Reviewed by: Charity Bishop
|Featuring:||Kevin Grevioux, Steven Mackintosh, Rhona Mitra, Bill Nighy, Tania Nolan, Craig Parker, Michael Sheen, Jared Turner|
“Underworld,” “Stargate,” “Independence Day”
|Producer:||Lakeshore International, Screen Gems, UW3 Film Productions, Beth DePatie, Kevin Grevioux, David Kern, Gary Lucchesi, James McQuaide, Eric Reid, Tom Rosenberg, Skip Williamson, Len Wiseman, Richard S. Wright, Richard Wright|
“Every war has a beginning.”
One of the most popular film franchises with younger audiences is “Underworld,” a saga that follows the continuing war between vampires and werewolves. “Rise of the Lycans” is the most recent addition and arguably the best film in the series.
For centuries, the Coven of Vampires has guarded humans from a race of deadly creatures known as Lycans. Unable to return to their human form and thus no more than mindless, lethal monsters, the battle against them rages until a human Lycan is born in captivity. Viktor (Bill Nighy), the reigning Elder of the Coven, spares the child’s life in the hope he will provide answers. Fast and strong, Lucian is used to create a new race of Lycans capable of transforming back and forth between wolf and human, and they become the daylight guardians of the vampires.
Many years later, Lucian (Michael Sheen) is the most-trusted and highly-respected Lycan warrior in Viktor’s army. He has fallen in love with and secretly married Viktor’s temperamental daughter Sonja (Rhona Mitra). Their love is unknown to all except the Coven historian, Tannis (Steven Mackintosh), who hopes to use this knowledge to further his political career. Against her father’s wishes, Sonja risks her life in accompanying a contingent of warriors sent to escort the human nobility into their midst for a renegotiation of terms. When the group is set on by hundreds of Lycans, Lucian disobeys his orders, escapes his shackles, and comes to her rescue. This insubordination forces Viktor to take him in hand, but his imprisonment and punishment creates dissent among the Lycans, who make a desperate bid for freedom.
Audiences familiar with the first two films know where this particular romance led, but the journey is as important as the destination: it is less a story about good and evil than one about consequences. Lucian is an enslaved revolutionist, and Viktor is a ruthless warlord, but it is impossible to root against either one. This is both a testament to the complexities of the characters and the actors, who put depth and emotion into their roles. Michael Sheen is best known for his straight-laced British characters and it is wonderful to see him as the Lycan equivalent of William Wallace. Bill Nighy could have portrayed Viktor as a cold, insensitive, unforgiving father, but approaches the material with surprising vulnerability. It’s hard not to feel for both of them—or respect the beauty of their performances.
If you saw the original, this might give you more fondness and compassion for the characters, but is also a reasonable introduction to the series. It is a prequel that fills out a lot of the loose storylines from the first film, but also stands alone.
While the film does not address the context of the sexual relationship between Sonja and Lucian, the original “Underworld” affirms that Sonja was his wife. That does not justify the fairly graphic, rather odd love scene, but does make it somewhat less morally offensive. Brief backside/side nudity is present on several other occasions, as Lycans cannot transform back into humans while clothed. There is a reasonable amount of gore between vampires and werewolves as they engage in battle. The most gruesome it gets is werewolves being impaled and/or sliced in half; vampires have their throats graphically cut. Blood spurts. Lucian is brutally flogged on two occasions. A character is impaled through his mouth; the sword penetrates the back of his head, and blood rushes out of his lips when it is pulled free. Viktor slaps his daughter and bashes a man’s head in against a pillar for daring to challenge his authority.
Christians are divided when it comes to the issue of supernatural creatures like vampires and werewolves. Some believe they are remnants of evil and should be avoided; others find them an entertaining and sometimes even thought-provoking pastime. Depending on your individual tastes and personal beliefs, this film may or may not be for you. I, as a fan of the genre, enjoyed it. Lies, betrayal, and keeping secrets are an underlining theme, but not without repercussions. If only Sonja and Lucian had been honest; if only Viktor had been forgiving of their indiscretion; if only the Lycans had not been slaves. It is a world in which brutality reigns, but love is not without poignancy, whether it is between tormented lovers struggling for liberty or a father who must make a terrible decision. It is hard to dislike any of these characters, for their mistakes are not so different from our own moral failures. Only in our world, the Blood truly is Life.
Violence: Heavy / Profanity: None / Sex/Nudity: Moderate
See list of Relevant Issues—questions-and-answers.