Underworld: Blood Wars Ultra HD Blu-ray Review

Underworld Blood Wars

Vampire death dealer, Selene (Kate Beckinsale) fights to end the eternal war between the Lycan clan and the Vampire faction that betrayed her.

The Review at a Glance:
(max score: 5 )

Film:

Extras:

Audio/UHD Video total rating:
( Max score: 100 )

89

Details:

Studio and Year: Sony – 2016
MPAA Rating: R
Feature running time: 91 minutes
Genre: Action/Horror

Disc Format: BD-66
Encoding: HEVC
Video Aspect: 2.40:1
Resolution: 2160p/24

Audio Format(s): English Dolby Atmos (Dolby TrueHD 7.1 compatible), English/French DTS-HD 5.1 Master Audio
Subtitles: English, English SDH, French
Starring: Kate Beckinsale, Theo James, Charles Dance, Lara Pulver, James Faulkner
Directed by: Anna Foerster
Music by: Micheal Wandmacher
Written by: Cory Goodman
Region Code: A,B,C

Release Date: April 25, 2017

“Protect the Bloodline”



My Take:

Death dealer Selene (Kate Beckinsale) must fend off brutal attacks from both the Lycan clan and the vampire faction that betrayed her. Joining forces with allies David (Theo James) and Thomas (Peter Andersson), she embarks on a quest to end the eternal war between the two races, even if it means making the ultimate sacrifice.

I am admittedly a fan of the Underworld film franchise although none of the sequels has proven to be as good as the original. That trend continues with Underworld: Blood Wars the fifth installment in the series. The plot is rather thin and revolves around the Lycan clan, led by a new leader, and what’s left of the vampires, seeking to capture Selene. Each has their reasons for wanting her alive and they will stop at nothing to achieve their goal. I don’t know, if you’re a diehard series fan, this script, which adheres to the Underworld mythos, is probably going to contain enough bloodletting, basic characters, and action to stay afloat. On the other hand, looking at it from a storytelling perspective, it’s rather shallow. Considering how much history lies within the Underworld mythology, it would have preferable to build something that had richer context.

I like Kate Beckinsale, and need little reason to watch her portray Selene, but this one felt tossed together and rushed. The action, production design, and visuals effects are what you’d expect from an Underworld film, which is a good thing, I suppose. At the end of the day, I found Underworld: Blood Wars to be a lackluster effort, and an underwhelming entry in the franchise.

Replay Value:

Parental Guide:

The rating is for strong bloody violence, and some sexuality.

AUDIO/VIDEO – By The Numbers:
REFERENCE = 92-100/EXCELLENT = 83-91/GOOD = 74-82/AVERAGE = 65-73/BELOW AVERAGE = under 65

**My audio/video ratings are based upon a comparative made against other high definition media/blu-ray disc.**

UHD Presentation: 82
(Each rating is worth 4 points with a max of 5 per category)

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Dolby Atmos Rating: 96
(Each rating is worth 4 points with a max of 5 per category)

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Ultra HD Blu-ray has finally been released and eager enthusiasts are ready and willing to see what it has to offer. For those not familiar with the details regarding Ultra HD Blu-ray you can refer to my article that includes some pertinent data on the subject. Here is the link:

Ultra HD Blu-ray Has Come to AVS Forum Blu-ray Reviews

Underworld: Blood Wars comes to Ultra HD Blu-ray from Sony Pictures Home Entertainment featuring 2160pHEVC encoded video that has an average bitrate of 63 Mbps and lossless Dolby Atmos/TrueHD 7.1 channel sound that has an average bitrate of 3.7 Mbps.

For its presentation in Ultra HD Underworld: Blood Wars (derived from a 6K source) was rendered from a 4K DI. With the limited exposure to Ultra HD sourced from a 4K Digital Intermediates we are left to judge based upon what we have seen thus far.

I began with my review of the Blu-ray version of Underworld: Blood Wars before moving onto the Ultra HD version. First and foremost, this isn’t a bright or colorful film, predominantly adhering to relatively cooler, teal splashed, chromatic schemes, which doesn’t make for especially eye catching levels of color. This is intentional, in trying to keep with the stylistic aesthetic of the franchise. Fleshtones looked about the same, which is to say, a bit pallid, but not overtly unnatural. Shot digitally, resolution is generally strong, although I wouldn’t say there was a noteworthy uptick in sharpness and detail compared to the Blu-ray. Upon closer inspection, I could make out finer details in facial features and clothing, but this predominantly came during close ups. On occasion, discernible improvements in depth could be seen in wide angle shots such as those taking place in the cavernous northern vampire coven facility or the castle like interior of the elder’s chamber, but in most respects, I saw only incremental differences in apparent resolution when comparing select scenes from the UHD and Blu-ray.

I also found the presentation to be very tame in terms of its use of dynamic highlights. I found only a few occasions where the presentation made visually compelling use of interstitial black levels offset by vivid bright elements, such as the extended battle in the vampire coven during the finale. This sequence contained streaming light and muzzle blasts from weapons that looked appreciably vibrant.
Overall, I would have preferred more use of HDR. I am sure that much of this is owed to the original source and stylistic choice, but truth be told there is little about this Ultra HD presentation that left an indelible impression on me.

