Underworld: Rise Of The Lycans

Director    Patrick Tatopoulos
Starring    Rhona Mitra, Michael Sheen, Bill Nighy, Steven Mackintosh, Kevin Grevioux
Release    23 JAN (US) 23 JAN (UK)    Certificate 18
2 stars


28th January 2009

"Oh Lucian, Lucian, wherefore art thou, a stinky bloody-thirsty werewolf?" You know the story: boy meets girl, boy is werewolf, girl is vampire, boy loves girl, everybody dies. That's essentially the plot for Underworld's third outing, whose tagline could have read: "Romeo and Juliet for the Dark Ages."

Vampires and werewolves have never really gotten along, that's fair to say. Rise Of The Lycans throws us eyeball first into the middle of the beginning of the almost end of the eternal war between the Bloods and the Crips of fanboy fantasy. The ostensible baddies are the vampires, although in this movie they don't actually do anything particularly evil, just hang around in the shadows being haughty and pale. The vampires keep sentient werewolves - sorry, Lycans - caged and collared and use them for protection against the unevolved werewolves in the surrounding forests. Except, that is, in the case of Lucian, the first sentient Lycan, who gets to wear a dog collar and be a blacksmith.

Honestly? It's all pointlessly confusing, because the Vamps v Lycans war takes up maybe 25 minutes of the 92 minute run-time. What we get is Bill Nighy galumphing around the palace as Top Vamp Viktor, King of the ice-white contact lenses, in a constant state of what was perhaps supposed to be venomous rage, but actually comes over as camp indignance. Rhona Mitra doesn't do much as Viktor's daughter Sonja except stand around looking haughty and pale (duh) and then distraught and pale when her interspecies love affair leads to arrest and imprisonment. She's little more than a Kate Beckinsale stand-in.

Kenneth Williams, sorry, David Frost, sorry, Michael Sheen - haven't you heard, the man's a chameleon - is enjoyably engaging as Lucian, leader of the eventual tedious revolution. Sheen and Nighy appear to be having a great time here, and you find yourself fidgeting during the battle scenes, restless to get back to some scenery munching from either of those two. Though they're called battle scenes, the action sequences are dreadfully boring. There's no stunt direction at all, there's just shaky-cam and very close-up close-ups. Even the blood, of which there was plenty, appeared to have been added in post-production using Microsoft Paint.

As a prequel, its only purpose seems to be to nod to the first film. There were no revelations, no additions to the audience's knowledge about the war, no real point other than showing that Sonja did look a bit like Selene from the original movie. All this means Underworld: Rise Of The Lycans is a dud - believe it or not, it'll make you wish you were watching the first one. Michael Sheen at least makes you happy you're not watching the second.

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