Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Underworld: Rise Of The Lycans (2009)

Director: Patrick Tatopoulos
Notable Cast: Michael Sheen, Rhona Mitra, Bill Nighy, Steven Mackintosh, Kevin Grevioux

I finally caved in. Although I enjoy the Underworld series as most people seem to considering its continued box office numbers, I have many issues with the films themselves so I kept putting off watching this prequel. Seriously, I know how this one is going to end (we all saw the clips in the first films) so why rush to see a film I already know about? Could the Underworld series really produce a decent prequel? Luckily, Rise Of The Lycans is better then I hoped while fixing a few issues that arose in previous entries. It still suffers from a few problems that keeps it from really soaring, but it still comes off as a pleasant surprise.

Let's start with the good though - instead of trying to give us twists in the story so that we 'learn something new we didn't before', Rise of the Lycans sticks pretty hardily to its basic story and it benefits the movie overall. The ol' less is more trick, I suppose. It uses shades of a Romeo And Juliet inspired story more than anything else and it focuses down on that. Considering the lacking romantic subplots that were left to die in the first two films, the focus on this aspect comes as a shocking and impressive change of pace. Even when the film starts replicating many of the beats that fans of the series already know are coming in the third act, the focus on the emotional turmoil makes them still effective and that is a big reason why this film comes off as one of the more successful entries into this franchise.

I will admit though that I wanted the climax to be a little more climactic in an epic sense. I really wanted more of a blood bath with the final siege on the vampire castle. Sure, there is definitely a massive amount of CGI werewolves, err, lycans that start tearing shit up, but the result battle isn't nearly as epic as it might have been. Some of the quick editing style pulls the audience out of the film too. Partner this with an overzealous use of what looks like inferior CGI from the previous entries and a somewhat repetitive feeling of the castle interiors and woods outside and the film just doesn't have the visual effectiveness that this series is known for. Director
Tatopoulos isn't nearly as effective in the action as Wiseman, despite his better understanding of the emotional pieces of it, and for an Underworld film this is definitely the least action oriented. Some fans may be disappointed with that. 

As for acting, this film is pretty stacked with the cast to pull it off. The two leads Sheen and Mitra have great chemistry on film, but everyone is over powered by the almighty Bill Nighy. His presence makes this film fucking flow and he steals the show with his silent intensity and quick dry wit. I feel bad cause Sheen and Mitra have great moments, but everything was somewhat put to shame by Nighy. Oh well, I could watch Nighy for hours and hours just painting a wall or something and be riveted. Maybe that's just me. The rest of the cast is top notch though and earn their merits.

Overall, Rise of the Lycans was much stronger then I expected. A few flaws prevented it from being a great watch (then again I felt that way with all the Underworld films) but I had fun and the simplistic story line worked very well for it. Now I wanted to see a new sequel coming for the franchise that loses a little of the campiness and replaces it with good ole fashioned storytelling like this one did. 

Written By Matt Reifschneider

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