The War Begins: Underworld Rise of the Lycans
Every rose has a thorn, just like every night has a dawn, and every cowboy sings a sad, sad love song, and every war has a beginning.
Sadly, they do. For example, in the words of Baldrick, the First World War was started when someone called Ferdinand shot an ostrich. I’m not sure his history is that accurate, and I’m even less sure that Underworld warranted a prequel. In fact, I feel fairly certain that it doesn’t. I’m also starting to come to the conclusion with these films that they’re the cinematic equivalent of money for old rope in that it doesn’t seem to matter how badly whoever is helming them cocks it up they’ll still pull in about $100m give or take regardless of the quality of the film. I find this sad.
Contains a very misguided version of Romeo and Juliet and spoilers below.
There’s very little Beckinsale here, but don’t lose heart because we’ve got an awful lot of Rhona Mitra instead. This isn’t, actually, a bad substitute, but what is disappointing is that instead of skin tight leather, she’s filling out chainmail. Still, it’s not the end of the world. Underworld: Rise of the Lycans tells the story that’s already been bloody told to us twice in the first two films. This, in itself, automatically makes the film pointless, but I’m committed now. We’ve already heard about Lucian (Michael Sheen) and Sonja (Rhona Mitra) and their forbidden love that ultimately led to the war between the two immortal tribes. Effectively, what we have here is an origin story crossed with one of the most inexplicable takes on Romeo and Juliet that I’ve ever seen.
It’s back in the olden days. Viktor (Bill Nighy) is ruler of his coven of vampires. They’ve got problems with humans, and need some guards who can watch their holdings in the daytime. Viktor has discovered a young Werewolf cub, Lucian, who can transform himself back between human and wolf form rather than being trapped as a feral beast. What makes Lucian special isn’t ever adequately explained, he just fucking is, alright. Anyway, Viktor uses him to infect loads of other people making an army of super-Lycans that he can use as slaves. This, I feel, is a frankly lousy idea, made worse by the fact that Lucian is porking his beloved daughter Sonja.
These starcrossed lovers (groan) make plans, shag, fight werewolves, attempt to escape and so forth until eventually Sonja goes too far, defeats Viktor, and begs for her and Lucian’s freedom based entirely on the fact that she’s carrying his son, and therefore Viktor’s grandson. Little is she aware that he moonlights as Grand Wizard of the Eastern Europe branch of the Klan and is therefore all about the racial purity. He’s even more about the species purity, as he’s not Welsh, so mixing with animals is simply not the done thing. Before you can say “molested sheep” he’s sentenced her to death and forces Lucian to watch. Lucian escapes and thus the war between vampire and werewolf began.
This bollocks put me to sleep. Twice. Wiseman is out of the directors chair, replaced by someone called Patrick Tatopoulos, who has clearly been bought in to do one thing: clone a Len Wiseman version of Underworld. Honestly, Wiseman may as well be pulling his fucking strings as Rise of the Lycans makes the same mistakes as Evolution, and worse than that looks exactly the bloody same as its predecessor. Except with added boredom.
On the plus side, there’s more Bill Nighy. Which is good. There’s also no Speedman or Speedman Hybrid (this is very good). However, this doesn’t go far enough, because what we have here is an inordinately boring and pompous film. I don’t honestly give a monkey’s about Lucian’s “brothers” being slaves, and I don’t care how many times Sheen repeats this self-righteous cack with a pained look on his face. What I really want to see, given that it’s medieval times and whatnot, is lots and lots of pointy things inserted into people.
Acting wise, Sheen and Nighy do their best, with Nighy chewing the scenery with his usual amount of Underworld gusto. Mitra is even more of a plank than Beckinsale, which I didn’t think was possible, but she’s game and gives it her best shot. However, what gets to me with the performances, and it gets to me to a greater or lesser extent with all the Underworld films in general, is that nobody is having any fun. Honestly, they’re all such joyless experiences, that take a stupid concept about vampire-werewolf hostilities and just suck all the life out of them. Instead of being fun, they aim at some kind of contrived sense of cool, and as a direct result are actually completely lame and almost the epitome of uncool.
Nevertheless, as with the first two efforts, it isn’t a total loss. There’s one sequence that saves this from an Orangutan of Doom (I’m getting a bit bored of typing that) and that’s that Tatoupopolispotatopolis puts in a sex scene. Huzzah! Thinks I, this will at least give me a chance to ogle Mitra and thus stave off the boredom for a while. Actually, I didn’t give him enough credit, because he has in mind the most frankly ridiculous clifftop shagging scene (looks like extreme Werewolf Bungee Sex, and I hear it is going to be in the next Olympic Games) that it’s possible to imagine. I’ve honestly never seen anything like this, and it’s so unintentionally amusing that I howled (no pun intended) with laughter at it.
Overall, this is, again, a terrible film. What is it with the Underworld movies that no matter how bad they are the damned things make money? I read somewhere that Beckinsale is now the most successful franchise female action star after Sigourney Weaver and it’s all down to bloody Underworld. This is insane. Still, clifftop shagging and attempted iconic final shot aside, you may be surprised to hear that I don’t recommend it. Underworld Rise of the Lycans is, in fact, shite. That’s three from three now, clearly this series was a really good idea.
Next up is the newest Underworld movie, which comes complete with 3D!!! Yay!