Underworld: The Rise of the Lycans

2009

Underworld: The Rise of the Lycans

Critics Consensus

Despite the best efforts of its competent cast, Underworld: Rise of the Lycans is an indistinguishable and unnecessary prequel.

29%

TOMATOMETER

Total Count: 76

63%

Audience Score

User Ratings: 232,557
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Movie Info

The Underworld series gets the prequel treatment with this third outing that fleshes out the story of the ancient war between the vampiric Death Dealers and their wolfman counterparts, the Lycans. F/X technician Patrick Tatopoulos (Godzilla, Independence Day) steps out of the effects lab and into the director's chair with this entry, which sees stars Bill Nighy returning as Viktor, the king of his vampire clan and father to Sonja (Rhona Mitra), a free-minded heir who tests her parent by heading outside of their castle's borders and doing battle with the ravenous werewolves of the surrounding area. Sonja also has a secret love affair with Lucian (Michael Sheen), the first of the Lycans, a race of lycanthropes who were bred by the vampires to be slaves and protectors to the bloodsucking clan. As the news of their love spreads to Viktor, ranks of the vampire elite help Lucian escape, leading to a revolution of the Lycans against their masters and setting up the mythology of the later latexed adventures featured in Len Wiseman's two previous films. ~ Jeremy Wheeler, Rovi

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Critic Reviews for Underworld: The Rise of the Lycans

All Critics (76) | Top Critics (17)

  • The numerous action sequences, while imaginative, lack a visual cohesion that allows them to be fully appreciated.

    Jan 29, 2009 | Rating: 2/5 | Full Review…
  • It is not necessary to have seen the first two Underworld films to fully enjoy the third. It might be helpful, however, to first see a bartender.

    Jan 26, 2009 | Rating: 1.5/4
  • The storyline essentially replicates that of Underworld and Underworld: Evolution, meaning that if you've seen one or both of them, there's no compelling reason to spend your hard earned dollars on the third.

    Jan 26, 2009 | Rating: 2/4 | Full Review…
  • Underworld: Rise of the Lycans is as unnecessary as it is uninvolving. Only fans desperate to learn how the whole vampire-werewolf conflict began are likely to get anything out of this viewing experience.

    Jan 26, 2009 | Rating: 1/4 | Full Review…
  • Underworld: Rise of the Lycans is surprisingly campy fun, mostly succeeding through the power of its lead performances.

    Jan 26, 2009 | Rating: 2.5/4 | Full Review…

    Claudia Puig

    USA Today
    Top Critic
  • Unlike Mr. Nighy, who puts an amusing camp spin on his every line and gesture, Mr. Sheen appears to have taken his monster duties seriously.

