Before we begin, if you haven’t seen Underworld and Underworld: Evolution, you might want to see those first before reading this. Even though this is a prequel, I’ll explain why. So, there will be some spoilers here and there. You’ve been warned.
Here we are; after Underworld: Evolution ended on what I would call “The Terminator 2 ending”, in other words it was solid enough that the series could have ended there, a prequel to the series was created. So what’s the story? Well, first of all, there is no Selene. So there is no appearance from Kate Beckinsale outside of a voiceover and some archive footage. Instead, our protagonist is Lucian (Michael Sheen), the first and the leader of the Lycans (Half-Werewolf/Half-Human, within the series’ theme on evolution, Lucian was the next step up from William Corvinus’ Werewolf archetype by being son of a Werewolf and a human). Lucian, along with other Lycans, are the slaves and guardians of the Vampire Clan, who are ruled with an iron fist by the elder vampire, Viktor (Bill Nighy). By day they guard the Vampires while they sleep, and at night they get on with keeping the place tidy and (In Lucian’s case) Blacksmithing their werewolf-killing weapons. Many of the Vampires treat the Lycans like dogs (no pun intended), with the small exception of Sonja, Viktor’s daughter, who has fallen for Lucian in a (once again) Shakepearian fashion.
Now to discuss some features
The Acting, once again, is either average or above average, and it’s evident that Michael Sheen is a very good actor who shows off a good range. At the same time, some continuity has been lost, due to the actress who plays Viktor’s daughter Sonja. In Underworld 1, Sonja is blonde and played by hungarian model Jazmin Dammak – Here she’s brunette and played by english model Rhona Mitra, who is best known for being the live-action model of Lara Croft from the video game Tomb Raider. If it’s because Dammak couldn’t act, I could understand. But at the same time, Rhona does have a (slight) resemblance to Kate Beckinsale, which plays into an important piece of reference from Underworld 1. All-in-all, it’s all okay.
The Characters are good – we see how some characters develop, as well as the difficult decisions they feel they have to make. The lack of Kate Beckinsale could be seen as a small turnoff, but it does quite well without her. It was nice seeing more of Lucian after the impact he had on Underworld 1, and it’s interesting seeing more of Viktor, who shows a lot more of his ruthlessness and antagonising decisions coming to play. What is demonstrated is a fear of change among those capable of living long.
The story…My issue with the story is its predictability. If you’ve watched Underworld 1, you know what happens to Lucian and Sonja, making this story a combination between a remake of a scene, a play out of Underworld’s exposition, and a few new details, such as how Lucian meets Raze, his second-in-command. It’s within a particular time period, after the Head Vampires started using the “1 rules, the other 2 sleep” approach, focusing on how the Vampire/Lycan war began, and not in other areas of the Story arch’s history.
The Music features a returning Paul Haslinger and creates an atmospheric score that does add to the movie, but not as much as it did in Underworld 1, unfortunately. Nothing from it had me looking for “this tune” or “that tune” this time.
The cinematography is designed in such a way that the film could be presented in Black and White, and after giving it a go, you know what? It’s the best thing about the whole film. Really good lighting went into it.
The Special effects are good, especially with the use of lighting throughout the film to cover up the flaws. The same goes for the CGI. Both are very good, even with the new generation of graphics that spawned that year (James Cameron’s Avatar).
Woud I recommend Underworld: Rise Of The Lycans? For curiosity’s sake, it’s not a bad film. But its main problem stems from the fact that if you have seen Underworld and Underworld: Evolution, then you already know the story before watching it. The most relevant part of the film was already shown in Underworld, and the exposition was already provided as a means to take the series forward, rather than have us go back. It’s not a necessary viewing, but it’s not bad viewing either. Much like Batman: Arkham Origins in the Arkham franchise.
The Acting: ***1/2
The Characters: ***1/2
The story: ***1/4
The cinematography: ****
Special effects: ***3/4