Anemic prequel

Mystery of third Underworld: why it exists

Underworld: Rise of the Lycans
Starring Michael Sheen, Bill Nighy and Rhona Mitra. Directed by Patrick Tatopoulos. Feather River Cinemas, Paradise Cinema 7 and Tinseltown. Rated R.
Rated 2.0

Six years ago—before hardly anyone had heard of Kate Beckinsale, Michael Sheen, Scott Speedman or Billy Nighy, and certainly Len Wiseman—a moody little vampires-vs.-werewolves flick hit theaters worldwide. Underworld got panned by critics, but it opened strongly enough ($21.7 million) and wound up grossing enough overall ($95.7 million) to merit a sequel.

Underworld: Evolution also got critically thrashed yet squeaked into blockbuster territory ($111 million). So here we are, three years later, with Underworld: Rise of the Lycans—a prequel that opened over the weekend with comparable reviews and receipts ($20.8 million).

The clan of loyalists includes yours truly. I love the look, feel and mythos Wiseman created, then passed on to his special-effects whiz, Patrick Tatopoulos. The third film brings to life the backstory of how werewolves—a.k.a. Lycans—became the blood enemies of the vampires.

Hardly anything here would surprise anyone who paid attention the first time around. In fact, Lycans is so true to the flashbacks in Underworld that it’ll spoil the plot twists for anyone who sees ’em out of order. Once we figure out that Sonja (Rhona Mitra) is the daughter of Viktor (Nighy), it’s clear why she’s so reminiscent of Selene (Beckinsale, absent apart from a cameo)—and we know what’ll happen to Sonja, as well as to Lucien the Lycan lord (Sheen, Oscar-nominated for Frost/Nixon) and every other familiar face.

Lycans isn’t bad; it’s just unnecessary. It breaks no new ground in story, action or visuals. If you’re a fan who’s content with that, go get your fix, if you haven’t done so already; otherwise, catch the first two on DVD and wait for this to hit Blu-Ray.