UNDERWORLD: RISE OF THE LYCANS
This time direction has been handed over to Patrick Tatopoulos. Tatopoulos gained a reputation as a creature effects supervisor after Independence Day (1996). Tatopoulos has since created his own self-named company, providing creature effects for prominent films like Godzilla (1998), Battlefield Earth: A Saga of the Year 3000 (2000), Pitch Black (2000), I, Robot (2004), Silent Hill (2006), I Am Legend (2007) and of course the other Underworld films, among other. Like Len Wiseman, Patrick Tatopoulos came to direction after gaining attention in the effects department of Roland Emmerich. Underworld: Rise of the Lycans is Tatopouloss debut as a director, although he had earlier made a short film Bird of Passage (2000). He has since been announced as a director of several other potential projects.
Rise of the Lycans purports to be a prequel to the other two Underworld films. In truth, it is the same thing as before everything that happens is devised in terms of kinetic happenings, explains little and the plot could just as easily have functioned as a sequel rather than a prequel. Certainly, there is slightly more to it as a story and slightly less the case of everything being overwhelmed by effects than there was in Evolution but the film has largely only been construed around wolves snarling, swords flashing and blood/gore. In particular, the stylish Gothic poses that was the mark of the first film has been toned down to merely a uniform midnight gloom. The effects work is expectedly excellent. The films standout set-piece is where Rhona Mitra is tied up and exposed to the sunlight, causing her body to char to a cinder. The problem with this as a scene is that you are going wow, that was a cool effect, rather than feeling the tragedy of loss over one of the central characters. It is a problem that is indicative of all the Underworld films, which become an array of poses and effects that wash over you as all effect and zero substance.
One of the most unintentionally funny things about the film is Michael Sheen as the Lycan hero. Sheen has been in all the other Underworld films but in between Evolution and Rise of the Lycans he gained a reputation as a serious actor, most notably with his performances as real-life figures such as Prime Minister Tony Blair in The Queen (2006) and David Frost in Frost/Nixon (2008). It is amusing watching him in long, unkempt hair and bared chest, roaring and snarling while covered in blood. You keep having these flashes where you think Okay, so Im watching Tony Blair turn into a werewolf and tearing peoples throats out. The same problem also cropped up with Sheens turn as a vampire in New Moon/Twilight Saga: New Moon (2009) later the same year.
There is also the lovely Rhona Mitra, a beautiful actress who has started developing a growing profile in the last couple of years. She fills a similar kind of role to what Kate Beckinsale did in the previous two films. Though she displays slightly more expression than Kate Beckinsale, Rhona does not get much of an opportunity to do anything other than look fierce and parade about in some nifty outfits, before being bumped off in mid-film. Bill Nighy returns from the previous films and looks quite ill beneath the pasty white makeup where he gives a performance that seems to indicate he is suffering from severe gastric distress.
Next up in the series was Underworld: Awakening (2012).
(Nominee for Best Makeup Effects at this sites Best of 2009 Awards).