Underworld: Rise of the Lycans is not only the best film in Underworld film series, admittedly not a cause for even a minutiae of jubilation, but is also a decent action film, much like Outlander. Underworld: Rise of the Lycans had enormous obstacles to overcome, namely the first two Underworld films. Underworld was a bland action film featuring Werewolves and Vampires and Underworld: Evolution, for all its outrageous pretentious, multiplied the blandness of the first film ten fold, easily one of the biggest wastes of a inventive concept next to its patron saint, Van Helsing. Underworld was an off-screen kill movie where the viewer counted how many times a door was opened/closed and Underworld: Evolution was quite simply and dare I say quite eloquently, excrement. Clawing its way nail and tooth out of the Dead Marshes, that festering, stench-permeating swamp aka Underworld: Evolution, Underworld: Rise of the Lycans takes segments from the back story of the first two films and wisely leaves almost everything else behind.
Soon after the film begins and the cliques star-crossed lovers scenario comes into play though far more effectively than in the previous films, it is instantly apparent that Underworld: Rise of the Lycans is operating on a different level. Underworld: Rise of the Lycans had no other possible direction to go, story-wise, in the Underworld series than up. Most of the escalating common sense divergences are not present in this Underworld film but one or two here and there are. The difference in Underworld: Rise of the Lycans is that they are not glaring and other topics beguile the viewer’s attention, one of which being Rhona Mitra (Sonja)’s beauty. Tauting the glamour from her Nip/Tuck appearances and the physique from Doomsday, Mitra’s character becomes increasing sympathetic, as does her true love in Underworld: Rise of the Lycans, Lucian (Michael Sheen), as their love affair becomes perilous. Director Patrick Tatopoulos and screenwriters Len Wiseman and Danny McBride almost do something very wise: put the characters first, the blood and special effects second, as was done in Let the Right One In. This does not happen in Underworld: Rise of the Lycans, for the most part, but there are signs that the emotions of the characters were taken into account when screenplay drafts were commissioned.
The would be father/son dynamic between Lucian and Viktor (William Nighy) in is good, especially how other vampires in Viktor’s castle react to it. When Lucian intervenes to save Sonja’s life, inadvertently breaking the trust Viktor had bestowed upon him and the subsequent discovery of their love affair, are when Underworld: Rise of the Lycans becomes more than a mere action movie with Vampires and Werewolves as plot devices. Depending on their empathy level, certain viewers may feel sorrow for what the three principle characters go through in the third act of the film, most notably Lucian and Sonja. One issue that is never explained, however, throughout Underworld: Rise of the Lycans, is the issue of immorality. If Vampires and Werewolves are immortals, how and why do they age? Lucian is an immortal and yet he aged for youth to Lycanthrope man. Sonja is immortal and yet aged from youth to Vampire woman. Wiseman and McBride should have worked on the logic of immortality before trying to play with and manipulate something that should have been a constant.
Patrick Tatopoulos’ Underworld: Rise of the Lycans is first viable film in this hybrid horror series. It does not redeem the first two entires in the series, like Matrix Revolution redeemed the Matrix franchise after the abysmal disaster of Matrix Reloaded, but it does make them necessary. If the first two Underworld failures had never been made, Underworld: Rise of the Lycans would not exist, which would be a shame.