Underworld: Bloodlines has a very solid 5.1 channel surround mix on Blu-ray, so I wondered how much the immersive experience would improve upon it. In listening to the Dolby Atmos surround mix I found it to be of the active variety that made steady use of the platform. Its use of audio objects is a mix atmospherics, discrete effects and music. This is done to very good effect and creates a tangible level of immersion that coincides with the onscreen events nicely. During the first act, there are several instances where the mix generates a noticeable improvement in dimension and depth of field. This continues with the film’s action based sequences as they convey the breadth/expanse of interiors and exterior venues, which bristle with enveloping ambience and discretely placed effects. The assault at the vampire coven in the finale contains a host of sounds that utilize the overhead channels, creating an immersive listening experience. While this scene sounds very good in the standard mix it’s taken to the next level in the Amos mix.

Blu-ray Video:

Video: 88
(Each rating is worth 4 points with a max of 5 per category)

  • Resolution/Clarity:
  • Black Level/Shadow Detail:
  • Color Reproduction:
  • Fleshtones:
  • Compression:

Audio: 94
(Each rating is worth 4 points with a max of 5 per category)

  • Dynamics:
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Underworld: Blood Wars comes to Blu-ray Disc from Sony Pictures Home Entertainment featuring 1080p AVC encoded video that has an average bitrate of 24 Mbps and lossless DTS-HD 5.1 Master audio sound that has an average bitrate of 2.2 Mbps.

This film has a distinctive visual design that utilizes a teal splashed aesthetic, de-saturated colors and high contrast. There are lots of darkened interior sequences/lighting geared toward setting the mood and tone of the subject material. Flesh tones are slightly impacted appearing pallid and lacking tonal divergence. Blacks are deep and mildly crushed but not to an egregious level. Detail in dark backgrounds and shadow filled areas is appreciable which give many of the dingy interior shots better depth. Images are cleanly rendered, allowing for revealing subtle detail during close up camera shots. The wide-angle shots of the northern vampire coven’s interior, and CGI exterior shots have good dimensional quality and definition that leaves backgrounds appearing resolute. Overall this presentation appears to faithfully represent the original source, which in and of itself, doesn’t make for the most visually compelling viewing experience.

The lossless DTS-HD MA 5.1 soundtrack has solid dynamic range, detail rich clarity, and makes ample use of the entire surround platform to drive the film’s elements. The detection of subtle background sounds, off camera cues and spatial dimension within the room’s acoustic environment is notable. The low frequency effects channel is active as the subwoofer works in tandem with the rest of the system to convey the palpably rich bass and dynamic impact associated with the action based sequences. Dialog is firmly planted in the center channel and renders voices and effects with appropriate distinction. I enjoyed this audio presentation and thought that it complimented the source material.

Bonus Features:

  • Disc 1: Underworld: Blood Wars Ultra HD Blu-ray
    Disc 2: Underworld: Blood Wars Blu-ray
  • Official Movie Graphic Novel – Interactive Feature
  • The Evolution of Selene – 8 minute featurette
  • Building a Blood War – 12 minute featurette
  • Old & New Blood – 6 minute featurette
  • The Evil Evolved – 6 minute featurette
  • Digital HD Copy

Final Thoughts:

Underworld: Blood Wars is the fifth installment in the film series, and favors a style over substance approach that lacks freshness or engaging storytelling. It comes to Blu-ray in the Ultra HD Combo Pack from Sony Pictures Home Entertainment featuring fair video quality, excellent lossless sound, including a solid Dolby Atmos immersive mix, and a fan friendly supplemental package. I hoped for more, but ultimately found Underworld: Blood Wars, to be a letdown. If you’re curious, my advice would be to start with a rental.

Ralph Potts
AVS Forum Blu-ray Reviews

Reference Review System:

JVC DLA-RS500 3D/4K Ready High Definition Front Projector
(Calibrated with Calman 5 & C6-HDR Meter from Spectracal)
Stewart Filmscreen – Studiotek 130 G3 100” 16×9 Screen
Carada Masquerade Electronic Horizontal Masking System
Marantz AV8802A 13.2 Channel Audio/Video Processor
Sherbourn Technologies – 7/200 Seven Channel Amplifier
B&K Reference 200.7 Series 2 Seven Channel Amplifier
Oppo UDP-203 Ultra HD Blu-ray Player
Sony Playstation 3 Blu-ray disc Player
System Controller: Apple iPad/iRule Pro HD Universal Remote Control
Canton “Ergo” and Canton In-Ceiling Series Speakers
SVS Ultra Surrounds (Gloss Finish in Bipolar Configuration)
SVS PB-13 Ultra (Rosenut finish)
SVS SB-13 Ultra (Piano Gloss finish)
Panamax M5400-PM Power Conditioner/Surge Protector
Wireworld, Better Cables (Silver Serpent) – Audio/Video/Speaker Cabling
Cool Components – CP-CP102 cooling package