Shortly after Underworld was released, the studio green lit a sequel and prequel to be made, solely on the basis of the early ticket sales. Well, the problem with prequels is that you are only going to get half of the known characters at best. Still, the idea of a prequel was pretty well set up in the first movie because the start of the war between the Lycans and vampires was really the only story they could possibly tell and I was interested in seeing how they set up the story. So let’s see how this war really got started with today’s movie, Underworld: Rise Of The Lycans.
The plot: 200 years after vampires and werewolves first came to be, Viktor has worked on killing off all of the werewolves until he finds a werewolf baby that was able to change back into human. Viktor decides to spare the baby, calling it Lucian, and as Lucian grows and becomes a formidable warrior, Viktor decides to have Lucian create more “Lycans”, which the vampires will train and use as their protectors during the daytime. Meanwhile, the woods in the area are still filled with savage werewolves leftover from William Corvinus’ rampage and the local villagers offer tributes of silver to Viktor in exchange for protection. One night, as Viktor’s daughter Sonja is riding back to the castle, when she is attacked by a pack of werewolves and she manages to kill 2 of them but three more are close on her heels. As she nears the castle, guards begins firing at the werewolves but it is Lucian, who works as a blacksmith, who manages to kill them with a crossbow. After safely making it inside, Sonja curtly greets Lucian and Viktor chastises her and says she should show some gratitude towards him for saving her life, then quietly admonishes Lucian for not showing the “proper reverence” towards his daughter. As the night continues, Lucian disposes of the dead werewolf bodies but feels increasingly frustrated over the vampires using himself and the other Lycans as mere slaves to be abused. Meanwhile, inside the council chamber, Viktor is being informed of the humans’ anger that the werewolf problem is not being dealt with and one of the vampire nobles suggests that while the Death Dealers patrol the woods at night, they could send some of the more trusted Lycans, led by Lucian, to look for the werewolves during the day. The noble asks for Sonja’s opinion on the matter only to find her seat empty and Viktor has his aide, Tanis, go and find her. Meanwhile, the Lycans are being returned to their pens but Lucian manages to sneak away to a remote part of the castle, where he is met by Sonja. The two reveal themselves to be lovers and after making love, Lucian talks about leaving the castle. He shows Sonja a key he made to remove the shackles and collar around his neck and Sonja begs him not to use it, as he would be killed on sight. The two dress and make their way back to the main courtyard but as they go their separate ways, they are spotted by Tanis, and Lucian notices him as he leaves. The next night, the human nobles head towards the castle to pay a visit to Viktor and Sonja rides out to escort them to the castle, defying Viktor’s orders to stay in the castle. As Lucian continues working in the castle, Tanis approaches him and warns him about where he fixes his gaze, as it might betray his secret. When Sonja reaches the carriage, the horses all start getting nervous and she orders her men to form up so they can escort the carriage. Back at the castle, Lucian hears the werewolves moving through the woods and realizes that there are too many out there and tries to warn the guards that Sonja is in danger. When they don’t listen to him, Lucian steals a horse and rides off to save Sonja. Back at the carriage, Sonja and her men come under attack by werewolves and find themselves overwhelmed when Lucian arrives and helps out, as does Raze, one of the captured slaves. After rescuing Sonja, Lucian realizes he has no choice and removes his collar so that he can transform and as he roars out at the other werewolves, they back away into the forest. Viktor’s troops arrive and shoot Lucian and Sonja tells them to stop, then pulls out the silver barbs before they kill him. When Viktor approaches, Sonja says he did it to save her life but Viktor says that he is the leader of the coven and despite the good intentions, Lucian broke his rules and has to be punished. Viktor has Lucian whipped in the courtyard as a warning to the other Lycans not to disobey, and also to serve as a means to dissuade the other vampire nobles from trying to trust the Lycans, hoping to instill his own xenophobic beliefs into the others. After Lucian is returned to his cell, Raze gives him some water and the two begin bonding before Raze and the new slaves are taken away to be turned into Lycans themselves. Meanwhile, the other human nobles arrive and pay their tribute of silver to Viktor but when one man refuses, saying that werewolves have attacked his workers and that Viktor can barely protect his own castle, Viktor kills him in order to dissuade the other humans from backing out on their tributes. Meanwhile, Sonja goes to speak with Tanis to find out what he told her father and Tanis says nothing, as he hopes to use his knowledge to get her to relinquish her seat on the council to him. Learning that Viktor plans to have Lucian killed, Sonja sneaks down to the cells and tries to convince Lucian to flee but he refuses to do so without the other Lycans, as he doesn’t want them to remain slaves forever. Tanis manages to sneak Lucian the key to his collar and when the torturer goes to kill Lucian, Lucian transforms and kills him instead. Lucian quickly