Saturday 14 January 2012

From the archive: "Underworld: Rise of the Lycans"

Underworld: Rise of the Lycans is the third film in the inexplicably successful vampires-versus-werewolves saga, and - for want of anything else better to do - the producers have hit upon the idea of doing an origin story, recalling (read: dragging back) supporting players from the first film's flashbacks who've since gone on to bigger and better things, but were presumably paid handsomely for a few weeks' work on the New Zealand coast. Bill Nighy is the bloodsucking bigshot of a medieval enclave in a forest overrun by werewolves; Rhona Mitra, whirling blades when not on horseback, the obligatorily feisty daughter who'd rather become a warrior queen than assume the political role pop's been grooming her for; and one-time Academy Award nominee Michael Sheen, of all people, the hunky, part-lycan blacksmith of rebellious bent with whom Mitra elects to have hot, body-doubled werewolf rumpo while hanging over the edge of a cliff. (Well, hey, whatever floats your boat.)

Original star Kate Beckinsale appears only fleetingly, just before the end credits - which counts as a plus point - and with hubby Len Wiseman handing the directorial reins over to SFX guru Patrick Tatopoulos, the series looks to have found its natural level: somewhere in the middle ground between a two-week cinema release and a 75-minute direct-to-DVD quickie, offering a rather more expensive and digitally enhanced impersonation of late 60s Hammer (lots of dungeons and tangled tree roots, bosomy women strung up by their wrists, effete and/or beardy men wearing surprising amounts of make-up). It has precisely none of the atmosphere, but gets a lift from the fact that - unlike everyone on the Beckinsale/Wiseman axis, who seemed genuinely to believe what they were doing was not only essential, but awesomely, radically cool - those on screen here (with the possible exception of Mitra) seems to know this is all deeply, deeply naff, something to be added to the CV in very small font. Nighy, enunciating every single consonant in his most self-serious dialogue ("the dangers of the forest are no greater than those of the council chamber"), is consistently funnier than he was in The Boat That Rocked, and for the first time, the franchise's usual drab-blue schtick left me tickled, rather than bored out of my mind.

(July 2009)


  1. This movie is the realized back story for the movie "Underworld". There is nothing revelational about this movie to the storyline of the franchise except for Lucian being the source of the modern day Lycans (ability to transform back into human form). This movie is basically about his development from childhood into the leader of the Lycans and also the love story between him and Sonia (Victor's daughter). The tie-ins of this movie to the other two were very well written. While viewing "Rise of the Lycans" is not necessary in order to make sense of the other two movies in the franchise, it definitely enriches them and basically adds more seasoning.
    The action and battle sequences were exciting and very well done. But, while I enjoyed the movie, it lacks the plot twists and suspense of the original "Underworld". The acting is good, although I wish Victor would have had some better dialogue. Rhona Mitra was SUPERB as Sonia. Her resemblence to Kate Beckensale makes the viewer realize why Victor took Selene under his wing (instead of killing her along with her family). Selene is absent from this movie except for the final clip which happens to be the opening scene to "Underworld" (a good transition). IMHO, this movie ranks 2nd in the franchise. While "Underworld Evolution" was enoyable in its own right, the creatures of this franchise look more comfortable (and believable) in midieval times than in the modern day.