A and A's Movie A Day

Watching movies until we run out.

Underworld: Rise of the Lycans

November 29, 2010

Underworld: Rise of the Lycans

I have not seen this movie prior to today. I have to admit, not having seen it yet, that I have grave misgivings. Can you take the (admittedly very cool) medieval prologue from yesterday’s movie and expand it into an entire film of its own? I’m not sure what to make of an Underworld movie set entirely in the dark ages. Can it be as cool if it involves all armor and no rubber bodysuits? All crossbows and no swords? Can it be an Underworld movie without Kate Beckinsale?

The other issue is that this movie doesn’t really have anything new to add to the Underworld mythos. If you’ve seen the first movie then you know from the beginning how this one has to end. I suppose it works on a sort of Greek tragedy level – knowing the inevitable outcome of the story helps to build the tension. But it’s a little depressing knowing in advance how the story of Sonja and Lucian must play out.

On the other hand it is fun to see some of the other stories woven into this one. There’s the origin of Raze, for example, which is awesome (because Kevin Grevioux is awesome!) There’s the plotting and scheming of Tannis the chronicle keeper. And of course there’s an awful lot of Bill Nighy as Viktor, which is something I enjoy watching any time.

The fact of the matter is that this is actually a pretty fun hack-and-slash medieval action movie. The vampires are not particularly vampyric, in that they don’t really do anything but lurk around their fortress whipping their slaves and whining about how nobody respects them. They’re like super-strong knights in armor who burst into flame in direct sunlight, but not particularly cool beyond that. But then again, the title of the movie IS Rise of the Lycans, so you know that the werewolves are the real stars. It’s pretty much Braveheart but with an all werewolf cast. And on that level it works marvelously.

There’s rain-drenched sword battles, lots of triple-shot crossbows, giant ballistas, and hordes of immortal wolf-men. There’s the now-familiar wolf transformations from the first two Underworld movies with their sort of almost-stop-motion feel which is so cool. Probably the most impressive accomplishment technically for this movie is that it depicts the warped half-man wolf creatures running a lot and the gait that the animators have created here is probably the coolest run you could have for a human-shaped creature. Too often I have seen stuntmen on all fours attempting to run and it always either looks like a sped-up crawl or a stuntman waving his limbs while dangling from a wire (which is what it usually is.) Here the wolf-men have a very convincing lope that manages to be menacing rather than laughable. Good job Underworld animation team!

It’s also fantastic that for what is essentially a fleshed out flashback and spin-off film the producers managed to get so much of the original cast back. Michael Sheen as Lucian (particularly funny to watch now that Amanda and I have realized that he is David Frost from Frost/Nixon.) Bill Nighy of course, who must really enjoy getting so many paychecks out of this franchise after his character was so definitively killed off in the first movie. (I got the impression many times in this film that his cosmetic contacts were really irritating him, and that he was using that pain to inform his portrayal.) Kevin Grevioux is, of course, completely awesome – and still doesn’t get enough lines. I wish they’d make a Raze movie next – I’d love to watch that. With the sub-woofer turned way up. Oh, yeah. And I know Amanda was delighted to see Steven Mackintosh back as Tannis from the second movie. She loves a good librarian character and cheered during the climactic battle when he was trying to save his archives.

I had fun tonight. This is definitely the lesser of the three Underworld movies in my opinion, but it’s still amusing and it still does just what it sets out to do. It makes me want to play some more Castlevania: Lord of Shadows.

November 29, 2010 - Posted by | daily reviews | , , , , , ,

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