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Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Underworld: Rise of the Lycans

The truth be told, I’ve never been a fan of the werewolf. If I’m going to be ravaged by a supernatural being I don’t want it to be by something that is going to leave fleas in the carpet. Bad enough my perfect husband would have to get blood stains out of the rug once I was dead and then plan a funeral, but it hardly seems right he should be stuck having to go to PetSmart™ to pick up a few flea bombs and some flea shampoo for the cats just because of a damned wolf. I can’t get my husband to give the cats a bath when they don’t have fleas and just smell bad. I can’t imagine him grief-stricken and having to wash the pussies clean. And it does make me wonder, if a werewolf has fleas, are they were-fleas? Fleas like to suck blood, right? So if they’ve been sucking the blood of a werewolf, wouldn’t they become infected? If so, then if they jumped into my carpet and bit my kitties, would they become were-pussies? And if the fleas on my cats bit my husband would he become a were-wolf or a were-pussy? It makes my head hurt. Either way, I think being attacked by a vampire would be a whole lot less hassle for everybody. Especially me. If I’m going to be turned into a creature of the night I’d prefer it not be one that is going to require a Brazilian wax every five or six hours for eternity.

This isn’t to say I’m not open to new things, and I was willing to go into
Underworld: Rise of the
Lycans with an open mind. I will admit I had seen the first two Underworld movies and hated them, but this one offered hope. First off, Kate Beckinsale and her husband, director Len Wiseman, had nothing to do with this installment, which could only be looked at as a blessing. Underworld: Rise of the Lycans is directed by longtime special effects guru Patrick Tatopoulos (The Ruins), and he’s abandoned whatever the hell the storyline was that Underworld and Underworld: Evolutions followed to step back in time and create a sort-of prequel to those films, but something much more watchable. I have to say that is positively fine by me because I was totally lost throughout Underworld: Evolutions, having forgotten what the point of the original movie was, and since Wiseman was not wise enough to include a briefing for those of us who hadn’t hung on with baited breath memorizing the Underworld mythology for the three years between the first movie to the next, Underworld: Evolutions seemed an inexplicable mess.

With a prequel, all that has been expunged and we have gone back to a period who-knows-how-far in the distant past where the only characters from the prior movies still (or is that previously?) around are King of the Vampire Empire, Viktor (Bill Nighy; Valkyrie), his underling Tannis (Steven
Mackintosh; The Daisy Chain) and the hunkiest slave in history, Lucien (Michael Sheen; Frost/Nixon). To be honest, there was such a focus of the vampires in the first two movies that I barely paid any attention to the Lycans, i.e., werewolves, so it came as a bit of a shock to me to realize that I’d sat through two movies with Michel Sheen in them and hadn’t even noticed him in the role of Lucien, the werewolf with a heart of gold. Here, he is chock full of sexual intensity and grabs the screen in every scene he’s in, the raw lust he generates with co-star Rhona Mitra (Doomsday) as Sonja, the vampire princess with whom he falls head over paws. Yowza! Even more amazing is the fact that I saw Underworld: Rise of the Lycans right before I segued into another theater and saw Frost/Nixon and it never occurred to me that it was the same actor playing both Lucien and David Frost the transformation in look, speech, walk and total presentation was so completely different. Obviously, Lucien is a gritty and medieval character while Frost is ever so much the picture of the modern stylish gentleman of the 1970s, but it is much more than that. This guy can act. And sex it up. I don’t think there was a woman (and probably a few guys as well) in the theater who weren’t wishing Lucien would toss them on the dungeon floor for a howling good time.

More to the point, this being about The Rise of the Lycans, the focus of this chapter of the series is clearly on the furry half of the opponents in this timeless war. In a society ruled for centuries by Vampires, who terrorize humans, tax them into poverty, and enslave them as it satisfies their whims, the Werewolves are considered nothing more than lowly beasts, with no value except as slaves. With that in mind, the Vampires either slay the wolves for sport or capture them and stash them away in their dungeons and force them into slavery during their non-lunar-influenced hours. When the need for more labor arises, then Viktor just tosses a few dozen more humans into the dungeon with the wolves and let them get bitten or scratched so they too will metamorphose into a Lycan. That’s not exactly a democracy, now is it? That sh*t may fly under the Bush administration, but not now and not in Lucien’s day. That’s why he is leading a cry to motivate his furballs to insurrection against the bloodsuckers and especially against the rule of the evil Viktor.

Much to my surprise, I quite enjoyed
Underworld: Rise of the Lycans. The action was well-paced, the lighting was adequate (something desperately gone wrong in the other episodes where I thought I was watching the films through, well, some kind of a film), and the acting was fine considering some of the dialogue was painfully stilted. I applaud actors who can keep straight faces while delivering lines like “The noblemen are approaching the castle, My Liege. Shall we let them pass or leave them to the wolves?”

How classic is that? Obviously the answer is ‘What is leave them to the wolves, Alex?’ This guy would never make it on “Jeopardy.” He needs to be left to the wolves, and so do you, at least if you are looking to have a couple of fun hours at the movies. Underworld: Rise of the Lycans is a howl.

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