UNDERWORLD: RISE OF THE LYCANS
***1/2 (out of 5)
January 23, 2009
Michael Sheen as LUCIAN
Bill Nighy as VIKTOR
Rhona Mitra as SONJA
Steven Mackintosh as TANNIS
Kevin Grevioux as RAZE
Studio: Screen Gems
Directed by: Patrick Tatopoulos
BY KEVIN CARR
Listen to Kevin’s radio review…
The “Underworld” series is a strange thing for me because where most sequels get progressively worse, I’ve liked each subsequent flick better than the proceeding one. Back when the first “Underworld” came out more than five years ago, I hated it. I thought the film took itself too seriously, and the vampires were only slightly more exciting than the Anne Rice snoozers.
The second film was a marked improvement. The action was better, and all of the whining and silliness from the first film was toned down quite a bit.
Now, there’s a third film in the series, and I think I enjoyed this one the best of all. Perhaps it was because I didn’t have very high hopes for the series. Or perhaps it was because I just weathered what could be possibly the lamest vampire/werewolf movie, last fall’s monster hit “Twilight.”
“Underworld: Rise of the Lycans” takes us back hundreds of years to the beginning of the vampire/werewolf feud. The werewolves (otherwise known as Lycans) are a relatively new race. The true werewolves are nothing more than monsters, but the vampire leader known as Viktor (Bill Nighy) has succeeded in creating a human-form creature that he then breeds to be slaves.
The original Lycan is named Lucian (Michael Sheen), and he is Viktor’s pet and personal guard. Little does Viktor know that Lucian is having an affair with his daughter Sonja (Rhona Mitra). Soon, the consequences of his actions cause Lucian to lead a slave revolt, breaking the Lycans out of their prison.
Consider this to be “Amistad” with teeth… and no Steven Spielberg.
I think what I enjoyed the most about this movie is that even though it’s bitterly dark and dreary, going back into the past afforded the characters a chance to be more feral. Too many vampire movies go that oh-so-sophisticated Anne Rice route, and their animalistic tendencies are traded in for Goth clothes and a heroin-chic look. Too many vampires in films nowadays look like they’re attending an art gallery opening than stalking their prey.
Oh, and there’s no Scott Speedman in this movie, so that’s a plus.
The plot and characters aren’t fantastic, and the movie serves as a set-up for the other two films. In fact, in the end, it reminded me a bit of movies like “Star Wars: Episode III – Revenge of the Sith,” where we see how everything is set up to be consistent with the other movies. In particularly, we see what sets off the centuries-long feud between Lucian and Viktor, and it strikes at the emotional core of the characters.
I suppose this entire set-up process is what will make the “Underworld” fan base drool.
The best part of this movie is the battles between the vampires and the Lycans. With director Patrick Tatopoulos coming from the world of special effects, you’d expect there to be lots of blood flying, and the guy delivers. Plus, the film carries a much-deserved R rating, which makes for a lot of fun in the battle sequences.
Like the “Alien vs. Predator” movies, “Underworld: Rise of the Lycans” delivers the monster-on-monster violence in a devilishly fun way. For all you guys who were dragged kicking and screaming to “Twilight” last year, here’s your chance to show your woman what a real vampire movie is all about.