24 January, 2009

Underworld: Rise of the Lycans, A Review

Ever since that fated scene in Underworld when Michael Corvin sees the truth of Lucian's history in his blood, I have been fascinated with Lucian's past and the story of Sonja and Lucian, a forbidden love affair between Vampire and Lycan. There was an inkling of hope in me at the time that one day a great movie would rise out of the ashes of Lucian's story, but I never dreamed it would actually take place.

I saw the first preview for Underworld: Rise of the Lycans while watching the Battlestar Galactica series four webisodes in December. I was so excited by the prospect of seeing a fantasy movie come to life that I immediately paused the webisode and started googling for more details about Rise of the Lycans. It was true. Michael Sheen returned to the big screen as Lucian, and the history of the great war between Lycan ad Vampire would be revealed.

From what I gathered from a few online groups, interest level in this movie was pretty low. There was no way that a third Underworld film could possibly be any good. Many seemed to feel that the first film should have been enough. I even had one person tell me that everything was ripping off Lord of the Rings, and now Vampires and Werewolves were doing it to.

The story takes place during a darker time in the world. The Lycans created by William Corvinas are no better than wild animals, never able to resume their human form again. But then one day, a Lycan gives birth to a child, and everything changes. The Vampires see this as their opportunity to change their position, and using this child, whom is named Lucian, they create their own race of lycans and enslave them.

It's a classic theme that has been seen in stories throughout the ages. One race enslaving another, pushing them over the edge, treating them like animals. It's only a matter of time before that enslaved start to see that there is possibility for a better life, and then comes the revolution. Lucian's revelation comes in the face of his beloved. To spend the rest of their lives as they are, him enslaved and her unable to express the love between them is not an option, and he already knows he can ever live without her... A plot hell bent on tragedy, and you can guarantee that tragedy ensues.

The action in this movie was coupled with a gritty darkness, the type of darkness that should haunt all Vampire films. It was a very cold world the Vampires lived in, their aristocratic nature far outweighing the type of warmth that comes from relationships built on love. It becomes evident at once that this is what Sonja sought from Lucian. The love her father bequeathed her came with expectations. The love Lucian offered her was free. This sets her apart from her father and the coven in a way that the vampires find shocking. Her own father tells her that the loyalty between them is the only thing that separates them from the animals at their door, and Sonja breaks that loyalty.

I have to confess that I have not a single complaint about the movie. Well, I do have one complaint. It could have been longer. My new secret wish (which is obviously NOT a secret since I'm sharing it here with you, dear blog friends,) is that they write another prequel that goes into the War, introduces Kraven and Selene to the picture, and shows the secret pact between Lucian and Kraven. Hear my secret wish, Underworld writers and producers, and know that as a writer, I would LOVE to have my hands in the writing of that script.

The cast was fantastic. Bill Nighy is Viktor, as he so often becomes the roles he portrays. It becomes impossible to even see Nighy beyond Viktor, and there are some really incredible screen shots of him all throughout the film that would make fantastic artwork. One of the great things about Michael Sheen's character, Lucian, is that when we are first introduced to him in Underworld, there is something distinguished about him. He scolds the other Lycans in his command for acting like a pack of rabid dogs. As he was raised by Viktor, almost pampered like a favorite pet for most of his life, Lucian appreciates his humanity and knows first hand that the Lycans are not animals anymore than the Vampires are. Seeing him fight for their freedom in this prequel, it becomes understandable why he wants them to act civilized.

Rhona Mitra, who portrayed Sonja, was striking in the film. It is apparent why Viktor chose Selene and kept her close as well, based on the characteristics she shares with Viktor's traitorous daughter. While they share a similar look, both women are also fierce warriors, headstrong and determined. Taking this into consideration, Selene actually becomes Sonja's vengeance in the end, as well as her own, and that is one of the great things about this prequel bringing the original story full circle.

It was also fascinating to see Steven Mackintosh as Tannis again. His character in the second film simply begged for more backstory, and I would have been disappointed had he not been in the film.

Whether you're a fan of the previously released Underworld films, or not, Rise of the Lycans is definitely a world apart from the others. Taking place in the past, it sets a completely different tone. I can't wait to see this movie again (and again...) and though I hope it has a long run in theaters, I can't wait for it come out on DVD so I can watch it again (and again and again.)


Jacquéline Roth said...

I can't wait to see this!

Jenny Beans said...

I hope you enjoy it as much as I did.

Mindy Lee said...

Seriously, I cannot wait to see this!! I think I'll rent the first 2 again so I'm sure not to miss a detail. Do you feel more of a connection to the vampires or the lycans?

Jenny Beans said...

In the first movie, I felt a connection to the Vampires because of how they portrayed the Lycans, but then as they introduced Lucian's character, I felt sympathy for the Lycans. After watching this movie, I have to say I have a much stronger connection to the Lycans than ever before. The Vampire society seems so inhuman and cold, and while the Lycans tend to be more animal in nature, it is in the animal within that inspires deep passion. Passion is something I can definitely connect with as a woman.

Mindy Lee said...

Okay I watched the first one last night and will watch the second tonight, hopefully...I really don't want to miss a detail!!!