Movie Review – Underworld: Rise of the Lycans (2009)
by HELEN GEIB
Underworld: Rise of the Lycans is the third entry in the vampire vs. werewolf action-horror series. This review will be shorter than usual because I don’t have a lot to say about this movie. What I do have to say basically elaborates on this recommendation: if you’re a fan of the series, see Rise of the Lycans; if you’re not, don’t.
A prequel, Rise of the Lycans relates the origins of the centuries-long inter-species war that is the backdrop to the first two films. The story is built around the best scene in Underworld: Evolution, a flashback showing the execution of vampire princess Sonja by her father, vampire elder Viktor, while her lycan lover Lucian, bound in chains and helpless to save her, was forced to look on. Lucian is played by Michael Sheen, Viktor by Bill Nighy, and Sonja by Rhona Mitra.
Rise of the Lycans has the same creature effects and gloomy visual aesthetic as its predecessors and, despite its faux-Medieval setting, highly similar set designs and costuming too. In the Underworld-verse, immortal creatures of the night have a static material culture (aside from their willing adoption of the latest advances in weaponry) to accompany their eternal loathing for lycans and disdain for humans.
The series is quite consistent in quality as well as in its “look.” This third entry is thankfully unburdened by the charisma-deficient Scott Speedman, co-star and dead weight hero of the first two films. While the accompanying absence of star Kate Beckinsale is a loss, not a gain, it is ameliorated by the elevation of Sheen and Nighy from supporting to starring roles. With a more comprehensible plot than Underworld: Evolution (2006), Rise of the Lycans is a bit better than the second film. Slower to get going than Underworld (2003), it is not quite as good as the first.