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Underworld: Rise of the Lycans 

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What, exactly, was the point of Underworld: Rise of the Lycans? Of course, I don’t mean that in the most literal sense possible. The point, as is generally the case in studio filmmaking—and most particularly in the case of sequels—is making money with a presold audience. When the suckers stop buying the tickets, they’ll stop cranking out the chapters.

But seriously, what does this Kate Beckinsale-less prequel have to offer? On a most basic storytelling level, everyone who saw the first two Underworld films already knows how this back-story turns out. Vampire overlord Viktor (Bill Nighy) and first-of-all-Lycans/slave-to-the-vampires Lucian (Michael Sheen) will clash over Lucian’s love affair with Viktor’s daughter Sonja (Rhona Mitra). It will all come to ill, and the war will be born that carries through the first two films.

So is it supposed to be entertaining in some way? It offers nothing innovative from a visual standpoint, as director Patrick Tatopoulos keeps everything in a blue-tinged haze and presents a vampire lair that’s a limp cross between Helm’s Deep and the Batcave. It’s not scary or interesting on even a visceral level, the battle sequences so miserably edited that the sprays of blood often obscure exactly who—or what—is dying at any given moment. It adds nothing to the mythology that was at least a peripheral appeal of the earlier films. And it doesn’t even offer cheesy genre pleasures, unless you count Nighy’s performance, all blazing contact lenses and plummy pronouncements. Sheen plays this Romeo-and-Juliet-ish forbidden romance dead serious—which is almost funnier than anything else.

When you watch a bad comedy, at least you recognize that it was trying to make someone laugh, and maybe even appeals to someone with different sensibilities. But Underworld: Rise of the Lycans feels so fundamentally vacant that over the pounding soundtrack, you can almost hear the sound of people laughing at you, and counting your money.

UNDERWORLD: RISE OF THE LYCANS
[Zero Stars]
Bill Nighy, Michael Sheen, Rhona Mitra
Rated R

Underworld: Rise of the Lycans trailer
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