Monday 2 February 2009

Movie Review: Underworld: Rise of the Lycans

I have a love-hate relationship with the Underworld franchise. I think that the whole Vampires vs Werewolves thing is an excellent idea, I think that any movie featuring lots of monsters fighting each other whilst incorporating gratuitous gunplay is awesome, and I think that Kate Beckinsale is lovely. On the other hand, I think that the first movie was stylistically a rip-off of The Matrix and Blade, that there isn't really any explicable reason why vampires and werewolves would ever use guns on each other, and that all post-Anne-Rice vampires tend to be a little on the foppish side.

Before and After Anne Rice

Underworld: Rise of the Lycans, however, is very different from the original. It eschews special effects and it's cyber-punk trappings in favour of *gasp* a real narrative, with characters you actually care about, and moves its setting to 1100AD. Oh, yeah. And it also features several battles on horseback involving vampires fighting werewolves with swords.

This installment deals with the story of origin of Lucian (Michael Sheen), the first Lycan (werewolf) the first able to transform into a human form without dying. Viktor (Bill Nighy), King of the vampires, slays Lucian's mother shortly after his birth and raises him as his slave. As Lucian grows up at Viktor's home, he and Viktor's daughter Sonja (Rhona Mitra) fall in love with each other.

Underworld: Rise of the Lycans is an excellent example of how "pulp" stories should be carried off. The thing is, "pulp" is a very difficult genre to do right. Take yourself too seriously, make the story too heavy and the action too realistic, and you end up with High Fantasy. Don't take yourself seriously enough, make the story to light and the action too cartoony, and you end up with, at best a parody, and at worst a very bad story. Robert E. Howard could do it right. George Lucas can do it right. Mike Mignola can do it right.

Underworld: Rise of the Lycans achieves it admirably.

Whilst performances are solid from the cast, extra special mention has to go to Nighy, who perfects the role he had already played well in the earlier films. His convincing portrayal of a man who has grown cold to all feelings except negative ones, is made all the more brilliant at a point at which he almost shows tenderness.

However, one thing I want to know is why, twenty-eight years after it was released, An American Werewolf in London is still the most convincing on-screen depiction of a werewolf transformation. The CG in Underworld: Rise of the Lycans is okay, but it's the actual process of the transformation that looks dumb and unrealistic.

That said, it's a very minor sticking point, and something I'm more that willing to overlook given the film as a whole. This is the best film in the Underworld franchise so far.

The Emotionally 14 Rating:
Strong violence throughout. Werewolves rip human faces off. Maulings, slashing, stabbings, burnings...Brutal torture sequences. Throat slashings, with blood spurts and sound effects. Several battles ON HORSEBACK involving VAMPIRES fighting WEREWOLVES with SWORDS!- 10/10

Swearing: None. But it does have several fucking battles on fucking horseback involving dicking vampires fighting cunting werewolves with fucking swords. - 2/10

Sex/Nudity: One sex scene involving some nudity, but no rude bits on show. Made all the better by the fact it's Rhona Mitra. In fact, this gets an extra point because Rhona Mitra looks hot on horseback whilst fighting werewolves with a sword. – 6/10

Other points in favour:
If you want to describe the weapons in this movie, you will be able to accurately use the term "Bolt Thrower", and that doesn't come up very often.

Rhona Mitra is lovely.

There are loads of movies about vampires, but I just always get the feeling that there aren't enough that feature werewolves.

There are scenes that feature vampires on horseback, using swords to fight werewolves. - 8/10

Total: Statistically this should score 7/10, but I’m awarding an 8/10, because I don't feel the score accurately reflected how awesome it is watching vampires fight werewolves with swords. The horses are an added bonus.

In summary, a great film...the highest scoring so far...but the quest for The Ultimate Movie For The Emotionally Fourteen continues.

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