The prequel story traces the origins of the
centuries-old blood feud between the aristocratic vampires known as Death Dealers and their onetime slaves, the Lycans. In the Dark Ages, a young Lycan named Lucian (Michael Sheen) emerges as a powerful leader who rallies the werewolves to rise up against Viktor (Bill Nighy), the cruel vampire king who has enslaved them. Lucian is joined by his secret lover, Sonja (Rhona Mitra), in his battle against the Death Dealer army and his struggle for Lycan freedom.
Countless movies are made about vampires and werewolves over the years. Thus when two unknown guys, Len Wiseman and Danny McBride created Underworld in 2003, they manage to surprisingly stir up a minor hit for Screen Gems and even spawned a sequel called Underworld: Evolution.
While Wiseman has progress to bigger things such as helming Die Hard 4.0 and marrying Kate Beckinsale, his leading lady on set. McBride stayed on to scribe this prequel, aptly titled Underworld: Rise of the Lycans and creature designer Patrick Tatopoulos is brought onboard to be the director.
The Underworld series from the start lacks a strong foundation to begin with. A flashy gothic thriller that impresses with many of its kick-ass action sequences than all the mumbo-jumbo about the aristocratic Vampires and barbaric Lycans.
This prequel tells the backstory of how a young, powerful slave named Lucian (Michael Sheen) emerges to lead the war against the Vampire King, Viktor (Bill Nighy). Unfortunately, there were already slight hints about how all the feud origins embedded in the two sequels and seriously it does not require an additional 92 minutes of running time to know that unless you crave to see an awkward passionate session between Lucian and Sonja (Rhona Mitra), the beloved daughter and perhaps heir to Viktor who was apparently not supposed to be involved in a relationship with a Lycan in the first place.
The guns toting Selena in the original series is replaced with a sword wielding Sonja here. The resemblance between Beckinsale and Mitra is uncanny but it’s never the same feeling you get watching Beckinsale jumping round in her tight-lycra suit and Mitra in her clumsy armour with a sword in her hand. The only saving grace here is Nighy and Sheen facing off each other bravely, spouting chunks of cheesy dialogues for the sake of a fat paycheck.
With a minuscule budget, Tatopoulos’s creatures look surprisingly less impressive and convincing as compared to the earlier sequels. In a weak attempt to rouse the atmospherics, the movie is shot mostly in the dark masked in over-the-top shades of blue which gives one an impression that the filmmakers are trying to hide the shoddy effects. Given the franchise makes plenty of cash, it’s a surprise to see the prequel embodies the qualities of a straight-to-video flick.
This is an unfortunate entry that will send the franchise to its grave but if you are craving for some mindless bloody action, Underworld: Rise of the Lycans might serve its purpose. But if you are a nitpicker then it might be tougher for you to pick up this title.
SPECIAL FEATURES :
Audio Commentary - Apparently more entertaining than the movie itself, we have Director Patrick Tatopoulos, visual effects supervisor James McQuaide and producers Len Wiseman, Richard Wright and Gary Lucchesi having a ball of time talking and joking about making the movie.
From Script to Screen – This 9 minutes feature details bit and pieces of the shooting process such as lensing the movie in New Zealand on a tight budget, the writer’s strike and CG effects etc.
The Origin of the Feud – The various leading cast and crew members talk about their onscreen characters and the story arc in this 20 minutes segment.
Recreating the Dark Ages – The use of the dark colours are deliberate as determined in this feature. The feature also delves into the creature and CG effects.
The Music Video "Death Club" by William Control and 16 obligatory Sony Trailers round up this Code 3 DVD.
As mentioned earlier in my movie review, the visual reeks of dark shades of blue and the amount of black level can be a tad distracting but this could be due to the source of the movie rather than the video transfer. The audio department is much more impressive with its aggressive growls of the werewolves and snarls with the surround filled with ambience effects.
by Linus Tee