Underworld: Rise of the Lycans Review
Prequels are all the rage, and the Underworld franchise gets its own scene setter in the form of Underworld: Rise of the Lycans. Set in the 'dark ages' the film sees the Vampire civilization at its peak, ruled Bill Nighy's Viktor has enslaved a number of half-human, half-werewolves to protect the Vampire city from the pure and to act as slaves. The story follows Viktor's daughter, Sonja (the original Tomb Raider, Rhona Mitra) as she embarks on a secret forbidden relationship with Lucian (Michael Sheen), the first of the Lycans.
With a story that covers ground first alluded to in the original Underworld, there isn't anything that is of a great shock to the viewer, but despite this the film manages to be the most surprising of the trilogy with good pacing and a thrilling climax that succesfully adds depth to a franchise that sorely needed it. I'd put my neck on the line and say this is the strongest of the three films but it it is still far from being on the same level as any of the Blade films. Rise of the Lycans provides much in the way of backstory to the mythology of the franchise and is an entertaining enough way to spend 90-odd minutes.
Nighy and Sheen are streets ahead of the rest of the cast, but Mitra puts in a decent performance having had mostly bit parts and minor roles in TV and film since her Tomb Raider modelling days. Is she as good as Kate Beckinsale in the other films? Probably not, but she's not that bad. Even director, Patrick Tatopoulos, does a decent job having graduate from special effects and creature designs on the previous two films. While he doesn't do anything to shout about here, he seems to be a safe pair of hands. Maybe Brett Ratner should start worrying.
The Disc: The Blu-ray transfer is good - wonderfully sharp, good colours and nice amounts of grain. Entertainment in Video have done one of their better jobs here opting for a proper 1080 24p transfer rather than one of their 1080i monstrocities. The unforunate side effect is that the transfer quality shows up the budget limitations when it comes to the special effects. The Dolby TrueHD soundtrack is suitably active and helps bring the film to life.
The extras are disappointing and point to a two-disc special edition being released at some point in the future. The commentary is dry and Tatopoulos' accent sometimes makes it a struggle to understand and I'll be honest in saying that I struggled to get half way through the commentary before giving up. The rest of the features are the standard EPK affair - talking heads and plenty of praise. Given the retail price this is a distinctly anaemic package.