JANUARY 23, 2009
Another day, another Kate Beckinsale-less prequel to a Kate Beckinsale movie. But otherwise it's the opposite of Vacancy 2. While that film was a major letdown and a black spot on the original's good (and still underrated) name, Underworld: Rise Of The Lycans is surprisingly an improvement over the convoluted and wayyyyyyyy "style over substance" driven first two.
One must assume that Patrick Tatopoulos is a better director than Len Wiseman, as the writing team is more or less the same and two of the three main stars reprise their roles. How else to explain that this film is coherent, well shot (only once in the film did I find the action incoherent due to the closeups and rapid fire editing that was pretty much nonstop in the others), and just simply more enjoyable than Wiseman's entries?
To be fair, Evolution was an improvement over the original as well, so maybe even with Wiseman at the helm this one would still have turned out pretty good (it's hard to judge the guy as a director when he seemingly never has a decent script to work from). The prequel setting has taken automatic weapons out of the equation, which was always one of my bigger problems with the movies. I want werewolves to claw and tear at folks, not shoot them.
Another big improvement is the storytelling. While some of the subplot narrative is a bit muddled (Viktor wants to use his werewolf slaves as guards to improve their defenses, but it's never quite clear as to what could possibly cause major damage to a castle filled with vampires), the basic plot is more streamlined and coherent than the others. It's sort of a cross between Gladiator and Romeo and Juliet, and that's fine by me. And it's also free of the double-crosses and such that plagued the other films, where I was never quite sure who was on who's side (and could never figure out what the hell they were trying to accomplish either).
The only real issue with this film, besides the obvious prequel "facts" that deflate some of the suspense (Lucian and Viktor might be mortal enemies, but you know that they both survive this battle), is that the vampires never really do any cool vampire shit. This is the werewolf's show most of the time, and since the effects are much improved as well (only the blood looks fake/CG), I wish there was a big vampire transformation like we get for the Lycans. Even in the big climactic battle, Viktor is just plain ol' Viktor.
The nice thing about the movie is that it has inspired me to give the previous ones another look. With a better grasp on the characters, maybe I will enjoy them more. I'll still hate all the fucking guns though.
What say you?