Underworld: Rise of the Lycans is a prequel to the 2003 film Underworld. Marking the directorial debut of Patrick Tatopoulos it shows the events leading up to the feud between the Lycans and vampires. The majority of the cast is returning from one of the two previous Underworld movies. Michael Sheen reprises his role as Lucian, while Bill Nighy once again becomes the vampire elder known as Viktor. A newcomer to the cast is Rhona Mitra, who plays Viktor’s daughter, Sonya.
Rise of the Lycans is more or less a movie made just for the fans. When you get right down to it, it’s a completely unnecessary film, that doesn’t even really add all that much insight into the vampire/Lycan feud. The majority of the film depicts the suffering of the Lycans at the hands of the vampires. As viewers of the first film know, this isn’t really what started the war, but it does give a change in perspective of the entire series. Before this movie, the Lycans are generally portrayed as unlikable people, mostly because the film’s main character, Selene, was a vampire. In this film, she isn’t there, and likely hasn’t even been born yet. Instead, we get Rhona Mitra doing her best attempt to impersonate Kate Beckinsale.
We were told in Underworld that the reason Selene was allowed to live was because she looked a lot like Viktor’s daughter Sonya. We are finally shown the resemblance between the two in this film, and they actually do seem fairly alike. They both disobey their superiors, and both begin having relationships with a person from the other race. Rhona Mitra does do a good job trying to be just like Selene. Although she doesn’t appear on-screen all that often, she does command attention when she is. She does not, however, take anything away from Michael Sheen as Lucian.
Lucian is the star of Rise of the Lycans. It was apparent in the first movie that Michael Sheen was a near-perfect fit for this role. It was only a shame that he didn’t get more time on-screen. In Rise of the Lycans, he gets this time. We finally get more of Lucian as a character, something that is very welcome. He really is a great fit for the role of Lucian, and he really does do a good job leading the Lycan uprising. As he did in the previous two films, Bill Nighy does a convincing job as the deceitful vampire Victor, but he is far less prevalent a character than Lucian.
It’s certainly far better than Underworld: Evolution, but it feels like an unnecessary movie.
The rest of the supporting cast does a good job as well. Special mention goes to one of the film’s writers, Kevin Grevioux, who plays Raze. He appeared in a short role in the first film, but really shows that he can act in this one. Another returning character is Steven Mackintosh as Tanis, who appeared in a small role in Evolution. Getting only slightly more screen time in the prequel, he shows that he can bring his character across to the audience just fine. Still, Sheen, Mitra, and Nighy do basically carry the film, especially during the action scenes.
The action scenes, while not occurring all that frequently, at least end up being far more exciting that they were in Evolution. I’m not sure if this was due to the directorial change, or if it was because of other reasons, but they have definitely improved. Another improvement comes with the Lycan transformations. They no longer appear clunky, as they happen in a smooth motion. The transformations are quicker and look far better than they did in the previous installments.
I’m still not quite sure about Rise of the Lycans. It’s certainly far better than Underworld: Evolution, but it feels like an unnecessary movie. It doesn’t add all that much to the series, as the important parts were shown in flashbacks in the first film. Still, getting to watch Michael Sheen’s Lucian for an entire film, coupled with exciting action sequences and a good supporting cast definitely made it an enjoyable experience. It’s a movie made almost entirely for the die-hard Underworld fans, and is ultimately worth watching, if only to remind yourself that there is still hope for the franchise.
Conclusion: Perhaps unnecessary, but Underworld: Rise of the Lycans is still an enjoyable film.
Recommendation: If you wanted a deeper version of the flashbacks from the first Underworld, you’ll want to watch this one.