Underworld III: Rise of the Lycans
Title: Underworld III: Rise of the Lycans
Starring: Rhona Mitra, Bill Nighy, Michael Sheen
Director: Patrick Tatopoulos
I enjoyed the first couple of Underworld films, though given that I'm now reviewing the third I would assume that was a given. I'm not even entirely sure I would relegate them to that “guilty pleasure” type status as for what they are – Action films – they don't do a half bad job. You have an actual plot, plenty of evil, and Kate Beckinsale in a tight leather outfit, so what's not to like? So they dropped Kate Beckinsale for that woman out of “Doomsday” which is a bit of a shame, but I oddly quite enjoyed that film too (though this most certainly is a guilty pleasure), and after all how bad could it be? Turns out I should have heeded the warning, as would it not be for the title I could easily have mistaken it for a B-Movie. But not the funny kind.
Probably the major pitfall the film faces is the fact that anyone who watched the first film knows precisely how the plot's going to pan out. Even if you haven't watched it since it was first released, little snippets will suddenly make you remember what happens next, except this thirty second prologue has now been fleshed out for an hour and a half. Hell if the first film didn't give it a way the title gives a pretty big clue; Lucian (Sheen) is kept as a slave by the Vampire Viktor (Nighy), which he doesn't really enjoy so with the help of his love, also Viktor's Daughter, Sonja, frees the other Lycans and rebel against their masters. Sonja is captured and killed for treason, and Lucian needs to learn to make sure his targets actually die and aren't just pretending. It even ends by moving into the beginning of the first film, just in case it wasn't being obvious enough.
With a reported budget of $35,000,000, by today's standards it certainly wasn't a huge amount to work with but I still can't see where it all went. I can't imagine much went on hiring Mitra for despite her apparent beauty, she failed in creating that almost erotically defiant character Beckinsale succeeded with before, instead delivering us someone arrogant at best, and plain annoying at worst. Between the obvious polystyrene boulders and the Lycan's which might have held up to scrutiny back in '01 when the first film came out, but by today's standards look about as convincing as the old Godzilla flicks, it appears at first glance that more was spent on fake blood than anything else. There are indeed some gory effects but it's always cut away to prevent dwelling on this (as well as, I suspect, trying to attain that “R” rating), and despite the apparent wealth of potentially hair-raising battles, it's seems like they've all been skimmed over. There is no rising tension to the plot or edge-of-the-seat excitement to the fights, just a wait for the finalé like a countdown clock signalling the end of your day at work.
Had this been the first film in the trilogy, and I watched them all in chronological order then this film probably wouldn't have been quite so bad. It's dreadful predictability would have dissipated somewhat, though it'd have still have been fairly awful and in all likelihood the only Underworld film to be actually made, which leaves this release in something of a catch-22 like state. If you watch this first, you'll probably not want to watch any more, but watch this last and you'll waste ninety minutes of your life you'll never get back. The kindest way of describing this is as a film that probably should never have been made.