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You'll Lycan It, but Not a Lot
Underworld - Rise Of The Lycans (Blu-ray)
Member Name: samueltyler
Underworld - Rise Of The Lycans (Blu-ray)
Advantages: Best in the series, some interesting ideas, decent actors
Disadvantages: Budget restraints, hokey story
It is a battle that has raged for longer than time has existed. A monumental discussion that has split families asunder, brought down governments and started wars. The question on the surface seems a simple one, but the answer is complex and full of passion - which is best; Vampires or Werewolves? The media would have us believe that the blood sucking fiends are king as they appear more often in films and are pretty sexy! However, the humble lycan thrives on us underestimating their strengths and feral fury. In a one to one battle I believe that the Werewolf would win, but what about a war between the races? Would brains triumph over brawn?
'Underworld 1 and 2' introduced us to vampire lord Viktor and werewolf leader Lucian; their two clans had been at war for centuries. 'Rise of the Lycans' throws some light onto how the battle began. Many centuries ago the vampires acted like Marcher Lords demanding that the humans provided them with wealth, shelter and sustenance - or else be killed. Unused to hard labour the Vampires use captured Werewolves to work their mines. Viktor is the leader of the Vampires and his priced asset is his strong willed daughter Sonja. When she begins to fall for the Lucian their love could bring together the races, or rip them apart.
Having seen the first two films in the 'Underworld' series and believing that sequels diminish in terms of entertainment I was not expecting much from 'Lycan'. With original star Kate Beckinsale missing; it is up to lookalike Rhona Mitra to take the similar role of Sonja. However, this is not a film from the female perspective like others in the series, but instead tells the story of two men; Lucian and Viktor. It is lucky then that in the previous films these roles were played by two good actors and they continue here. Michael Sheen is the stand out role as Lucian in the film. Sheen is an exceptional actor and is as comfortable in genre pieces as heavy drama. He adds a touch of class to his performance as a Lycan in bondage and a depth you would not expect from a film like this. Bill Nighy as Viktor also does a sterling job and helps you to understand why he acts like he does. It is easy to overlook Mitra as Sonja, but she does a decent job in mimicking Beckinsale and helps us understand why Viktor and Lucian are both obsessed with this other vampire so many centuries into the future.
With some top actors it could be easy to suggest that the film has some weight. This is not the case as the film itself is pure hokum. Essentially it is a series of running battles from a giant Vampire castle, out of it, and then back in again. This is probably because, although a decent looking film, the budget would not stretch to too many sets. Therefore, the bleak exterior and interior of Castle Vamp is pretty much all you see. Set in an alternative Medieval period (I think that is what they were going for) 'Lycan' was always going to need heavy special effects. These special effects are another indication of a decent budget that was not quite enough. Portraying Werewolves in film has always been flawed as they look unnatural - which they are. However, whilst other unnatural creatures can look good on screen (e.g. Aliens) these just look CGI naff. These dubious special effects are only highlighted by BluRay, which is an unforgiving format. The CGI stands out, as does the Matte Painting used to try and make the sets seem bigger.
As a prequel 'Rise of the Lycan' is a good introduction to the series and in many ways has a better understanding of the whole Vampire vs. Werewolf war than the other films. Unfortunately, in terms of action it falls flatter. With more vampires and werewolves than ever before the battles should be more epic. However, they actually feel less so. Director Patrick Tatopoulos is unable to stretch his resources or imagination far enough to paper over the cracks of the limited budget. The larger fight scenes feel like CGI vs. CGI, which is never fun. In fact, the best action was when everyone was in human form like the grim attempted escape of the Werewolves.
'Underworld: Rise of the Lycan' is not the strongest genre film around. However, I would be tempted to say that it was the best in the series yet, as it had some fun action sequences and a story line that actually made sense. However, when you think of vampires vs. werewolves you expect things to be epic. This is not the case as the film relies too heavily on diminished sets and CGI. For people looking for recent Vampire kicks I would suggest 'Let the Right One in' and for Werewolves 'Ginger Snaps 1 and 2'. However, if like me you have seen all the other genre films around and only have this left you will leave happy enough after watching a decent, if uninspiring, film.
Director: Patrick Tatopoulos
Starring: Michael Sheen, Bill Nighy and Rhona Mitra
Price: Amazon uk £11.68 (BluRay)
Play.com £13.99 (BluRay)
'Lycan' is not a great film for advertising the BluRay format in terms of making something look good. However, it does highlight that the format can punish poor film makers. The CGI and poor mixtures of blacks in the film look ugly in HD. Perhaps you would not notice the fuzzy lines around the Matte Painted backgrounds on DVD, but here there is no forgiveness. I also had trouble with the audio as the music drowned out the vocals - I had to change my settings just for this film.
With no added other extras than I can remember this is a film I would say for the first time that buy the DVD for the better experience!
Summary: Who ever wins, we lose