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Underworld Rise of the Lycans

The third film in the "Underworld" series is a prequel that tells the history behind the blood feud between vampires and werewolves.

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Refreshing Prequel Proves A Very Cool Watch with a "Romeo & Juliet" Backdrop

  • Jan 26, 2009

First off, let me just say that I am a fan of the "Underworld" franchise and I do think that Kate Beckinsale is one of the most beautiful women on the planet. Plus, I am also a sucker for tales about vampires and werewolves. That said, this newest installment of the franchise "Underworld: Rise of the Lycans" doesn't have the previous two films' director, (although Len Wiseman still has credits for the story) and the absence of Beckinsale is of course to be expected seeing as this film is a prequel and has taken place before Selene's timeline. Seems like Hollywood have listened to the "cries" of die-hard fans of the franchise, and delivered a fun installment in a gothic period.

In an undisclosed time in the past, the coven of vampires ruled the land, using slaves in the form of Lycans to protect their empire. Lucian (Michael Sheen) may well be the first Lycan to be able to turn into human form at will, and for reasons of his own, vampire leader Viktor (Bill Nighy who reprises his role from the first film) decides to spare him and keep him as his "favored" slave. However, things get a little complicated when Lucian develops an undying love for Viktor's daughter Sonja (Rhona Mitra) and dreams of freedom for his Lycan brethren. Now, the lines have been drawn, and the war between Vampires and Lycans is about to begin….

 Rhona Mitra as Sonja in "Underworld: Rise of the Lycans." Bill Nighy as Viktor in "Underworld: Rise of the Lycans."

                      Rhona Mitra in "Underworld: Rise of the Lycans."

                                             Rhona Mitra as Sonja in "Underworld: Rise of the Lycans."

                           Kevin Grevioux as Raze in "Underworld: Rise of the Lycans."

Patrick Totopoulos is now in the helm as director of "Rise of the Lycans" and while I'm not very familiar with his work, I have to say that Totopoulos does know how to make an effective monster feature. The werewolves looked very nasty and feral, even downright dirty, while the vampires have those blue contact lenses and wears fancy medieval armor. The screenplay does stay true to the mythos of the original, but it also nicely blends hyper-kinetic violence, with a Shakespearean "Romeo and Juliet", medieval backdrop in quite a modern fantasy film about the roots of the struggle between the mythological creatures. This prequel does take a life of its own, and while fans are in very familiar territory, the film doesn't exactly alienate new viewers.

The filmmakers does stay within the style and feel of the original film with the gloomy cinematography, bluish muted color schemes and the action sequences carry quite a bit in blood and gore elements--and those scenes are nicely placed. The action in "Rise of the Lycans" consists mostly of swordplay--beheadings are aplenty, limbs are torn and bodies are mutilated. Amid the CGI generated set designs, I was somewhat pleased that this prequel didn't exactly build upon the franchise's past mistakes but it develops a fresh angle on the "Underworld" mythos. There are familiar characters to be seen in the film, and there are subtle hints of things to come. The film also enforces a gothic element that wasn't fully realized in the first sequel, and the screenplay does give room for its performers to have touches of melodrama, complete with very cool, moody posturing. 

                                 Rhona Mitra as Sonja and Bill Nighy as Viktor in "Underworld: Rise of the Lycans."

                                 Rhona Mitra as Sonja and Michael Sheen as Lucian in "Underworld: Rise of the Lycans."                 

I supposed the film's main strength will have to come from the effective performance of its cast. Michael Sheen and Bill Nighy does give a very heartfelt performance. Their chemistry as leaders of opposite sides are very nice to be privy to, as their interactions prove to be the film's central focus--a good move by the director since it proves to be a credible plot device to get the franchise's established formulas and romantic tragedies' groundwork. Rhona Mitra is a refreshing presence and proves convincing enough as Sonja, the one major catalyst for rebellion of the Lycans. Of course, fans of the franchise knew exactly what happened to her, and the film just fleshes out her relationship between Lucian, her father and the other vampires.

The film also touches on the vampires relationship with the humans living during this time, and as to how the humans managed to become the dominant species in our present time. The Vampires coven's "Death Dealers" were supposedly the guardians of the human populace, who protect them from the beastly werewolves. Apparently, werewolves are those infected with no ability to change back to human form, and in this manner the commentary on social status is reinforced. Werewolves are to be killed on sight while Lycans are used as slaves. There is also some commentary on the politics of this mythical world, vampires rule, Lycans serve and humans provide silver. Werewolves are the outcasts. The vampires would do anything to hold onto their power base.

"Underworld Rise of the Lycans" may indeed be better than "Evolution" and the film does succeed as being a passionate period horror adventure. There is very small window of opportunity to further build on its mythos and it does do so quite well. The film's weakness may well be that being a prequel, it is difficult to offer that many surprises, if there are any at all. The film is a fun experience and highly entertaining to fans and even to those not familiar with the franchise. "Underworld Rise of the Lycans" is a bloody, stylish, visceral, melodramatic installment to further develop the war between vampires and werewolves. It awakens the senses that this franchise is very much alive, and left me wanting more.

