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Review: Underworld: Rise of the Lycans (2008)

Director: | 92 minutes | , horror, , fantasy | Actors: , Bill Nighy, Rhona Mitra, Steven Mackintosh, , , Geraldine Brophy, Leighton Cardno, , Jared Turner, Jason Hood, , , , Timothy Raby, , Tait, , , Edwin Wright, Brian Steele, Kate Beckinsale, Shane Brolly, , Richard Knowles

The first two parts of the ‘Underworld’ franchise were worn by the tight latex clad Kate Beckinsale, in this third part she is only present in a voice over at the beginning and in a cameo at the end, although you may even wonder whether this is not a recording that ended up on the floor of the editing room during the making of ‘Underworld’. Surprisingly, the absence of Selene and, incidentally, ’s Michael is not a big loss in ‘Underworld: Rise of the Lycans’. This is largely due to Michael Sheen, who reprized the role of Lucian from the first part. The charismatic Briton takes this prequel to the next level. So it’s a good idea to put this character at the center of this production!

Unlike ‘Underworld’ and ‘Underworld: Evolution’, this part does not have that gothic look. No firearms or other “modern” technical gadgets, no, in ‘Rise of the Lycans’ just old-fashioned heads are chopped off or swords put in someone’s mouth. The therefore deals with the genesis of the centuries-long battle between the Lycans (evolved werewolves) and vampires. Viktor (Bill Nighy) encounters the first human Lycan and, in a moment of weakness, decides to spare the baby’s life. Lucian, because he is, grows up in captivity and becomes Viktor’s slave. In passing, his blood is used by his master to create a new immortal race, Lycans. The years pass and the vampire leader sees Lucian more or less as a beloved pet.

The atmosphere of the first two films has been well preserved, despite the fact that it takes place in a more primitive setting. We see the same shades of blue as in ‘Underworld’ and this makes the enthusiast feel at home almost immediately. The special effects are well done and the transformation of the werewolves convinces. And what can Michael Sheen scream! In one scene, thanks to his desperate exclamation, you are almost inclined to scream along. Bill Nighy is visibly enjoying his campy role again and is on fire as Viktor. Rhona Mitra also appears to be hired not only because of her looks, but shows that she can maintain the kickass level as in ‘Doomsday’. She is fine with her role as rebellious, self-assured Sonja. The nice dialogues from the first two films have – unfortunately – made way for even more action, lots of sword fighting scenes and a pretty well worked out – and good to follow too! – story, in which the Romeo & Juliet relationship of Lucian and Sonja, but also the father-daughter relationship and the history of the battle between the hairy monsters and those with those sharp teeth gets quite a lot of attention. Not a bad career move at all for aspiring director Patrick Tatopoulus, who previously (and still is) mostly concerned with the visual and special effects of films.

‘Underworld: Rise of the Lycans’ is a worthy prequel and a must for fans of films in the genre.

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