWORLD: BLOOD WARS begins as Selene (Kate Beckinsale) fends off lycan (werewolf) attackers. The leader of the lycans, Marius (Tobias Menzies), wants to find Selene's daughter, a pureblood vampire-lycan hybrid, to gain access to her potent blood. But Selene has hidden her daughter away so securely that even she doesn't know the girl's location. Then David (Theo James), who owes his life to Selene, learns a long-hidden secret about his own birth. Meanwhile, treachery abounds within the vampire ranks, with various factions vying for power and everything leading up to a mighty showdown between the vampires and the lycans, perhaps once and for all.
Is it any good?
The fifth movie in this supernatural action/horror series isn't the worst, but it isn't very good, either; it has moments of mindless fun, but also too much seriousness and mood-killing awkwardness. Beckinsale brings a kind of grace and dignity to her role; in smaller parts, Charles Dance gives the movie a little class, and James is a likable hero. But too many others, mainly underlings, are terribly clumsy in their smaller roles, killing at least half the scenes in the movie.
A new director takes over the franchise for Underworld: Blood Wars, former cinematographer Anna Foerster. It might have been interesting if she had provided a fresh female viewpoint, but it seems as if all she can do is struggle to hold everything together. The composition and editing is sometimes off-puttingly clunky, and the story -- building from four movies' worth of silly stories -- trails off into certain directions that it never returns from. In short, every time the movie finds an enjoyably silly spot to be in, something comes along to ruin it.
Talk to your kids about ...
Is the movie scary? How does it compare with other movies about vampires and werewolves? Why do you think it's so graphic? Is that part of the appeal of a film like this? What would the movie be like if it toned down the blood and gore?
How is sex depicted in the movie? Is it shown in a positive way, as a demonstration of love, or more as a demonstration of power? What's the difference?
How does the movie handle female body image? Does empower women, or does it set impossible standards?
Can Selene be viewed as a role model? Is she strong? What is her character like? What are her goals?
- In theaters: January 6, 2017
- On DVD or streaming: April 25, 2017
- Cast: Kate Beckinsale, Theo James, Lara Pulver
- Director: Anna Foerster
- Studio: Screen Gems
- Genre: Horror
- Topics: Monsters, ghosts, and vampires
- Run time: 91 minutes
- MPAA rating: R
- MPAA explanation: strong bloody violence, and some sexuality
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Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are created by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.