Underworld: Rise of the Lycans (Blu-ray)

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Rating: R

Starring:
Michael Sheen as Lucian
Bill Nighy as Viktor
Rhona Mitra as Sonja
Steven Mackintosh as Tannis
Kevin Grevioux as Raze
David Ashton as Coloman
Elizabeth Hawthorne as Orsova
Jared Turner as Xristo
Jason Hood as Death Dealer
Tania Nolan as Luka
Craig Parker as Sabas

Special Features:
- “Underworld: Rise of the Lycans” – From Script to Screen
- The Origin of the Feud
- Re-creating the Dark Ages – The Look of “Underworld: Rise of the Lycans”
- Music Video: Deathclub by William Control
- Filmmaker Commentary
- Digital Copy of the film
- Cine-Chat
- Behind the Castle Walls – Picture in Picture
- Lycanthropes around the world – Interactive Map

Other Info:
Widescreen (2.40:1)
Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround Sound
Portuguese, French and Spanish Languages
French and Spanish Subtitles
Running Time: 165 Minutes

The Movie:
The following is the official description of the film:

“The prequel story traces the origins of the centuries-old blood feud between the aristocratic vampires known as Death Dealers and their onetime slaves, the Lycans. In the Dark Ages, a young Lycan named Lucian (Michael Sheen) emerges as a powerful leader who rallies the werewolves to rise up against Viktor (Bill Nighy), the cruel vampire king who has enslaved them. Lucian is joined by his secret lover, Sonja (Rhona Mitra), in his battle against the Death Dealer army and his struggle for Lycan freedom. ”

“Underworld: Rise of the Lycans” is rated R for bloody violence and some sexuality.

Mini-Review:
Since this was a sequel done on a lower budget and without the main stars, “Underworld: Rise of the Lycans” could have been really bad. Fortunately, it isn’t. It has an interesting story, pretty good special effects, and it builds on the story from the previous films. Fans of “Underworld” should be happy with it.

If the first movie was “Romeo & Juliet” with werewolves and vampires, this is “The Ten Commandments” with vampires and werewolves (still with a healthy dose of “Romeo & Juliet” mixed in). Lucian is the Moses of the werewolves who leads his people out of slavery under the vampires. It’s a solid premise though a bit predictable. And like the previous film, there’s a cross-monster romance between a vampire and a werewolf. Rhona Mitra plays the love interest Sonja and she’s a surprisingly strong substitute for Kate Beckinsale. She’s not in skintight outfits and firing guns while looking cool, but she does get a little action. Michael Sheen also impressed me as Lucian. I had completely forgotten he was in the first film and when I realized he was in “Frost/Nixon,” I was totally blown away by his versatility. To see him go from talk show host to werewolf leader was quite impressive. Bill Nighy returns as Viktor along with Kevin Grevioux as Raze and Scott McElroy as Soren. Their inclusion was a good move for further connecting this prequel to the other movies.

The effects are fairly solid. The scenes of the werewolves attacking riders in the forest are quite cool. But the eventual assault on the vampire castle by hundreds of Lycans is the most impressive scene in the movie.

The movie does have some drawbacks. Besides the story being predictable (a pitfall of any prequel), I didn’t feel the vampires were very vampiric. This was a criticism of mine on the previous movies. They don’t seem particularly strong, they don’t do any real blood-sucking, and they don’t come across as being supernatural. All they do is have blue eyes and they burn in the sun. Otherwise they come across as regular humans in suits of armor. The rules on the werewolves’ powers was also confusing. Why could Lucian break chains in one scene and not another? What good is having a werewolf slave that never transforms? The rules on their powers needed some clarification.

If you liked the previous “Underworld” movies, you’ll find this worth checking out. And you don’t really need to have seen the previous movies to watch this. In fact, watching this first might make you appreciate the first “Underworld” movie more.

There are a fair number of bonus features on the Blu-ray version of the DVD. There are your typical offerings like a commentary, music video, and ‘making of’ video. I was a bit surprised, though, to find out there weren’t any deleted scenes or featurettes on the special effects. You can also turn on a feature that shows interviews, behind the scenes footage, and more in a picture-in-picture feature as the movie plays. I tried to find an option that would play it full screen but was out of luck. I think I would have liked this more if I could have played the various topics it covered separately.

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