Thursday Night Movie Club
Underworld: The Rise of the Lycans
star rating graphicstar rating graphic½
Release Date: January 23, 2009

Director: Patrick Tatopoulos
Michael Sheen
Bill Nighy
Rhona Mitra
Steven Mackintosh
Kevin Grevioux
David Ashton
Underworld: The Rise of the Lycans movie poster
Photo of Rhona Mitra as Sonja in Underworld: Rise of the LycansUnderworld: The Rise of the Lycans is the origin story in the Underworld trilogy (so far). There are just enough gaps left open to keep the series going.

Unfortunately, there is a problem with the film from the opening moments. The vocal track was much lower than the sfx and music tracks that Lucien's voice-over narration is difficult to follow. One thing is for certain, this movie is not a stand-alone film. The narration makes quick references to the back story told in Underwold Evolution. The Underworld movies like flashback sequences.

During the Middle Ages, the vampire clan rose to prominence. Vampire Viktor imprisoned his insane brother, Wolf William. Viktor has begun experimenting. He is creating wolf-like offspring. All of his experiments fail until one fateful day. A wolf is set for extinction. When the wolf is speared, the carcass dissolves and a human baby remains in its place. Lucien, the first true Lycan, is born. Humans that can change into wolves would make the perfect guards to protect the vampires during the daytime. Lucien is immediately imprisoned and more Lycans are bred into slavery. How Viktor breeds the Lycans is anyone's guess as there has been no female Lycan shown in any of the three movies?

Photo of Michael Sheen as LucienBut this is the first Romeo and Juliet story and probably inspired William Shakespeare. As Lucien matures, he starts up a secret love affair with Sonja, daughter of Viktor. Is Sonja a physical daughter rather than bitten and turned into a vampire? Sonja's mother is never shown nor mentioned so tough to decide. The slinky leather costumes worn by the female vampires is quite enticing so who cares. Sonja's fate is already known to anyone who watched the original. Vampires and Lycans begin to scheme between the races for personal gain. Lycans are treated brutally, but since they are immortal, they recover quickly.

The Underworld franchise uses similar story telling in each movie, flashbacks. Since this is the origin story, all of the facts are known, the events told. This is merely filling in the blanks. There is not much suspense, just a slight hope that there is a surprise somewhere around the next corner of the castle.

Of course, the fight scenes and the werewolf effects are very good, but the frenetic pace of the fights takes away from the effects and the fighting skill of the actors. The battles between vampire and lycan take place at night. Dark sets, dark clothes, dark wolves don't help the audience follow the action. Fast-paced editing seems to be the norm in action movies. It gets the blood racing. However, the brain goes numb trying to decipher what is actually taking place on the screen.

The franchise is getting old. There really isn't any new ground broken here. Like Star Wars, knowing what came before does not necessarily mean that the movie should be made. The only real surprise is the casting of Rhona Mitra as Sonja. She bears enough of a resemblance to Kate Beckinsale that it is understandable why Viktor turned Selene into a vampire. The major plot point missing from this film is: How did Sonja and Lucien meet, befriend each other, and become lovers? This is the crucial plot point in the series. This point isn't mentioned, hinted at. Is it a marketing ploy for another sequel? The Underworld series seems bent on not answering the questions.