Bill Nighy, Michael Sheen, Rhona Mitra
Danny McBride, Dirk Blackman, Howard McCain
Are you a fan of the "Underworld" films or did you really just go see them for the thrill of Kate Beckinsale in black leather?
Your answer to this basic question is likely to determine your appreciation for "Underworld: Rise of the Lycans," the third film in the "Underworld" series but actually a prequel to the other two films.
In case you haven't heard, Beckinsale and her black leather fantasy didn't return for "Rise of the Lycans."
Truthfully, in a guilty pleasure sort of way I actually enjoyed the first "Underworld."
The only thing I enjoyed about the second film in the series was the aforementioned Beckinsale.
Was I expecting much from "Underworld: Rise of the Lycans?"
Nope. Not at all.
It didn't disappoint.
I might've been dreading "Underworld: Rise of the Lycans" were it not for the presence of Bill Nighy, who seems to improve any film he's in, and Michael Sheen, whom I regard as one of Hollywood's underrated actors.
Along with Beckinsale's absence, Len Wiseman, Beckinsale's hubby and director of the first two films, stepped down from helming this film and left the job to visual effects guru Patrick Tatopoulos.
Bill Nighy, who was in the first "Underworld," returns here and is easily the best thing about "Underworld: Rise of the Lycans." Nighy plays Viktor, the king of the Vampires, whose fondness for Lucian (Michael Sheen) and Lucian's daughter (Rhona Mitra) leads to the war between the Vampires and the Werewolves.
If any of this is sounding silly, then "Underworld: Rise of the Lycans" isn't for you.
If, however, you found yourself enthralled by the first two films then there's likely enough in this prequel to hold your interest...even if the script by Danny McBride (NOT the funny guy from "Pineapple Express") and Dirk Blackman really doesn't amount to anything original.
Much of "Underworld: Rise of the Lycans" feels like a warmed over rehash of the first two films done on a much more modest budget. While this doesn't necessarily doom the film, it is likely to keep it from getting any new fans.
The cast, at least, seems to be having fun with the material. Nighy camps it up in overdrive, while Michael Sheen must simply be relieved to finally be in a film that will actually get some box-office success. Actually, Sheen adds a nice depth to the film even if it does occasionally feel a bit awkward given Nighy's more over-the-top interpretation.
"Underworld: Rise of the Lycans" is likely to only please fans of the first two films, and it's just as likely even those fans will consider this the weakest of the trilogy.
What can I say about "Underworld: Rise of the Lycans?"
It doesn't bite.
© Written by Richard Propes
The Independent Critic