This is Just the Beginning
Further deeper into the Underworld we go, this time arriving at a movie I distinctly remember not liking, so much so that my OCD-like compulsions did not force me to complete the series for my DVD racks. Everything about the movie would lead one to believe that this movie would be the worst of the three. Not only was the previous director not on board, but the previous star decided against returning this time around. They did manage to get someone that could pass for Kate Beckinsale if you didn’t look too hard, but they made her a somewhat secondary character in the movie. All that being true, my memory is completely shit, so I needed to watch this movie again to be able to make any claims on it’s quality. Now that I have, let’s see what I thought about Underworld: The Rise of the Lycans, written by Dirk Blackman, Howard McCain, and the wrong Danny McBride, directed by Patrick Tatopoulos, and starring Michael Sheen, Bill Nighy, Rhona Mitra, Steven Mackintosh, Kevin Grevioux, and Tania Nolan.
The events of the film happen well before we met Selene, back in the beginning of the war between vampires and werewolves. Apparently, it all started when a girl who couldn’t act fell in love with a pasty sparklefart of a vampire and a Lycan with sweet abs. No resolution could be reached and war broke out. Oh wait, that’s a different movie. This war is started because the first werewolf, William, has created an army of savage werewolves, unable to return to human form, and the vampires must defend themselves from the onslaught of werewolves. This movie focuses on Lucian (Michael Sheen), the first werewolf born with the ability to return to human form. They use Lucian to make other Lycans that can become human and turn them into slave labor, keeping them from turning Lycan with the help of a spiked collar, most of which say “Fido” or “Rex”. Over time, Lucian begins a secret relationship with the daughter of the vampire elder, Viktor (Bill Nighy), a Beckinsale-esque girl named Sonja (Rhona Mitra). This sort of relationship is what you might call “frowned upon”. Adding to the problems they already have, Lucian gets pretty fond of this idea of “freedom”. Viktor is every bit as keen on this idea as he would be of the idea that his pet is giving the red rocket to his daughter. If we’ve already watched the other movies, we have a pretty good idea of where this is headed.
It apparently happens at least once in everyone’s lifetime, but I found that I was wrong on this day. I actually enjoyed Underworld 3, possibly even more than I liked 1 and 2. It was sort of a mix between things I liked about the first two movies: Underworld had a better story, but was light on action, whereas Underworld 2 didn’t have a great story, but did have more interesting action. This movie satisfied me on both fronts. The story was pretty interesting, and the action was good as well. But I am man enough to admit that I’ve been wrong one time in my lifetime, so there it is. Much better than I remembered it. The story seemed to have mashed up elements of better stories. It had a quasi-Romeo and Juliet, star crossed lovers business in there, it had a quasi-Braveheart fight for freedom thing (minus the antisemitism), and it had a quasi-The Crow revenge for dead loves plot. Yeah, I could’ve warned against spoilers there, but they totally showed it in the first movie, so fuck off. The story all worked for me, but it probably did suffer a little bit from the fact that I had just watched Underworld and was just waiting for all the things I knew were going to happen. It did a great job fitting into the continuity that was laid out in the other films, but it also kind of hurt itself by allowing us to know exactly how the story turned out. As with many movies, there were parts of the story that never really made sense to me. The first one was the fact that they wanted these Lycans for their slaves, and to protect them during the day, but they wouldn’t allow them to turn into Lycans and use their real strength. I understand that they’d be stronger and harder to control then, but why not just enslave humans then? Why risk it in the first place? Also, Viktor is given the chance to promote Lucian beyond his station, but turns it down, even though that course of action would clearly make things easier for everyone to deal with. The biggest problem with the movie was the romantic relationship, but only because it was teetering dangerously close to bestiality. The action was also very good in this movie, showcasing a good couple of pretty sweet battles between vampires and Lycans. I especially liked the use of the giant ballistas when they pinned people against walls.
For the most part, any decisions you made about the performances of characters from the previous movies can be transferred over to this movie. Michael Sheen becomes the star of this movie, and pulls it off very well. He can do the action scenes, but dude can also act. The terrible grief Lucian is going through as he watches his lady burn alive is very evident. Possibly a better performance than this movie had comin’, but whatcha gonna do? Rhona Mitra throws out the performance you would probably expect in that she doesn’t really impress. She’s an attractive lady and all, but I couldn’t get over the distinct feeling that there was a good chance she was Steven Tyler. I don’t have any proof for that … yet. Bill Nighy’s performance was much better in this movie, not because he’s not a good actor, but the previous movies didn’t really require that much out of him. He has a great bit of emotion over sentencing his daughter to death that I liked very much. He’s still too old to really hold his own in the fight scenes though. I got excited at one part because they had him put on a helmet that covered his face, so I thought he would be able to throw down because he could easily be substituted by a stunt man, but he very quickly removed his armor and jumped into the next scene.
I was pleasantly surprised to find that the Underworld movie I previously thought to be the worst one was actually probably the best one so far, having a more interesting story and better action than the previous two movies. Most of the performances were good, and Rhona Mitra was Steven Tyler, but altogether I found the movie to be pretty enjoyable. I guess I’ll be able to complete the series now, but only if the newest one holds up, and if it comes out with a BluRay tetralogy. We’ll find out at least one of those things tomorrow, when I review the latest Underworld movie. For now, Underworld: The Rise of the Lycans gets “You are credit to your race” out of “We are no better than the beasts at our door.”
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