Underworld: Blood Wars Ultra HD Review
Little to no appeal outside of its own fanbase
There is no beginning, there is no end. There is only becoming.Yes, there is another Underworld film! Underworld: Blood Warsis the fifth in the burgeoning franchise that only seems to exist so that producer Len Wiseman can employ his wife. In this latest instalment the vampires and the lycans are at war, Selene is an outcast wanted by both sides, her daughter is in hiding so that her precious blood cannot be used as a weapon, there are power struggles within the vampire covens, illicit relationships between lycans and vampire are outlawed and a new charismatic lycan leader is inciting his pack to wipe out their former masters for good. Sound familiar? That’s because Blood Wars, save the introduction of a Nordic Coven (dressed in white!), has nothing new to add and simply recycles all previous ideas and plot points from earlier films – it even starts off with a 2 minute ‘story so far’ montage reminding you of better times. Taking the directing reigns, for the first time in a feature role, is Anna Foerster and she keeps all the staples that the series is known for.There are plenty of black leather-bound vampires, scruffy werewolves, frantic over-the-top fight scenes, relentless pacing, predictable twists and a stylised pallet synonymous with the franchise. Severely lacking this time around is any form of character development (unless you count Selene’s hair colour) or empathy with any of the protagonists plight; as such there is no emotional involvement, so no matter how many battles there are, who backstabs who or sacrifices themselves the end result is pure apathy because no-one cares about the outcome – how boring is it to watch two immortal creatures beat each other! There's meaningless, trite and derivative dialogue and no plot save the obvious. The film caters for its own fanbase by harking back to earlier films in both narrative and design terms; but outside of this there is little to no appeal and certainly none to the casual viewer. I loved the first two films, but this one is a step too far - and there is another instalment to come!
Picture QualityUnderworld: Blood Wars was filmed digitally using Red Weapon Dragon cameras, with a resolution of 6K and finished using a 4K Digital Intermediate (DI), meaning we’re seeing the full native resolution on this Ultra HD Blu-ray disc, presented in a widescreen 2.40:1 aspect ratio. The disc uses 10-bit video depth, a Wider Colour Gamut (WCG) and High Dynamic Range (HDR), and is encoded using the HEVC (H.265) codec. We reviewed the Region free UK Ultra HD Blu-ray release of Underworld: Blood Wars on a Panasonic 65DX902B Ultra HD 4K TV with a Samsung UBD-K8500 Ultra HD Blu-ray player.
As with all the Underworld series, the film is heavily colour graded, in fact is almost monochrome: black and blue, it is also very dark, not only in lighting but in costume, set design and tone, all quite testing for a digital transfer, but for the most part this UHD gets it right. Detail is well seen, with skin texture, hair and teeth being clean and, ahem, sharp. The gothic castles, wrought iron gates, weaponry and car instruments are all pin sharp. The few landscape establishing shots are all together well seen encompassing keen edges throughout. Indeed there is a noticeable upgrade to all edges and textures compared to the (included) Full HD Blu-ray.
It's a noticeable upgrade in all edges and textures compared to Blu-ray
What is not so obvious is the colouring; the pallet and grading do not necessarily benefit WCG, at least in first glance, but what is does do is enhance the grading of the colours: so whites (snow for example) contain much more, the blue glowing eyes are that much more piercing, while the explosive results of exposure to UV are that much brighter and defined. Flames themselves have much more depth too. It is the HDR that reaps the greater benefit though, the film is extremely dark, and the wider range gives more depth to the black, hiding more shadow detail, contributing to greater frame depth. The other end of the scale fairs equally well with whites never clipping and holding a greater range. It’s not all perfect though; there is the occasional bout of banding, usually with (electric) torches shining through misty blackness, but that’s it for any digital blights.
Sound QualityThe DTS-HD MA 5.1 track on the Full HD Blu-ray is tremendous in terms of the surround envelope and bass reproduction; but the Dolby Atmos track (only on the UHD disc) betters it at almost every turn in terms of wider separation, more encased sound envelope and thunderous bass. Indeed the bass is amongst the heaviest I’ve heard recently with the sub being used near constantly and LF effects ranging from gun shots, to car engines; from doors closing to footsteps! But it is with the score where the real weight comes adding a deep presence to the proceedings – it is well maintained, reasonably tight, never devolves into a murky ‘wall’ but doesn’t plumb the subterranean depths that the very best cater for. Dialogue is mainly centred across the front, sounds good and natural and never lost in the mayhem. Effects are myriad; being an action film there is never a moment lost to add something to the surround field; gunshots whizzing by, lycan howls, echoes, thunder etc. While the placement of directional effects is well maintained, the aforementioned all benefit from the above channels adding a real sense of ‘being there’. For example the echoes in the tunnels at the beginning place you with the actors; the lycans arguing as they plot, places you underneath their arguments, thunder cracks overhead. There is a lovely (and unintentionally hilarious) effect where David splits a lycan in half and the resulting blood splatter starts at the front travels overhead and lands behind you – brilliant!
ExtrasDisc 1 – UHD
Moments – Four ‘highlight’ reels taken from the film: Selene (@ 13 minutes), Semira (@ 9 minutes), Lycans (@ 11 minutes) and David (@ 10 minutes)
Cast and Crew – A number of production photos.
Disc 2 – Full HD Blu-ray
All the extras are culled from a single ‘behind the scenes’ shoot and edited into their respective titles to given an overview of the subject; all contain interviews with cast and crew and have plenty of finished film content to flesh them out – none are particularly well involved.
The Evolution of Selene – Spend eight minutes looking over how the main character has developed over the series so far.
Old & New Blood – Six minutes with Thomas, David, Vidar and Lena.
The Evil Evolved – Another six minutes this time with Cassius, Semira, Varga, Alexia and Marius.
Building a Blood War – Twelve minutes this time covering the film whole and probably the most engaging, covers more ground such as direction, effects, costumes, design (how it harkens back to the original but tries to feel fresh – a word you will hear a lot!)
Ultra HD Blu-ray VerdictYes, there is another Underworld film! Delving deeper and deeper into DTV territory Underworld Blood Wars is pretty much a rehash of the previous four instalments; this time around a new charismatic Lycan leader who wishes to destroy the vampires and capture Selene to find her daughter for her blood, while political manoeuvres in the Eastern Coven see backstabbing and treachery. Very standard stuff and even the introduction of a Nordic Coven (dressed in white!) adds nothing to the mix. The main problem is that with no development or empathy with any of the characters, all the plot motivations are meaningless as we don’t care about the outcome – so no matter how many battles there are, who backstabs who or sacrifices themselves the end result is pure apathy.
Sadly this pointless sequel just results in pure apathy
The 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray from Sony, for the most part, is pretty good. The image, from a 4K DI, is stunning in terms of detail, and HDR benefits the very dark image well, WCG on the other hand is more subtle. The Atmos track is stonking, though, with a totally immersive surround environment heavy on bass and directionality of effects. Extras are very light, however, with little more than filler.
Suggested retail price when reviewed: £22.99
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