For those curious about how that little neverending secret war between the Lycans and Death Dealers began (or as we in the sticks call them, them hairy werewolves and them pale, blue-eyed vamps), “Underworld 3: Rise of the Lycans” tells that tale. Well that’s not really true. It doesn’t really tell the origins of the war, it just sort of picks up in the early beginnings, and goes from there. What it does do, though, is fill us in on the origins of the first movie’s villain, the Lycan named Lucian (once again played by Michael Sheen) and his original dispute with king of the vampires Viktor (Bill Nighy, also reprising his “Underworld” role). The big brouhaha, we come to learn, was over a woman. Ain’t that always the case?
Back in the day (as in, really, really back in the day of candles, castles, and 24-7 mood lighting), Viktor had a daughter name Sonya (Rhona Mitra), who was smitten with Lycan Lucian and vice versa. One of the very first werewolves to be born that was not mindless, Lucian was something of an oddity, and Viktor, in a moment of weakness, decides to let the boy live. Fast-forward to Lucian now an adult and working as a blacksmith for the vampire clan that Viktor rules with an iron fist. Well actually, calling what Lucian does “working for” is a bit misleading; Lucian is a slave, one of many Lycans kept in the dungeons to toil away for the vampires. Of course that doesn’t stop Lucian and Sonya from falling in love, escaping to their secret, midnight rendezvous to have crazy werewolf-on-vampire sex whenever the opportunity presents itself.
For you see, while Viktor and his vampire brood does indeed rule the nights, and have essentially carved out a kingdom whereby the human nobles pay them tributes in exchange for their lives, there are other creatures of the night that must be dealt with. These come in the form of werewolves — mindless, killing machines bred from William, the very first werewolf (as originally explained in “Underworld: Evolution”). All of this backstory is very inside baseball, and newcomers to the franchise will probably need more than a brief voiceover introduction to get caught up on the movie’s mythos. Fans of the franchise, though, should be able to quickly jump in without missing a beat. Here’s the short story: Viktor is keeping the Lycans (the werewolves that can still revert back to human form, and thus have not yet completely shed their humanity) as his personal slave labor. Needless to say, that doesn’t sit well with them, especially Lucian.
“Underworld 3: Rise of the Lycans” is a prequel to the previous two “Underworld” movies starring Kate Beckinsale and directed by Len Wiseman. Wiseman returns to produce number three, but Beckinsale is only seen at the very end of the movie, by way of a clip from the first film. “Lycans’” director is long time special effects man Patrick Tatopoulos, here making his feature film directorial debut. True to his pedigree, Tatopoulos pours on the creatures and grunge, and the world of “Lycans” is quite the forbidden place. Forget about living here, you wouldn’t even want to visit. Fans of hairy creature design will get their fill, as the makers of “Lycans” seem to understand the draw of their franchise and has delivered. Also like the previous two installments, “Lycans” is Rated R, and geysers of blood fly regularly. Nudity is kept relatively tame, though, with a few ass shots of Lucian for the ladies and some Rhona Mitra skin for the men in the audience.
If you enjoyed the first two movies, the third one should be a welcome addition. The action comes hard and fast and often, and manages to serve the story enough as not to be completely gratuitous. Without a doubt, it was a brilliant move to bring back Bill Nighy and Michael Sheen to anchor “Lycans”, as this is their story, with Rhona Mitra’s Sonya caught in the middle. Mitra, essentially standing in for Kate Beckinsale, has done this type of role before, and handles her part well enough, though she doesn’t really stand out as the female lead. Mitra is of course no Kate Beckinsale, but calling her chop liver would be a disservice. As “Lycans” has essentially been tailored to be a movie about two men and the origins of their centuries-old conflict, the more important casting was always Lucian and Viktor. In that respect, the film had the two right actors in the right roles, and the story is better for it.
“Rise of the Lycans” is definitely not for everyone, especially viewers who do not identify themselves as fans of the creature/horror genre. While the film is pretty much devoid of horror, and indeed the franchise as a whole is more action-adventure than anything, the movie is incredibly gory, the byproduct of the medieval weaponry on display. Getting shot doesn’t look quite as gruesome as, say, getting cleaved in half by a sword, or getting drilled through the cheek by a harpoon-sized arrow. So yes, if your area of specialty doesn’t divert from the latest Kate Hudson romantic comedy, I would not even tread anywhere close to “Underworld 3: Rise of the Lycans”. But for those whose tastes in movies do fit the bill, “Lycans” more than delivers, and makes for a fine addition to the “Underworld” series.
Patrick Tatopoulos (director) / Danny McBride, Dirk Blackman, Howard McCain (screenplay)
CAST: Michael Sheen … Lucian
Bill Nighy … Viktor
Rhona Mitra … Sonja
Steven Mackintosh … Tannis
Kevin Grevioux … Raze
David Ashton … Coloman
Elizabeth Hawthorne … Orsova
Jared Turner … Xristo