I don’t think regular readers of hoopla.nu will be surprised to learn that I was not impressed with the latest Underworld installment.
The best that can be said of this franchise is that it is consistent. Consistently dull. It’s truly incredible just how uninteresting the creators of Underworld have made vampires and werewolves – there is surely a certain amount of skill involved, as very few writers could plonk their way through such monotony if they tried.
This third installment is a prequel. We see the beginnings of the centuries long feud between vampires and lycans, with a star-crossed lovers’ tale that will of course be echoed by Selene and Michael in modern times. The shift of setting means we have a bunch of new faces, though it’s one of the secondary characters from the earlier films that takes centre stage here. Michael Sheen’s (figurative) transformation is fantastic. I didn’t even realise that this was Tony Blair from The Queen, or David Frost from Frost/Nixon – he’s almost unrecognisable, all long hair, topless and werewolfy. If nothing else, it’s fascinating to see just how talented this man is. Rhona Mitra steps up to replace Selene as Sonja, and she looks a little too distractingly like Kate Beckinsale. Mitra has been rather unfortunate in her film roles. I initially spotted her in thankless bit parts that mainly involved her showing off… parts of her bits (Hollow Man and the Christopher Lambert Beowulf). Flash forward some years and she was the lead in Neil Marshall’s first disappointing film, Doomsday, and is now contributing to the Underworld franchise. She’s fine here, but her character’s about as wooden as Selene was. The ubiquitous Bill Nighy reprises his role as vampire head honcho Viktor, and I guess he might be having fun… you wouldn’t know though, since he has to compete with his lurid contact lenses for our attention.
All of the bad storytelling and inane dialogue would be okay if this film had some great action, but – like its predecessors – it doesn’t. Well, at least, it might, but you can’t see a damn thing. The whole film is bathed in blacks and blues, and the medieval setting is apparently an excuse for almost no lighting whatsoever. This, coupled with some corner-cutting hyperfast editing, means that all the action scenes are wasted. Underworld: Evolution had a couple of good moments, the most interesting being the ‘vampire versus helicopter’ set piece, but that’s as exciting as the series ever got. Apart from Sheen and some nice costume design, Rise of the Lycans has absolutely nothing going for it.Rating: