2009 | Director: Patrick Tatopoulos | Writers: Len Wiseman, Danny McBride
The first two Underworld movies dealt with one of the most important questions man has ever asked himself: “What if vampires with guns were at war with werewolves with guns?” The films unfolded as you might imagine—terribly—but with decent bit of entertainment value riding its black leather coattails (thanks to the guns, just so we’re clear). But then, any movie idea can be made better with guns added to the equation. Just think how awesome The Sound of Music would have been if Julie Andrews and Christopher Plummer spent the whole film trying to shoot each other to death with automatic weapons.
But what if you take the guns out of a violent action franchise? The result, unfortunately, would be something like Underworld: Rise of the Lycans. Set sometime in the middle ages, Rise concerns itself with the uninteresting relationship of vampire Sonja (Rhona Mitra) and werewolf slave Lucian (Michael Sheen), who decides to rebel against his pasty masters when big daddy vampire Viktor (Bill Nighy) tightens the chains of bondage. Lucian slips away into the dumb woods and gathers a fake-looking werewolf army, leading to a stupid sword-and-crossbow-themed battle at the vampire base of operations, which happens to be a big lame castle.
Besides the dearth of guns, Rise suffers mainly from a strange sort of familiarity, in that the entire plot, set so long ago in the Underworld universe’s past, was already told as the back-story in the first two films. This isn’t to say that at least two of the film’s actors don’t try to lift Rise above the foggy mire of indifference. The usually respectable Nighy and perennially award-nominated Sheen scream, grunt, spit, turn impossible shades of purple, and otherwise overact through their allotted scenes, leaving dully beautiful Mitra and a who’s who of worthless nobodies to trudge robotically through the rest of the script’s dialogue, no doubt written over the course of dozens of trips on a short bus.
“But I’m a fan of the series, so I’ll probably love it!” you might protest. Well, I saw one of you sitting nearby at my screening of the film (I could tell by the “I Heart Underworld” T-shirt from Hot Topic), and that guy wouldn’t stop snoring. On warm evenings, as I sit on the front porch and sip mint juleps, I sometimes let my mind wander back to that dark theater and imagine that the guy was dreaming of vampires and werewolves killing each other with guns, just like in the good old days.
One of Five Stars