|Underworld: Rise of the Lycans|
Theatrical release poster
|Directed by||Patrick Tatopoulos|
|Produced by||Len Wiseman
|Written by||Len Wiseman
|Music by||Paul Haslinger|
|Editing by||Peter Amundson
|Distributed by||Screen Gems|
|Release date(s)||January 23, 2009|
|Running time||92 min.|
|Preceded by||Underworld: Evolution|
Underworld: Rise of the Lycans is an American film released January 23, 2009. It is the third installment in the Underworld series, focusing primarily on the origins of some characters and the events leading to the Vampire-Lycan war.
The film tells the story of Lucian (Michael Sheen), the first werewolf able to take human form and to be called a Lycan. Viktor (Bill Nighy), a ruthless elder vampire, takes him home after killing his werewolf mother. Viktor envisions a race of werewolf slaves for his clan that could keep guard during the day and toil for the vampires. As Lucian grows up, he and Viktor's young daughter Sonja (Rhona Mitra) develop a mutual attraction that blossoms into love in their adult years, though they keep their relationship hidden from her father.
Viktor has a relationship with the humans of the area; he protects them from the werewolves that roam the countryside in exchange for a tithe. As human nobles meet with the vampire council for protection from the werewolves, Sonja guards them. Lucian hears the werewolves near Sonja and orders Death Dealers sent to help her. When his orders are denied, he steals a horse and sword from a nearby Death Dealer. Werewolves proceed to kill the nobles, causing Lucian to battle them. When Lucian changes into a Lycan in order to protect Sonja, the werewolves back down, leaving before Lucian is shot by Viktor's men. Viktor, despite acknowledging that Lucian saved his daughter, notes that Lucian transgressed the laws of the coven by removing the collar that keeps him in check (its inward-pointing silver spikes are designed to kill him if he changes into a Lycan) and feels betrayed by his favorite pet. He locks Lucian away after having him whipped.
With the help of the scheming vampire Andreas Tanis, Sonja orchestrates Lucian's release. In exchange, Sonja promises Tanis her seat on the vampire council. Lucian escapes, kills several of the vampires and begins liberating the other Lycans. The guards begin slaughtering the escaping Lycans. Sonja remains behind, but when Viktor discovers that she has had a forbidden relationship with Lucian, he imprisons her. Lucian and some of the freed Lycans roam the countryside recruiting many of the labourers of the human nobles to their fight for freedom from the nobles and the vampires. He also travels to a cavernous location that is teeming with werewolves, attempting to contact them. The vampire nobles are outraged by the escape and growing chaos, demanding that Viktor recapture Lucian. Viktor however, knows that Lucian will come to him.
Lucian learns about Sonja's imprisonment from one of her attendants and sets out to rescue her. Lucian orders his followers to wait, but be prepared to attack if he does not return. Lucian rescues Sonja from the fortress but they are attacked by the Death Dealers. Sonja confronts Viktor and tries to get him to call off his guards by revealing that she is pregnant with Lucian's child. Disgusted, Viktor overpowers her and imprisons both her and Lucian. Sonja is sentenced to death at a trial presided over by her father and the council. Lucian is forced to witness Sonja's death, in which she is burned to death by sunlight, passing out afterward.
Lucian awakens when Viktor comes in to view his deceased daughter. As Viktor removes the pendant necklace he gave Sonja, an enraged Lucian transforms and overpowers Viktor. Lucian takes Sonja's pendant, escaping out a window. The escape is stopped at the castle walls by Death Dealers who shoot Lucian with crossbows. With a thunderous howl, Lucian summons the freed Lycans and the werewolves, who attack the coven, overwhelming it. Viktor sends Tanis to remove the slumbering Amelia and Markus from their crypts before joining the battle with his personal guard. The council, meanwhile are overwhelmed and butchered by the rampaging werewolves.
Lucian sees Viktor entering the fray and fights his way to him. Viktor and Lucian battle their way to the catacombs. The fight continues until Lucian overcomes Viktor. Viktor's 'final' words attest to his regret at not having killed Lucian the moment he was born, to which Lucian sarcastically agrees before forcing his sword through Viktor's mouth and head and letting the body fall into the water below. Lucian emerges to the courtyard which is ringed with the surviving Lycans, werewolves and freed slaves. He declares this victory as only the beginning of what will become a war between the races. Tanis is leading a very alive Viktor into a hibernation chamber on a boat.
The film ends with the opening scene of the first Underworld, with the audio from the scene where Kraven tells Selene that it was Viktor who murdered her family, rather than the Lycans, and that Viktor spared her because she reminded him of the daughter he condemned to death; Selene replies to Kraven, "Lies!"
In September 2003, shortly after the release of Underworld (2003), production companies Screen Gems and Lakeshore planned to release a prequel as the third film following Underworld's sequel, Underworld: Evolution (2006). Kate Beckinsale, who portrayed Selene in Underworld, expressed interest in reprising her role for the sequel and the prequel.
In December 2005, Underworld: Evolution director Len Wiseman explained that the Underworld franchise was originally conceived as a trilogy. Wiseman said, "We sort of mapped out an entire history and story... a massive collection of ideas and stories that we're putting out at certain times." Wiseman anticipated creating a third installment for the franchise based on the audiences' reception of Underworld: Evolution, which would be released the following month.