    Jan 26, 2009 | Rating: 2/5

Audience Reviews for Underworld: The Rise of the Lycans

  • Jan 12, 2017
    Why I chose to sit through this series? I'm still not sure. But I do know one thing, this series provides nothing more than some blood, guts, and an occasional cringe worthy romance. 'Rise of the Lycans' is the first and only in the franchise to not star Kate Beckinsale, though they tried their hardest to make it seem like she's in by putting a lookalike actress, Rhona Mitra, front and center. Their characters wear similar clothes and have similar makeup and characteristics. Only Mitra's character, Sonja, is poorly written and adds nothing new to the lore of this series. Really, this entire film can be described this way. It was the shortest film, until 'Awakening', and by far the thinnest in depth. Rotten Tomatoes sums it up as being indistinguishable and unnecessary. That just about defines this film to a pulp. We already had flashbacks and a brief history lesson in the previous film to the war between Werewolves & Vampires, and already exposed to how Viktor fits into the grand scheme of things. So, was there any need to make this film instead of a continuation with Selene and Michael? Absolutely not. To be fair, I think Michael Sheen's performance makes the film worth watching. The writing takes his character in a Romeo & Juliet direction with Sonja, Viktor's daughter, but Sheen easily outperforms everyone. And yes, that includes Bill Nighy's once again over-the-top turn as Viktor. The reality is, this series has perhaps never tried to be anything more than a guilty pleasure for the blockbuster genre. There's some solid action, a well-realized performance from Michael Sheen, and a short running time. Okay, perhaps the latter shouldn't be a compliment for a movie, but I guess that's what Underworld gives us. +Sheen -Adds virtually nothing to the series -Rehash of material -Nighy is once again over-the-top -Another pointless romance 4.2/10
    Thomas D Super Reviewer
  • May 16, 2016
    Yeah, it's screenplay is mercifully simple but the entire plot of this movie was already covered in about 10 minutes of murky flashbacks in the first "Underworld".
    Alec B Super Reviewer
  • Mar 19, 2013
    Why did this piece of crap took itself so serious to begin with? It's fuckin vampires going against fuckin werewolves, go cheesy b-movie cause that's what you are! Who the hell cares for politics and shenenigans and forbidden loves on a movie like this? It's frickin vampires against werewolves!! Go bonkers! Jeez...
    Francisco G Super Reviewer
  • Jan 09, 2013
    I would say I'm a bit surprised to see that few people actually ask why Len Wiseman didn't direct this project, but, come on, I think that we already know, because Wiseman probably didn't want to further stir the bad blood (Pun not intended) between him and the guy whose hot girlfriend/baby mama he took, which still didn't stop him from at least getting Michael Sheen a love interest who looks like Kate Beckinsale, probably just to tick him off. Jeez, no wonder Sheen is so convincing as a violently vengeful man-monster, I'd want to kill someone if I lost what he had, especially if I was stepping back into the series that led to the whole "bloody" (Pun intended that time) affair, but hey, that just means more money for Mike. Well, it's not like Wiseman and Beckinsale are looking at big-time misses for financial opportunity by not being more involved in this film, because this film didn't quite do the business of its predecessors. Of course, even then, this film still made, like, almost six times its budget, but that's total, and it's domestic gross that really counts, so maybe this film's marketers should have advertized the tragic love story behind Beckinsale, Wiseman and Sheen, because even though the popcorn audience who go to see films like this probably don't even know who Steven Spielberg is, let alone any other director, drama like the kind behind the production first "Underworld" increases hits, and it helps that the drama in question is so high that it's more interesting than this film's drama. Granted, the tragic love of this film involves vampires and werewolves, and helps in sparking the uprising of a slave species and, by extension, a bloody war that spans for several centuries, but that just goes to show you how much more interesting celebrities are, or at least how uninteresting this series is. No, this series isn't that uninteresting, but it has been lacking a bit in "bite" (These puns are almost as generic as the "Underworld" films; "almost"), or at least that's the case with this series' first installment, even with the behind-the-scenes drama. This film's likely being the most plot-driven of the series and yet still being much shorter than the series' first installment should tell you how overblown "Underworld" is, which isn't to say that this film isn't a bit too tight for its own good, because with all of its nifty notes, this film continues its series' tradition of getting to be sloppy. Arguably the most substance-driven of the series, this film puts more effort into keeping plotting refreshing, thus this film's story, while hardly original, feels less trite than the predecessors' stories, and yet, with that said, this film follows a plot concept that, like those of the predecessors, has been tackled time and again, leaving plenty of conventionalism to ensue, even with the refreshing spots, and spark predictability that is already high enough, considering that this film is a prequel, and does damage to the final product's engagement value, which goes further retarded by the story concept's execution's getting to be a bit too tight for its own good. Barely over a mere hour-and-a-half, this film is shorter than its predecessors, which is ironic, considering that this story is the most relatively meaty in concept, having a kind of range that doesn't exactly beg for an epic, but certainly deserves better than this much thinness in runtime, whose briefness goes achieved by the return of the heavy-handed story structuring that has plagued this saga from the beginning and leaves not much more than the minimum of exposition to go delivered, with limited slow-down, hurried occasions and all around superficiality. Of course, it's not like Danny McBride's, Dirk Blackman's and Howard McCain's heavy-handed script can be entirely blamed for the superficiality that plagues this film's engagement value, because with all of his noble ambitions and moments of commendable effort, newcomer director Patrick Tatopoulos doesn't seem too much more qualified than the perhaps too stylistic Len Wiseman when it