of the Lycans
- Rated PG-13
- Buy the BD
All photos © Sony Pictures
Reviewed by Jason Zingale
he producers of the “Underworld” series may have always envisioned their vampire/werewolf tale as a trilogy, but that doesn’t mean they had to go through with it. While the third installment isn’t any better or worse than its predecessor, “Underworld: Rise of the Lycans” still comes off looking like the “Scorpion King” of the group – a totally unnecessary prequel that details the backstory of a supporting character from the first two films. Diehard fans will no doubt appreciate the history lesson, but everyone else will be left wondering why it was necessary to make an entire movie about an event that was perfectly explained in a voiceover monologue during the first film.
Set hundreds of years before the original, Michael Sheen returns to reprise the role of Lucian, a Lycan who has been raised in enslavement by vampire lord Viktor (Bill Nighy) and forced to make the very weapons that kill his werewolf brothers living outside the castle walls. Lucian’s loyalty prompts the rest of the vampire council to back a decision that would put a select few Lycans in charge of the castle’s defenses during the daytime, but when Viktor uncovers a secret love affair between Lucian and his daughter, Sonja (Rhona Mitra), he imprisons the Lycan with the rest of the werewolf slaves. Sick of being treated like an animal, Lucian embraces his inner leader and rallies the other werewolves to fight for their freedom.
And so begins the great vampire/werewolf war that the first two movies are centered on. Or at least, that’s what “Rise of the Lycans” hopes to achieve. It fails miserably, however, in actually making the origins of the centuries-long grudge even remotely interesting, as there are very few actual battles between the vampires and Lycans – and even then, they often just fight one another like humans. Of course, when both your CG and practical werewolves look as bad as they do here, it isn’t surprising that director Patrick Tatopaulos would make such a call. What is surprising, however, is that they do look bad – not only because they looked far better in the previous two installments, but because Tatopaulos was the creature designer in charge of helping bring them to life.
The only thing worse than sitting through such an unnecessary prequel is doing so with great actors in the lead roles. One has to commend Michael Sheen for his dedication to the series (after all, he could have just as easily walked away following award-worthy performances in “The Queen” and “Frost/Nixon”), but not even his intensity and passion for the part can make up for the second-rate material. The same goes for Bill Nighy, who plays a larger role than in the previous films, but still comes off looking like a parody in the process. It’s funny to think that a movie like “Underworld: Rise of the Lycans” could actually suffer from utilizing such a fantastic cast of actors (save for Rhona Mitra, who is most certainly no Kate Beckinsale), but had the studio taken a cheaper route and just released the film direct-to-DVD, it might have turned out better.
Single-Disc Blu-Ray Review:
The single-disc release of “Rise of the Lycans” offers up a solid collection of bonus material including an audio commentary by director Patrick Tatopoulos and producer Len Wiseman, a short making-of featurette (“From Script to Screen”), and an in-depth look at the film’s characters via interviews with the cast and crew. Blu-ray owners also get an exclusive picture-in-picture video track featuring additional interviews and behind-the-scenes footage, an interactive map ("Lycanthropes Around the World") documenting werewolf sightings from the last 5,000 years, and a digital copy of the film.