There are several kisses of death a movie franchise may experience, including, but not limited to:
- The original writing/directing team deciding to move on to other projects
- The main actor or actress in the franchise deciding to not be involved in the latest project
- The decision to make a prequel
- Casting Paris Hilton to star in the film
In the case of Underworld: Rise of the Lycans nearly all four of these conditions were met. The creative trio responsible for writing and directing the first two installments, Kevin Grevioux, Danny McBride and Len Wiseman aren’t as nearly as involved as they were before (McBride helped pen this screenplay with others; Wiseman and Grevioux got producer credits). Also gone is the sexy leather-clad vampire played by Kate Beckinsale, who, upon realizing there was nothing left but dark days for this vampire/werewolf tale, probably turned tail and ran at the mere thought of another installment.
The only thing left for the studio to do was to prepare a prequel and hope for the best. And that’s exactly what Lakeshore Entertainment and Screen Gems decided to do — after all, everybody cares about how the bloody feud between vampires and lycans started.
And I’ll admit, I kinda cared. But man, what an uninspiring film Underworld: Rise of the Lycans turned out to be. If you wanted to see some tear ’em up action (like I did), you’re not going to find much of it here. What you will get is a painfully methodical and slow in developing back story for the first two films consisting mostly of especially droning banter between the immortals. Who knew powerful vampire clans have the same problems we puny humans have? Who wanted to know that? Not me.
But seeing as that was the path they chose to take, you’d think the characters would have some depth to them and some common ground with which to connect them to the audience. For the life of me, I couldn’t find either. Was I supposed to care for Sonja (Rhona Mitra), the rebellious daughter of vampire matriarch Viktor (Bill Nighy)? She just wanted to be left alone to let blossom her forbidden love for pureblood werewolf Lucian (Michael Sheen). Should I have identified with Viktor as he struggled to maintain the standing of his weakening coven and made the ultimate sacrifice? How about Lucian — maybe I was supposed to embrace his desire for freedom and his yearning for acceptance.
If only there was more action, I wouldn’t have had to ask those questions. As it stands, there is probably ten minutes worth of any action to get excited and write home about. Watching a pack of lycans tear through flesh and bone is still a sight to see. So is watching them morph from one form to another. It’s these ten minutes or so, that save Underworld: Rise of the Lycans from my worst possible rating. My thinking Rhona Mitra is an attractive girl probably helped too (as would have seeing Paris Hilton get torn to shreds by pissed off villagers, which sadly is absent from the film).