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UNDERWORLD: RISE OF THE LYCANS

SYNOPSIS:
In the beginning ...a feud erupts between two powerful, immortal tribes: the aristocratic Vampires, or Death Dealers, and the Lycans, a line of fierce werewolves when the young Lycan, Lucian (Michael Sheen), falls in love with Sonja (Rhona Mitra) the daughter of the cruel Vampire King, Viktor (Bill Nighy). Although a collared servant like all Lycans, Lucian had been Viktor's protégé and Viktor's fury ignites the simmering tensions. Lucian is arrested and beaten - and Sonja's own life is at stake. But the oppressed multitude of Lycans rise up against their rulers in a brutal clash.

Review by Andrew L. Urban:
It's Romeo and Juliet retold in medieval rock n' roll style, with the feuding houses portrayed by snotty immortal vampires on the one hand and enslaved werewolves, the Lycans, creatures able to transform from werewolf to human and back again - unless locked into human form by special collars, whose key is guarded by the King.

This is the prequel to the two previous Underworld movies, a newly fashionable movie device that enables filmmakers to squeeze extra material from a successful film, helping to gather hardcore fans. It was always the writers' intention to make a trilogy, they say, and they have invested heavily in creating a world that differs from other vampire and/ or werewolf movies by attaching its backstory to a scientific sort of basis, rather than a mystical one. But still, the old Balkan origins remain, with several characters sporting Hungarian-ish names, though not accents.

If you're a fan of the series, you'll be bored reading all this 'context' I'm carrying on with, but the chances are that if you are indeed a fan, you probably won't bother even reading this review. So for those who are a) not fans, just casual observers, or b) newcomers to the series, here is a glimpse into this Underworld.

First of all, it looks brilliant; the overall production design is first class, with much of the action on specially built sets and the rest in specially chosen New Zealand locations. Yes, the shadow of LOTR hangs over the movie: production designer Dan Hennah was supervising art director on that trilogy.

Patrick Tatopoulos makes his directing debut - but he has designed all the creatures for the Underworld films. And in this third film, they are magnificent. The battles are bloody, but some of the fighting is like madly scrambled eggs and all you see is fur and blood and movement.

As for the actual performances, Bill Nighy is at his cruel, cold, vicious best, Michael Sheen is all beefed up and powerful as Lucian, Rhona Mitra plays Sonja (and we don't miss the fabulous Kate Beckinsale, no matter how good she was); and the entire supporting cast, including the mechanical ones, are just spot on. It's not quite my cup of blood, but when you see these characters morph back and forth like some underworldly Weightwatchers commercial, you get a great sense of being entertained.



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CRITICAL COUNT
Favourable: 1
Unfavourable: 0
Mixed: 0

UNDERWORLD: RISE OF THE LYCANS (MA)
(US, 2008)

CAST: Michael Sheen, Bill Nighy, Rhona Mitra, Tania Nolan, Craig Parker, Steven Mackintosh, Kevin Grevioux, Jared Turner

PRODUCER: Gary Lucchesi, Tom Rosenberg, Skip Williamson, Len Wiseman, Richard Wright

DIRECTOR: Patrick Tatopoulos

SCRIPT: Danny McBride, Dirk Blackman, Howard McCain

CINEMATOGRAPHER: Ross Emery

EDITOR: Peter Amundson, Eric Potter

MUSIC: Paul Halsinger

PRODUCTION DESIGN: Dan Hennah

RUNNING TIME: 100 minutes

AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: Sony

AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: January 22, 2009







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