Movie News & Reviews

'Rise of the Lycans' falls short

If you've ever got a significant chunk of your life you feel like justthrowing away, I recommend watching complete horror franchises.

There's no better way to understand how the minds of moviemakers work(or fail to) than to watch a successful movie like Nightmare on ElmStreet get completely plowed under by the loony nonsense ofNightmare on Elm Street 2. Were they wrong to replace awinning, original concept that banked tens of millions of dollars infavor of a fake-mythology-heavy, cruddy-actor-having sequel that canonly make sense to people who've recently poured a full bottle ofDrano down one ear? Only time will tell, and time says it sucks.

From there, the direction a franchise goes says a lot about itshandlers' motivations for continuing on (other than the part wherethey get the sacks with the dollar signs on the side). Does themovie's particular universe need more exploration? Is it time to shakethings up by having the dead guy be dead for reals, only to bereplaced by a copycat--or an undead, even more unstoppable killer?With Underworld: Rise of the Lycans, apparently there was apressing need to inject some Shakespearean tragedy into its timelesstale of the centuries-long struggle between bloodthirsty werewolvesand gun-toting vampires.

In the vaguely medieval past, vampires live in uneasy safety behindhigh walls, besieged by brutish werewolves. Bill Nighy rules thevampire council, but even he is pressured when their human noblesubjects complain of being overrun.

The werewolf problem is so bad that when Rhona Mitra, Nighy'sdaughter, goes to meet the nobles, she's assaulted in the woods. Hersecret lover Michael Sheen--a slave werewolf--throws off his shacklesto save her.

Upon discovering Sheen's freed himself, a wrathful Nighy orders himlashed and imprisoned. This lesson clearly teaches Sheen nothing, ashe quickly incites a slave rebellion and is sentenced to death,prompting Mitra to risk her life to save him.

Rise of the Lycans is the Underworld prequel we were alldemanding to see. At last the big questions are answered: Where didthe werewolves come from? (Answer: Uhh, somewhere.) Why are they atwar with the vampires? (Because, like all dogs everywhere, they holdreally long grudges.) And is there nothing Bill Nighy can't improve?(Not that I'm aware of, but that may change if and when Mitra acceptsmy private dinner invitation. Seriously Rhona, I can make kung pao.)

What's the word for when a movie cycles from A to B to C withoutshowing any signs of inspiration or originality? Rote? Perfunctory?Lifeless? Mechanical? Choose one or several and you've got Rise ofthe Lycans' dooming flaw.

Nighy throws a little personality into the script, but considering thematerial he's working with is the thespiatic equivalent of the gunk atthe bottom of the leaf pile--slugs and more leaves, mostly--he canonly goose it so far. Danny McBride's authored all threeUnderworlds, which is good for continuity and not so good formaking it any more entertaining than the mediocre first two.

And you know what, the first one may have ripped off The Matrixso much it had an actual slow-mo shooting-up-the-pillars scene, but atleast it felt inspired by something. Rise of the Lycansfails to deliver even the basic epic violence and hoot-worthy gore youcan usually depend on in otherwise worthless action movies. That islike baking a cake with no frosting, and also the cake is made out ofdamp flour. It is unreasonable. I jeer at it, then turn on the scenefrom Invasion USA where Rutger Hauer's foot is blown out awindow by a bazooka.

But other than the fact it's no fun at all, Rise of the Lycansisn't especially bad. The dialogue's bleh, but not awful; theplotting's mechanical, but makes sense; the characters are...well,they're there. How I wish it had all been worse! Then it might havebeen worth seeing.

Grade: C-