Last December, I was flown from Detroit to Prague in the Czech Republic so that I could visit the set of Underworld: Blood Wars, the fifth film in the franchise and the fourth to follow the storyline of Selene, played by Kate Beckinsale. The film is set to release on January 6th, 2017 and the embargo to talk about what I’ve seen is up, so let’s get to chatting about vampires and werewolves!
‘Underworld: Blood Wars’ follows Vampire death dealer, Selene as she fends off brutal attacks from both the Lycan clan and the Vampire faction that betrayed her. With her only allies, David and his father Thomas, she must stop the eternal war between Lycans and Vampires, even if it means she has to make the ultimate sacrifice.
Directed by Anna Foerster (“Outlander”), Underworld: Blood Wars stars Kate Beckinsale, Theo James, Tobias Menzies, Lara Pulver, Bradley James, and Charles Dance.
WARNING: There will be spoilers discussed below, so please be careful with what you read.
After arriving at Barrandov Studios, us movie writers were taken onto two different sets, which could not have been more different. The first was a massive training dojo used by the vampires. Training dummies that were made to look like very large Lycans lined the walls while there was a caged area at one end that held the armory. The walls were covered with swords and guns of various types as well as other tactical weaponry. In the middle of the dojo was a giant cage shaped almost like a traditional birdcage, which we were told is going to house a very important fight sequence that will include a LOT of wire work. It’s a very cold and calculating set and the scale of it was incredibly impressive. From the looks of it, the vampires are ready for an all out war and they’re constantly training to make sure they win.
The second set was a cave with massive icicles that were large enough to be called stalactites. On one wall was a large sheet of “ice”, which we were told was a frozen waterfall. In this cave was a pool of water, which I’m 99% positive we’ve now seen in the trailers (picture below). This set is actually the basement built underneath the Nordic monastery that Selene travels to in the film. There’s not much else to say about this set aside from the fact that it was pretty cool to go through a tunnel from a soundstage into a frozen cave. Movie magic is incredible.
We were also clued in about a set piece called the “blood-letting machine”, which we didn’t get a chance to see as it was already struck. However, production designer Ondrej Nekvasil says that “…it’s something that will never be seen anywhere else“, making it a truly unique addition to the series. He also stated that he and Foerster agreed that the visuals should have a European style about them, since the film was set there. And while there is a strong appreciation for the older, more Gothic style of architecture, they knew that the vampires always gave their lair a more modern feel, so they had to implement that into the set designs.
Nekvasil commented about shooting at historic monuments, such as a castle, in the Czech Republic, describing the difficulty of such an endeavor. For example, they have to cover all the pieces that the location deems of having historic value and then they have to take away anything that they know they’re going to break, such as doors or windows, and put them back in the same place when they’re done.
Something that I noticed was that the scene we got to watch featured Selene fighting Marius (Tobias Menzies) using a more European-style sword. However, in the armory that I mentioned above there were Japanese blades, so I asked Nekvasil about the reasoning behind having a movie set in Europe yet having this Far East splash of flavor. “Because vampires, in the story, are kinda spread out around the world, so they are using different types of techniques,” he explained. “They can use whatever they like. The vampires in this project are very stylish. It’s visible in the way they train and everything is designed for that.”
As mentioned before, the scene we witness featured a fight between Marius and Selene, although we didn’t see too much of the actual battle. We also get to witness a very small clip of David (Theo James) duking it out against Semira (Lara Pulver). The main thing here is that Marius seemed genuinely confused by the sight of Selene, which lends credence to the idea that she will die at some point during the film only to be resurrected through some means. Perhaps it’s the pool in the cave? We shall have to wait and see!
While we didn’t get to see much, I will say that the set design was pretty damn incredible. The attention to detail in every part of the build was apparent and the sets felt like real locations and we, like some strange Wonderland mechanic, kept teleporting into them from the soundstage by simply walking through a door.