Underworld: Rise of the Lycans (2009)
Underworld: Rise of the Lycans answers the age-old question of “what do you do with a successful franchise when your two protagonists kill EVERYONE of importance?” Okay, maybe not everyone, but with the deaths of both the lead vampire and werewolf, the Underworld’s universe was left without any antagonists. So you make your follow-up a prequel! Because maybe the 20 minute prequel-ish introduction in Underworld: Evolution wasn’t enough!
Borrowing wholesale from the child-training sequence of 300, Rise of the Lycans tells the story of Lucian (Michael Sheen), the first Lycan. Sort of. It seems that werewolves couldn’t always change form, but were trapped as mindless beasts. Until Lucian was born, trained as a Spartan, and then breed to be vampires’ watchdogs. Things don’t turn out well, of course, considering that they were trained as Spartans.
Rise channels the best parts of the Two Towers too, with head vampire Viktor (Bill Nighy) doing his best to inhabit both Bela Lugosi’s Dracula and Christopher Lee’s portrayal of Saruman. So the two most popular iterations of Dracula rolled into one really.
The presence of both Viktor and Lucian, whom died at the end of Evolution, makes me wonder if its finale was a mistake. Did the studio still have Bill Nighy and Michael Sheen locked in for sequels before realizing that they had already killed off the characters?
Completing the ill-fated references, we also learn that Viktor’s daughter Sonja (Rhona Mitra) and Lucian used to be a couple. A couple taken straight from one of Danzig’s ’90’s soft-porn videos. Furthering the comparison, Sheen does his best to look like an out-of-work rock star clad in black, sleeveless shirts, just natty enough medium-length hair, and a goatee-beard combo. Ugg. Sonja does her best to look exactly like series star Selene (Kate Beckinsale) in medieval garb.
I’m guessing they’re trying to go after the Twilight money here. With the tortured love affair story. Until Lucian becomes the werewolf equivalent of Moses, and sets his “people” free. Pretty predictable stuff – Lucian escapes with half his werewolf brethren, so they arm up and come back later to free everyone else. Where, of course, Lucian runs into Sonja and they have a side-by-side fight through the guards.
An unfair fight, all things told, as the guards Lucian fights seem unwilling to use their swords, opting instead to punch him while holding their weapons out!
Between the battling, father Viktor finds out daughter Sonja is pregnant with werewolf Lucian’s baby, and condemns his own to death. Causing Lucian’s freedom raid to coincide with a revenge run; ending with Lucian and Viktor having a sword-fight while hanging from one arm in chains. Yes, an ending that absurd.
Naturally this is a prequel, so nothing actually ends. It just drops you off in the same exact spot you were before you watched it.