Rated R for bloody violence and some sexuality, 93 minutes
"Underworld" prequel messy, boring, lacks bite
I have to admit, I've seen the first two "Underworld" movies and don't remember much about them except Kate Beckinsale. Beckinsale, obviously the best thing about those films, isn't in the new "Underworld: Rise of the Lycans" prequel (except for a very fleeting cameo in the final frame) and for good reason. "Rise of the Lycans" is a bloody mess of a movie and worst of all is a derivative bore. Some true fans of this series will be pleased until they actually sit through the film.
"Underworld" tells the age-old origins story behind the vampire vs. werewolves feud that was the premise of the first two films. The aristocratic vampires, led by the evil Viktor (a scowling blue-eyed Bill Nighy) keep the lycans in chains as slaves for hard labor during the Dark Ages. A young lycan named Lucian (Michael Sheen - yes, the same one from "Frost/Nixon") emerges as the leader of the lycans but also a close ally to Viktor himself, who could've killed Lucian at birth. Things get messy when Lucian falls for Viktor's vampire daughter Sonja (Rhona Mitra) and threaten the whole natural evolution of the kingdom.
The first two "Underworld's," while far from perfect films, had a little nifty bite to them and an original premise of a vampire-werewolf underground war. In addition, it also had Beckinsale in a tight suit, not to mention her husband Len Wiseman, who directed those films. Without Wiseman and Beckinsale, this "Underworld" is a true mess and lacks bite. Patrick Tatopoulous, an art director on the previous "Underworld's," helms with a lack of skill for characterization or telling a coherent story.
In the process, "Rise of the Lycans" wastes two fine actors in Nighy and Sheen, it's hard to believe this is the same guy who played David Frost in "Frost/Nixon" or Tony Blair in "The Queen." The love scenes are laughably handled, and the special effects look remarkably cheap for a guy who's skilled at that. The final climax is also a mind-bender, given the role both characters played in the two previous movies.
I enjoy a good vampire or werewolf movie as much as the next person, but "Rise of the Lycans" just didn't work for me, and the premise is growing tiresome by now. Don't waste your time with this unless you're a true fan.