If you are interested in the mythology created by “Underworld” and its sequel, “Underworld: Evolution,” then surely you will enjoy “Underworld: Rise of the Lycans,” which goes back in time to tell us what happened before the first film. As far as I can tell without being interested, the prequel does a fine job of bringing fans up to speed.
As a movie, though, it’s as confused and cheesy as its predecessors. The creators (a total of five men are credited with the story and screenplay) seem to have abandoned all hope of manufacturing anything that’s even coherent, let alone imaginative. First-time director Patrick Tatopoulos (an experienced special-effects and production designer) maintains the series’ steel-blue look and sober, self-serious attitude — the soundtrack needs more emo songs — but what does he have to work with? There’s a lot of talking, a lot of growling and threatening, a big battle, plenty of spurting blood, and everyone goes home. The end.
The British actor Michael Sheen, having earned raves for his portrayals of Tony Blair and David Frost, now stars as a werewolf. His name is Lucian, and he lives in the early days of the vampires and werewolves — two decades since the species were created, the narrator tells us, omitting the suddenly interesting detail of how they were created, and by whom. Vampires live apart from the humans in their own Gothic-looking medieval kingdom, and their leader, Viktor (Bill Nighy), has figured out how to make the werewolves into slaves based on the DNA (or something) of Lucian, who has the ability to shift from human to wolf shape at will, which was a rarity in those days.
So Viktor has this race of werewolves — I’m sorry, lycans — as his slaves, and Lucian foments revolution against their oppressors like a hirsute Che Guevara, and he’s also in love with Viktor’s vampire daughter Sonja (Rhona Mitra), and there you go.
Hmm. Apparently the movie has even less story than I thought it did, since I just summarized the entire thing in two paragraphs. Enjoy!
Note: Contrary to regular industry practice, this film was not screened for critics before opening.
C- (1 hr., 32 min.; )