Underworld: Rise of the Lycans
I remember the day I saw the trailer for this film for the very first time. I was sixteen, and I had yet to see any of the previous films (and boy, did I want to, having caught Twilight fever the year before). With that in mind, I had to do a bit of movie-math to work out what the hell a Lycan was. Vampires on horseback and wolves are featured, running through forests. Hm. Okay; not that hard to work out…but why weren’t they called werewolves?
Technicality-grumbles aside, I FINALLY got round to watching it, a few months ago, after waiting (im)patiently for the DVD box-set I ordered online to be delivered. I’d read many reviews on it (like I always do), so my hopes were not too high…but I was still disappointed.
Rise of the Lycans tells of the origin of the war between Lycans and vampires, so it is set many centuries before Underworld and the sequels that followed. For those who don’t know, Lycans are werewolves that can change at will, with more control over themselves. They are also the day-time guardians of the vampires – slaves, if you will – and their leader is Lucian – remember him? Well, he’s being a very naughty boy, considering eloping with his vampire-lover, Sonja (Rhona Mitra, whoever she is) who is unfortunately also the daughter of the vampire Elder, Viktor (that’s Bill Nighy).
It’s hard to see what the heck is going on most of the time, with such a lack of colour throughout. I could barely make out the werewolves on many occasions, which was terribly frustrating. I’m not colour-blind, so I don’t particularly relish seeing things just in different shades of blue and black, thanks.
Almost straightaway you are struck by how devastatingly average the plot; it’s nothing new; slaves fighting against an oppressive master, a great leader (that’s Lucian) having to endure physical torture twice for something he believes in, and it is further let down by shoddy CGI and a severe lack of depth. Sure, the idea of humans being (rather unstable) allies to the vampires was an interesting one, but they were killed off so quickly in the film, I found it difficult to see the point in them. What did they actually do to help the story, except to provide the audience with a little more bloodstained gore? But seems to be the problem with all films that are certified 18. They take violence and sexual content, and milk them for all they’re worth – and believe me; this is true with Rise of the Lycans.
For example, take the romance between Lucian and Sonja. It was supposed to be this beautifully tragic story that kick-started the war between their two species, so you would expect it to be portrayed well, right? Except rather than show it with any kind of subtlety, there is a love scene that appears quite out-of-the-blue and it is one that does not fit the tone of the film at all. It is silent (thank God), save for the dramatic music with different scenes fading in and out from black. What’s even more baffling though, is that it all seems very frigid – just imagine that! A love scene without the love! And it’s supposed to be one of the most significant parts of the film, and perhaps the entire franchise! I guess we can only blame the fact that the film is so short; there is barely any time to properly look into their affair in real detail, which is a great shame, because it could have been done so much better.
Also, like Selene, I found it hard to warm to Sonja. She spends most of her time being a churlish brat, with surprisingly little to say, wielding a sword on top of a horse, and the choreography is a little clumsy when she finally gets down to it. But at least she’s got a pretty face, so the boys will be satisfied.
Nighy should make a good villain (have you seen him in Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest?), but his performance comes off as more like a snarling, boo-hiss pantomime villain. Does he do it on purpose? It’s always hard to tell with him, but he loses what should have been an iron-hard edge, and ends up being comical rather than menacing.
Nevertheless, it’s Sheen’s performance that rescues the story. His character is blatantly the Alpha-wolf; it is when he makes a passionate speech in the Lycan prison, which really makes him shine. Heck, I listened to him and I wanted to rebel against the vampires!
In conclusion, Underworld: Rise of the Lycans is a dull sequel that isn’t really worth watching, unless you’ve got 90 minutes to kill, and fancy something with a decent Michael Sheen performance.