Vampire movies are never about vampires. Just check with anyone who has every written a successful vampire story. When Joe Caldwell helped Dan Curtis create Barnabus Collins for Dark Shadows, he knew vampires were about “compulsive sex.” Innocent Blood Director John Landis felt similarly, having said that the “exchange of bodily fluids” was essential to the point of vampire stories. So what is really going on when vampires and werewolves decide to have sex? That’s part of the premise of Underworld: Blood Wars, and if you can look past Kate Beckinsale’s Marilyn Manson couture, Blood Wars — and the Underworld series in general — might be explaining a post-human future.
As with the majority of the films in the Underworld franchise, Blood Wars is focused on a conflict for supremacy between two factions of genetic deviants: the aforementioned vampires and werewolves. From a literary point of view, werewolves and vampires diverging into different strands of DNA is a little bit ironic. The original Bram Stoker Dracula could transform into a wolf and there’s a larger argument for the genre of werewolf fiction deriving from the same narrative well that spawned vampires. Metaphorically then, the vampires and werewolves (called Lycans in these movies) have more in common than they don’t, so why are they fighting so much? That’s probably because, just like in the real world, they both want answers for why their genetic mutations exist, but also have a hard time coping with the status quo. (Also, vampires vs. werewolves sounds cool.)
In the real world, science almost unanimously tells us that any mutation is genetic. Meaning, if you have red hair (a mutation of the MC1R gene) or are a vampire or werewolf, genetics is the cause. Underworld: Gene Wars would have probably been a better title, though some moviegoers might have been confused as to why Beckinsale is still wearing pleather. Either way, her character — Selene — infected her lover Michael (Scott Speedman) with her vampire blood, which made him a vampire/werewolf hybrid. Then, they had a daughter named Eve, who is a super immortal, and a genetic deviant almost completely unique. This is what puts the “war” in Blood Wars, the genetic combination which Eve only possess is like genetic magic, and thus coveted by everyone.
The idea that rare strands of DNA, and thus, rare blood types could actually save lives has a scientific basis. In 2014, an Australian baby with an extremely rare blood type received a blood transfusion which required the blood packet to first travel over 7,000 miles. According to Smithsonian.com, each of the eight common blood types can actually “subdivided into many distinct varieties.”
In the science fiction novel Earthblood by Keith Laumer and Rosel George Brown, a galaxy-wide post-humanity future is posited in which human blood — real human blood — is basically priceless. This is like imaging Kate Beckinsale’s daughter in Underworld as the only person in the universe with a certain kind of genetic make-up. If transhumanism becomes the the normal way “humanity” manifests itself in a far-flung future, then it follows that hybrids with very specific blood-types and genetic traits, could become rare, and just coveted as vampire/werewolf hybrids are in Underworld.
When vampires and werewolves go to war over Kate Beckinsale’s daughter’s immortal monster blood, apparently, the consensus is, nobody wins. Because the reviews for Underworld: Blood Wars have been savage. The A.V. Club called the film “incoherent,” while The Guardian noted the film’s “surreal silliness” and gave it two stars out of five. But perhaps fans of this overly stylized, post-goth action flick are picking up on aspects of the film which are lying dormant. We might not know what a post-human future will look like, and it almost certainly won’t be populated by literal vampires and werwolves.
But we do know genetics will matter. So while the “blood war” in Blood Wars is perhaps “surreal,” it might not end up being as silly as it seems.
Underworld: Blood Wars is out in wide release in theaters now.