out of Five
Running time: 100
Uninspired prequel-slash-threequel that seems to have contractual obligation written all over it.
What's it all about?
Directed by Patrick Tatopoulos, Underworld: Rise of the Lycans is a prequel and third film in the Underworld franchise. Set in the Dark Ages, the story traces the origins of the centuries-old blood feud between the aristocratic vampires, led by Vampire king Viktor (Bill Nighy), and their onetime slaves, the Lycans, a clan of vicious werewolves.
A voiceover explains that a young Lycan named Lucian (Michael Sheen) has been enslaved by Viktor and reared in captivity; he even makes weapons that the vampires use to kill his fellow werewolves. However, Lucian is secretly in love with Viktor's daughter Sonja (Rhona Mitra) and when their affair is discovered, Lucian rallies the werewolves to rise up against the vampires and gain their freedom.
Michael Sheen is about a hundred times better than the film really deserves – he's the reason the film gets two stars instead of one. He's also the source of a number of unintentionally funny moments, when you get a flash of his Tony Blair performance and start imagining Blair as a werewolf.
Unfortunately, the rest of the film is something of a disappointment: Bill Nighy lets his coloured contacts do all the acting, while Rhona Mitra (described by one critic as "the Lidl Kate Beckinsale") is great at the hard-faced ass-kicking stuff, but not so great at selling the tragic love story side of things. Similarly, the supporting characters (notably Steven Mackintosh as Tannis) are painfully under-written, so it's hard to care about anyone other than Lucian, who we already know will survive.
In addition, the film isn't remotely scary and the frequently dodgy CGI makes the film look like Attack of the CGI Werewolves at times. Worse, the fight scenes are choppily edited, so that it's often hard to tell (or care) who's killing who.
In short, this is an uninspired, poorly written threequel that has very little to recommend it, unless you're some sort of Underworld completist… or masochist.
Underworld: Rise Of The Lycans (18)