works on freeing all of the other Lycans and they try to quietly leave the castle but the vampires catch wind of the escape and begin firing bolts from their scorpions through the walls to try and stop them. The vampires manage to kill some of the Lycans and fire enough bolts to form a barrier, stopping most of them from escaping but Lucian, Raze, and some others manage to escape, with Lucian promising to come back for them. Making their way into the woods, they stop to rest and Lucian has Raze lead them back to the noble’s house that he came from, and Lucian begins recruiting humans to his cause while gathering weapons. Sending Raze and the others to go gather more people to their cause, Lucian heads out into the woods and encounters the savage werewolves, hoping to bring calm them and bring them over to his cause as well. Meanwhile, Viktor tries to figure out how Lucian escapes and accuses Tanis of helping him but Tanis reveals that Lucian must have made a key to free his collar. Viktor then goes to see Sonja and ask her if she helped Lucian and then decides to see if she is lying by biting her. After drinking her blood and seeing her memories, Viktor learns of Sonja and Lucian being lovers and he tells her she betrayed him and orders her confined to her room. Meanwhile, more people have been gathering to Lucian’s cause, causing some of the nobles to grow worried and ask Viktor to do something about him. One of the noblewomen rides out to Lucian’s camp and tells him about Sonja’s imprisonment and Lucian wants to go save her. Raze tries to talk her out of it, saying that it is obviously a trap but Lucian says that if he doesn’t return, Raze should continue the fight or lead the people to safety. Lucian makes his way into the castle and frees Sonja, then tries to lead her out through the sewer entrance but Viktor, having discovered Lucian’s use of the sewers, drops barrels of oil and torches to light the tunnels on fire, attempting to trap him. Lucian and Sonja try to fight their way to freedom, with Sonja facing off against Viktor. Sonja manages to get the upper hand on Viktor and when he says killing him won’t spare Lucian, Sonja tells him that she is pregnant with Lucian’s child, saying that it is a merging of the bloodlines. Viktor becomes enraged and manages to grab Sonja and hold a knife to her throat while Lucian is captured. A trial is held and Sonja is sentenced to death so she is placed in a chamber with Lucian and the roof is opened up to allow sunlight inside, burning her to death. When night falls, Viktor enters the chamber to look at Sonja’s body and Lucian, enraged at what happened, manages to force the silver bolts from his body and transform, knocking Viktor down. As Death Dealers start to arrive, Lucian grabs Sonja’s necklace and attempts to escape the castle but he is shot several times by the guards and as he reaches the castle wall, he roars out into the night. In their camp, Raze and the other Lycans hear Lucian’s roar and are unsure what to do until the witness the savage werewolves all racing out of the woods towards the castle and they decide to follow. The vampires begin firing at the werewolves but there are too many and the castle ends up being overrun. Raze helps Lucian remove the silver bolts from his body and Lucian tells him to go free the others while he heals for a bit before joining the fight. Viktor tells Tanis to get the Elders (Marcus and Amelia) out of there while he enters the fight, Lucian makes his way towards him and the two eventually begin fighting in one of the lower chambers. As they both blame the other for Sonja’s death, Lucian traps Viktor in some chains as the sun starts to come up and stabs him in the mouth before letting him fall to the water below. Lucian emerges from the building to find the Lycans have won the battle and Raze says it is finished but Lucian tells him it is just beginning. Elsewhere, Viktor is shown to have survived and made it onto the ship transporting the other Elders and Tanis seals him into a hibernation chamber to heal.
Underworld: Rise Of The Lycans met with poor results from the critics, earning a 29% rating on Rotten Tomatoes. The critical consensus on the site is, “Despite the best efforts of its competent cast, Underworld: Rise of the Lycans is an indistinguishable and unnecessary prequel.” This movie is the first, and so far only, movie in the franchise not to star Kate Beckinsale. Rhona Mitra, who stars in this movie, was actually considered to play the role of Selene but was passed over for Beckinsale. The movie was a modest success at the box office, earning $92.1 million off of a $35 million budget.
I will be honest, I am a little underwhelmed on this movie. The acting was ok, with Michael Sheen and Bill Nighy doing good jobs reprising their roles of Lucian and Viktor respectively. I also thought Rhona Mitra did a good job portraying Sonja but felt like the character herself was a little bland (no fault on Rhona’s acting). The basic story was pretty good but I felt like they spent too much time trying to set things up for the first movie instead of letting things flow naturally and telling a story on it’s own that would explain how things happened. The lighting worked well and helped make the settings more dramatic, especially the few times that the scenes were brighter, which really emphasized the moment in them. However, I was a little disappointed in the special effects, as there seemed to be no real improvement in them, despite the fact that 6 years had passed between the movies. It’s a decent entry in the series but I feel like they could have done more with it.
Rating: 2 1/2 out of 5