Underworld: Rise of the Lycans – Review

No Kate, No Len, No Quality

Image Courtesy of IMPawards.com

Director: Patrick Tatopoulos
Notable Cast:
Michael Sheen, Bill Nighy, Rhona Mitra,

The Underworld sequels are reminiscent in spirit of many other franchises, from Beverly Hills Cop to The Matrix. After a perfectly good film that didn’t require a sequel, a perfectly acceptable stand-alone film was saddled with additional sequels because of the sheer fact that the first made money. That is what Underworld: Rise of the Lycans feels like: a deliberate money grab that exists solely because the first two films made enough cash to justify a third film.

This time around we’re treated to a prequel to the first two films as opposed to a concluding chapter as the second film had a definite ending to the series. This time around we’re in the Middle Ages with Viktor (Bill Nighy) in charge of the vampire hordes. The Lycans (werewolves) have been bred as their slaves and Lucian (Michael Sheen) is Viktor’s favorite. Lucian is secretly having an affair with Sonja (Rhona Mitra), Viktor’s daughter, as the Lycan hordes are separated into two distinct camps. The first are slaves to Viktor, the others are savage beasts who roam the countryside. When events conspire that leave Lucian out of favor with Viktor, he leads a Lycan revolt against their masters in a sort of horror-inspired version of Spartacus.

The problem with the film is that we know the events already, roughly, as they’ve been played out already throughout the first two films in flashbacks. Now it’s just a matter of getting through it and to the inevitable beginning of the war between vampire and werewolf. There’s nothing new to cover and no fertile ground to mine. In a way it captures the essence of the Star Wars prequels for those who didn’t understand the backlash against them. There is nothing here that we need to know in detail and the film’s only existence centers around a commercial excuse, not a creative one.

Underworld: RotL doesn’t even bring back the principals which made the first engaging and the second cathartic; Len Wiseman is producing , Kate Beckinsale is featured in a cameo, Scott Speedman is nowhere to be found nor are any of the other principle members of the cast from the first two outside of Nighy, Sheen and Kevin Grevioux. This is a cast of relative newcomers to the franchise, as well as a new director (Patrick Tatopoulos) who seems to think that the “shaky cam” effect is needed on top of quick cut editing to make the fight scenes confusing at best and indecipherable at worst.

All the things that made the original Underworld a fun experiment in an action movie with horror film overtones, from the steady action and crisp cinematography, is absent along with most notions of quality. While it’s passable as entertainment, there’s no real reason for the film to be there other than an economic one. It’s sad, really, but then again it might explain why so many of the principles of the first two films didn’t come back for a third film.


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