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Underworld: Rise of the Lycans Review – A Bloody Monster Battle Royale

Underworld: Rise of the Lycans Review – A Bloody Monster Battle Royale” width=”560″/>

I’ll admit right up front: Going into Underworld: Rise of the Lycans, I had absolutely nothing invested in it. I hadn’t seen the two previous movies in the series and only knew that vampires and werewolves seem to hate each other and that Kate Beckinsale has a penchant for black leather. Happily, the story is laid out in the opening narrative, nice and simple for newcomers like myself: Moody, snooty, and pale, the Vampires rule the countryside thanks, in large part, to their Lycan slave work force. The Lycans, those who are able to transform from human to wolf and back again, provide protection for the Vampires from the scores of savage werewolves lurking in the woods outside the castle walls, and in return, the Vampires treat the Lycans like animals.

As you may have guessed, this isn’t really such a great deal for the Lycans. Eventually de facto leader Lucian (Michael Sheen) decides that enough is enough and he calls for an uprising against the Vampires and their leader Viktor (Bill Nighy). Soon it’s all-out war between the monsters, and Sonja (Rhona Mitra) — lover of Lucian, daughter of Viktor — finds herself in the middle, unsure where her loyalties truly lie.

It may sound like romanticized high-drama, and at times it certainly is — Rise of the Lycans is nothing if not Romeo and Juliet
gone gothic, the star-crossed lovers simply a whole heck of a lot more
fang-y this time around. To its credit, the movie never gets bogged
down in the histrionics; it’s pure energy right from the start, with
the action and hyperkinetic editing keeping pace until the very end.
It’s a bloody, all-out monster battle-royale set in a world that looks
like it’s right around the corner from the Mines of Moria in The Lord of the Rings .

The
fight sequences are bolstered by the acting chops of Sheen and Nighy,
who treat this as if it truly is Shakespeare, acting the hell out of
typical action-movie dialog despite having to wear contact lenses and
fangs. Nighy is deliciously cold and cruel as Viktor, chewing the
scenery but never devolving into camp. Sheen hits all the appropriate
sweaty-chest thumping notes as he riles up he Lycan brethren to revolt.
Rhona Mitra steps gamely into Beckinsale’s skin-tight outfits, trading
leather for chain mail; she’s passable as the willful Sonja, but she
can’t hold a candle to her male counterparts as she alternates between
two facial expressions: Stony and slightly less-stony. Nonetheless, she
fully commits and it’s the conviction of all three leads that helps you
completely forget what a brainless exercise this affair is.

Not
that there’s anything wrong with brainless cinematic exercises, as far
as I’m concerned. There’s something to be said for life-changing
movies, sure, but there’s also something to be said for escapism. Underworld: Rise of the Lycans
serves a distinct purpose and it serves that purpose very well: It
entertains. I was completely entertained throughout the entire movie,
which is about the last thing I expected. What can I say? Sometimes you
just want to take off your thinking cap and watch werewolves and
vampires whale on each other during a gothic rainstorm. Sometimes you
want to watch dirty, armor-wearing people yell and swing swords in
slow-motion, looking cool as they jump impossibly high and pose out. I
didn’t even know that’s what I wanted until I was ten minutes in, and
you know what? I’m not going to feel guilty about this guilty pleasure.

A fan of horror movies and scary stuff, Stacie Ponder started her blog Final Girl so she’d have a platform from which she could tell everyone that, say, Friday the 13th, Part 2 rules. She leads a glamorous life, walking on the razor’s edge of danger and intrigue.

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