In a June 2006 interview, Wiseman said, "The third film is going to be a prequel. It will be the origin story and we find out things we didn't know about Lucian; he'll have a much bigger part in it. It will be about the creation [of the races] and what started the war. It will be a period piece. The movie will also focus for the first time through the Lycans' point of view." The director also shared, "In terms of the writing, a lot of the writing has been done. We've been developing Underworld 3 for a while. I won't be directing Underworld 3: Rise of the Lycans; I'm just going to be producing and writing." When asked if Kate Beckinsale would reprise her role as Selene in the prequel, Wiseman said, "It will be in the time period before, but it will overlap into the creation of her as well. We're in the process of seeing how far we go with that." The following October, actor Michael Sheen, who portrays Lucian in the film series, expressed interest in being part of the prequel.
The Hollywood Reporter announced on October 26, 2007 that the film would be written by Danny McBride and mark the directorial début of Patrick Tatopoulos, who designed the creature effects for all three Underworld films. Len Wiseman would produce, and contribute to the writing of this film, but would not direct, nor would Kate Beckinsale reprise her lead role of Selene nor would Scott Speedman reprise his role of Michael.
Underworld: Rise of the Lycans was distributed to 2,942 theatres on its opening day (23 January 2009) in the United States and grossed an estimated US$8,050,000, debuting at number 1 at the box office. On its opening weekend, the film was ranked second at the box office behind Paul Blart: Mall Cop with $20.7 million, which is lower than the amount earned by Underworld and Underworld: Evolution ($21.8 million and $26.9 million respectively) on their opening weekends. 59% of the audience at the première was male, while 55% was over 25 years old. Overall, the limited day-and-date launch of Rise of the Lycans in the week ending 23 January 2009 accumulated $3.5 million in two dozen markets outside the U.S. at 455 theatres, a third of which was earned at the Australian box office. In the United Kingdom, the film was distributed to 339 theatres and obtained $1.4 million at the box office on its opening day, ranking as the second best opener of the week behind Valkyrie. As of 26 April 2009, the film has grossed estimated $45,802,315 in North America and $89,971,676 at the box office worldwide.
The film received mostly "mixed or mediocre" reviews. According to the review aggregate website Rotten Tomatoes, 32% of critics gave the film positive reviews based on 71 reviews. However, viewers on the website were more positive, rewarding the film an 81% "Fresh" rating.. Most of the acclaim is attributed to Michael Sheen's performance. At the website Metacritic, which assigns a normalized rating out of 100 to reviews from mainstream critics, the film has received an average score of 44, based on 14 reviews. Joe Leydon of Variety gave a positive review, stating that director Patrick Tatopoulos "offers a satisfyingly exciting monster rally that often plays like a period swashbuckler" and that the film is "notably less frenetic (and appreciably more coherent) than its predecessors". He also praised the lead actors for their performances. Leydon described Rhona Mitra's performance as "more than adequate" but says that "her Sonja never achieves the pop-icon impact of Beckinsale's Selene"; he felt that Michael Sheen "hits all the right notes in a star-powered performance that will amuse, if not amaze, anyone who only knows the actor as Tony Blair or David Frost", and that Bill Nighy "offers a sly and stylish turn as Viktor". Similarly, Michael Rechtshaffen of The Hollywood Reporter stated that the film "rises to the occasion" and that it "finds more life left than would be expected in the darkly stylized if dramatically flawed vampires vs. werewolves saga." He credited this to the "sturdy performances" of Sheen and Nighy and the "tidy, unfussy direction" by Tatopoulos. Also giving the film a positive review was Claudia Puig of USA Today, who thought that the film was "surprisingly campy fun, mostly succeeding through the power of its lead performances".
Manohla Dargis of The New York Times commented that the film "offers few surprises other than Mr. Sheen's vigorous, physical performance", articulating that Sheen is "the movie's greatest asset" and that his commitment to his role demonstrated that there is "some benefit to having a real performance even in a formulaic entertainment like this". Clark Collis of Entertainment Weekly gave the film a C+ grade, describing the film as "basically Were-Spartacus, though that makes the humorless, scare-free result sound much more fun than it is". He says, "Sheen and Nighy do their best with the material, but this is easily the worst Underworld so far." While he described the franchise as "grimly competent", Glenn Whipp of Los Angeles Times criticized Rise of the Lycans on its action sequences, which "accent incomprehensibility". Kim Newman of Empire rated the film one out of five stars and called it a "needless threequel", saying that it is unlikely for an audience who has not seen Underworld to "follow the tosh this passes off as a plot". He adds, "In former effects man Patrick Tatopoulos' vision, these Dark Ages were really dark – so dark, in fact, you can barely see the monster action or register why Sheen and Nighy felt the need to sign up." Richard Corliss of Time described the film as "sluggish when it's not grinding toward the preposterous" and that it "just wasn't that memorable". He noted further that the "Brit cast attempts to camouflage the silliness by swanning it up, as if the Royal Shakespeare Company had gotten communally drunk and staged an impromptu production of Dracula Meets the Wolfman."
Note: The Blu-ray release contained a PS3 theme.
First week sales of the DVD stand at 1,241,875 copies with over $24.82 million in revenue. As of November 1, 2009 almost 2.2 million copies have been sold and $43,407,017 in revenue generated for Sony Pictures.