Recommended! [4- Stars]

Rhona Mitra as Sonja Movie poster promo poster Rhona Mitra Bill Nighy as Viktor promo poster

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July 18, 2010
Excellent review WP, I thought this was a great film.
January 06, 2011
have you reviewed any of them? I'd like to read your take on them!
January 30, 2009
Hello, Rache, I think it would be more fun to see it in the theater, seeing as some scenes looked they're made for the big screen--it's got forbidden romance with a great gothic backdrop--vampires and werewolves; how better can it get?
January 30, 2009
Actually, Count, while I agree that this franchise borrowed some elements from "Blade" and maybe "The Matrix"--that may not be a bad thing. The Matrix isn't wholly original since it borrowed heavily from anime and Hong Kong action sequences. So following an established formula isn't really a bad thing sometimes. You may be right there, Karen. You know more about filmmaker history than I do. The lycans definitely looked more feral than the previous two films.
January 29, 2009
While the Count is mopping up after himself I'll make a comment. Patrick Tatopoulos has always been primarily a special effects and make-up man. I'm not sure, but this might be his directorial debut. Perhaps that has something to do with all the lycans and the vamps looking exceptionally well--he would know how to best photograph them. Maybe I should give this franchise another try someday. I started watching the first one and it made me itch. That's what happens when a movie annoys me. Its one of the very few flix I actually turned off, along with VAN HELSING.
January 26, 2009
I was really disappointed with this franchise. I think that Len Wiseman, who co-wrote and directed the first two films, has a great knowledge of vampire and werewolf mythology and I appreciate and share his passion for the subject. But I just felt that with the quality of actors in the films, that the screenplay should have been more character-driven. Plus, as I diehard Blade fan (although I loathed Blade: Trinity) this series always felt too derivative of both Blade and The Matrix. I do agree, however, that Kate Beckinsale is perhaps the most drop-dead (no pun intended0 gorgeous actor out there... and Keira Knightley, and Scarlett Johansson, and Natalie Portman, and Xhang Zi Yi, and Lucy Lawless, and Sarah Michelle Gellar, and Emmy Rossum, and- oh, crap I drooled all over the keyboard.
More Underworld: Rise of the Lycans reviews
Quick Tip by . July 09, 2010
posted in Movie Hype
not as good as the rest of the underworld movies, but still worth the watch. you get the background of the lycans and the vampire royality. it makes the whole story come togeather really nicely.
review by . December 03, 2009
posted in Movie Hype
You know Hollywood is running out of fresh ideas when they start making movies that mix and match old ideas together hoping for a hit. The best example of this is in the horror - action genre where the trend of the decade is making movies featuring both vampires and werewolves. So far, the two biggest franchises in this theme are Underworld and Twilight. The latter is for teenage girls, while the former is better suited for everyone older. The Underworld trilogy ends with this movie, starring Rhona …
review by . February 04, 2009
UnderWorld: Rise of the Lycans Poster
Of the early 2000's, the Underworld franchise in my opinion has been the best trilogy made in this decade and perhaps in the top 10 best trilogies of all time.  However these films never seem to have gotten the media attention they deserved.  They have always had this sort of cult following, yet the films keep making enough money were sequels and prequels were able to get made and Rise of the Lycans was just as good as the previous two films, sticking to the great dark and true Gothic …
review by . March 07, 2009
Well I haven't seen the other two Underworld movies, but thought that with this being a prequel it would probably be better that I start with this anyway. I've heard such good things about this series which gave me really high hopes, but how disappointed was I to see it be a corny, ridiculous and quite shallow film. I was hoping for a bit of the sexy Kate Beckinsale which seems like one of the main selling points of the prior two movies, but alas it was not meant to be.      The …
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This prequel to Len Wiseman’s UnderworldandUnderworld: Evolution is distinctively different, especially minus the nimble vampire warrior star, Selene (Kate Beckinsale). Underworld: Rise of the Lycans takes its cues from the vampire/werewolf battles that occur in the other films, but director Patrick Tatopoulos focuses here on the young werewolf Lucian's (Michael Sheen) rise to leadership. Rise of the Lycans is set mostly within the walls of vampire lord Viktor’s (Bill Nighy) castle, so the film’s silver, black, and blue palette reflects a world happening under moonlight. From the outset, when Viktor brings Lucian, the first werewolf, into the world, this villainous bloodsucker’s daughter, Sonja (Rhona Mitra), is smitten with Lucian’s hairy appearance and instinctual intelligence. As years pass, Lucian grows tired of watching his race suffer slavery and imprisonment, and recruits a human named Raze (Kevin Grevioux) to assist rebellion. This archetypal plot is not so riveting, and what carries Underworld: Rise of the Lycans are the battle scenes between vampires and werewolves, which are excitingly fast-paced and brutal. The whole film adopts a medieval battlefield aesthetic that carries an otherwise clichéd story about illicit love and freedom fighting. Some characters, like the traitor vampire Tannis (Steven Mackintosh), also intrigues throughout, as one guesses who he will ally with.Underworld: Rise of the Lycans may not be the ...
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Genre: Action, Adventure
Release Date: January 23, 2009
MPAA Rating: R
DVD Release Date: May 12, 2009
Runtime: 92 minutes
Studio: Sony Pictures, Screen Gems
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