comes to handling subtlety rewardingly, failing to make up for the script's exposition issues enough to draw the genuine depth that, believe it or not, probably should be in this film. Now, relatively extensive subtlety's introduction to this film's mythology doesn't prove to be quite as sloppy as I was expecting, as there is genuine resonance to this film at times, yet on the whole, this promising effort leaves much to be desired when it comes to engagement value's full impact. Don't get me wrong, bonafide dramatic resonance might be more than this series deserves, but Tatopoulos flaunts his being a newcomer through superficial plotting, broken up by, well, blandness, which isn't quite as it intense as it got to be in this series' mediocre first installment, but potent enough to disengage, or at least pull you in just enough to reminds you of the final product's other shortcomings, both natural and consequential. With all of my complaints, this film is actually the least messy of the series, but make no mistake, when this film makes a mistake, it slips up where it counts, turning in enough storytelling faults to emphasize this film's lack of necessity as a prequel and make the final product underwhelming by it's own right. Still, while it stands to be more, this film remains more than you'd expect, having enough strengths behind it to engage as entertaining blockbuster and, to a certain degree, dramatic piece, or at least a rewarding visual experience. If this saga has been nothing else, then it has been a series of handsome stylistic pieces, rich with striking Gothic atmosphere and visuals that have graced each one of these installments, with this film being certainly no expection, though not quite as much so as you might think, as Ross Emery doesn't quite deliver on the photographic sharpness of Tony Pierce-Roberts and Simon Duggan, yet it is a close call, as Emery still manages to help in the capturing of Gothic bleakness with beautifully colored yet still rather handsomely gritty cinematography that both catches your eye and compliments the film's atmosphere. What further compliments this film's atmosphere is its fitting environment, brought to life by Dan Hennah's production designs, which aren't so strikingly convincing or attractively intricate that you feel truly locked into this film's world, but certainly concieved well enough to sell you on both the era portrayed in this film and environmental atmosphere, while certain other technical achievements add even more flare to things, to a certain degree. Certainly, the visual effects of the predecessors have dated a bit over the years, yet they were nevertheless excellent for their time, whereas this film comes into an era with higher standards that it occasionally doesn't entirely meet, turning in a few iffy effects, but ones that are quickly drowned out by the excellent effects, of which, there are many, backed up by editing and sound design that aren't quite as upstanding as they were in the predecessors, but still help in immersing you in the film's style and, of course, action. It's debatable whether or not this film's action sequences are as underused as the action of the original "Underworld", though there's no question that this film won't quite satisfy those who are going in expecting more of the quantity consistency in action that graced and helped in making decent "Evolution", and yet, when it comes to quality, this film makes sure to deliver on action that is worth the wait, going powered by slick staging and aformentioned technical proficiency, as well the occasional piece of epic sweep that was missing the predecessors, and harsh gore that gets to the nerves and thrillingly supplements a sense of consequence. Technically, this film is surprisingly not quite as sharp as its predecessors in certain areas, yet this film remains as much a stylistic and technical achievement as the mediocre yet pretty "Undworld" and entertaining "Evolution", and when it comes to the substance that particularly drives this film, as I said, there are too many mishaps for this conventional yet promising story concept to satisfy entirely in execution, though not so many that you can't appreciate the effort that goes into molding this film into something more, and ignites an immediate degree of intrigue, augmented by, of all things the acting. While charisma is plentiful in the predecessors' leads, this series has hardly been all that much of a strong acting piece, as a few supporting performances in "Underworld" will firmly remind you, with even this more relatively genunine character piece having only so much in the way of acting material, which doesn't completely stop deliverance from certain talents in this cast, from which the highly charismatic Bill Nighy stands out as an antagonist to a protagonist who Michael Sheen portrays with layers and range that may be underwritten, but go pronounced enough to help you in finding a grip on the depth of the Lucian character and this story. Inspired performances such as those by Sheen and Nighy, as well as occasions in which director Patrick Tatopoulos does justice to his ambitions, give us brief glimpses at unexpected genuine compellingness and, by extension, what this film could have been, and while those occasions are nice, they're few and far between, though thankfully bridged by consistent entertainment value that makes this film an enjoyable one and, with the help of substance intrigue, easily the best installment seen by the "Underworld" series up to this point, even if that isn't saying too much. In the end... of the beginning, while not quite as trite feeling as its predecessors, this film's story concept plummets into predicability-supplementing conventions that slow down momentum, which takes further damage from heavy-handed over-tightening of this story, and storytelling that has only so much in the way of subtlety, but quite a bit in the way of blandness that emphasizes the lack of necessity to this prequal and helps in making the final product somewhat underwhelming, though not to where you can't appreciate, at the very lest, handsome cinematography, fine production designs and technical sharpness that helps in crafting some thrilling action sequences, which break up substance that is still worthy enough in concept, and brought to life enough by strong performances and lively direction, to make "Underworld: Rise of the Lycans" an entertaining and, on occasions, compelling prelude to the infamous vampire-Lycan saga, even if it does still leave quite a bit to be desired. 2.5/5 - Fair
    Cameron J Super Reviewer

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