The good news is that Bill Nighy is back, camping it up as the evil Viktor. The bad news is that Kate Beckinsale is firmly consigned to the future and her place is taken by the rubber lipped Rhona Mitra from Beowolf. She looked better as an animation.
She acted better too, and she does nothing to leaven this leaden movie as it plods through the motions. Viktor and his bloodsucking coven are lounging around a dingy castle somewhere in Europe, looking bored to undeath. To break the monotony, Viktor adopts a small werewolf human cross called Lucian (Michael Sheen). He already has a daughter Sonja (Mitra) and when the two kids grow up they embark on an intense and vertically challenging affair. These two literally hang out together over the battlements.
Viktorís other hobby is turning human slaves into werewolves and getting them to guard his stronghold, thereby giving his people an even greater sense of ennui as there is nothing to do but drink blood and collect gold. Immortality is starting to look distinctly a non-event.
Lucian wears a collar that stops him turning into a werewolf but he actually knows how to take it off. So when Sonja is in danger, he naturally does this and Viktor is not at all grateful for the saving of his daughterís life. In fact, he has Lucian thrown into a dungeon for breaking the rules. Lucian rises to the occasion and leads an uprising against the vampire coven. But banging the bossís daughter has had the usual effect Ė sheís pregnant.
Thereís a lot of sword swinging and bloodletting in between the plot points, but the whole thing is so hopelessly confused that it is frankly hard to follow, and there is no incentive to come to grips with it. Michael Sheen as Lucian looks like heís been badly photoshopped and the whole movie looks as if it could do with a good wash. Dark and Gothic is one thing, dark and rankly gloomy is just depressing.
Rise of the Lycans is a prequel to the last two movies, Underworld and Underworld Evolution. Briefly referenced in Underworld Evolution, it shows how the Lycans came into being, and how they took revenge on their vampire masters by starting the war that rages on in Underworld. But it doesnít even refer back to the scenes in the original movies that foreshadowed this plot. There are significant breaks in continuity.
The other big stumbling block is the absence of Kate Beckinsale. While her character Selena could not have appeared in this movie, to replace her with Rhona Mitra was a mistake. Mitra has none of Beckinsaleís acting skill or charm, and the love affair which is the centre of the plot just isnít convincing.
In short, you would have to be diehard Underworld fan to get anything more out of it than a sense of confusion, especially if you havenít seen the first two movies.
I viewed this movie on a DVD rented with my own funds.
Underworld: Rise of the Lycans