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Underworld: Rise of the Lycans(2009)
'Underworld: Rise of the Lycans' explores the origins of the centuries-old blood feud between the aristocratic vampires known as Death Dealers and their onetime slaves, the Lycans.
For more about Underworld: Rise of the Lycans and the Underworld: Rise of the Lycans Blu-ray release, see Underworld: Rise of the Lycans Blu-ray Review published by Kenneth Brown on May 3, 2009 where this Blu-ray release scored 4.0 out of 5.
Director: Patrick Tatopoulos
Writers: Howard McCain, Dirk Blackman, Robert Orr, Len Wiseman (I), Danny R. McBride
Starring: Michael Sheen, Bill Nighy, Rhona Mitra, Steven Mackintosh, Kevin Grevioux, David Aston
» See full cast & crew
Underworld: Rise of the Lycans Blu-ray Review
A not-so-hotly-anticipated prequel to a flawed pair of decent actioners...
Reviewed by Kenneth Brown, May 3, 2009
Ah, my dearest Underworld: I remember when you first tried to win my heart. You promised me a blood-curdling war between vampires and werewolves, you assured me I would be treated to a climactic clash of the horror titans, you even swore I would jump out of my seat and cheer. But like so many cinematic lovers, you didn't understand what I was actually looking for. It was a fun fling, sure -- enough so that I endured your plodding gunfights, neutered vamps, and uninspired attempts to create a hybrid -- but you were just too superficial to satisfy me. I even remember when you tried to earn my affection again. You had certainly evolved -- finally delivering a slew of claw-on-claw tussles, a more menacing foe, and a variety of nail-biting chases -- but you still lacked the substance I longed for. I thought I had rejected you. I thought we were through. Yet here you are again, knocking at my Blu-ray player's door with another sleek and shiny offering; an aptly-titled prequel you hope will give me everything I've ever asked for and more. Have you really changed? Are you really up to the task?
Rise of the Lycans takes us back to the very beginning of the Underworld mythos: to a time when werewolves were mindless beasts that couldn't take human form and vampires were vulnerable castle-dwellers prone to human attack. But when an elder vampire named Viktor (Bill Nighy) encounters a young werewolf named Lucian (Michael Sheen) who can change forms at will, he captures the halfling in hopes of creating guardians capable of defending his castle during the day. Everything proceeds according to Viktor's plan -- he uses his new pet to make dozens of Lycan slaves, maintain the peace, and guard his homestead -- that is until his precious Lucian defies the law in order to save Viktor's daughter, Sonja (Doomsday's Rhona Mitra). In spite of his noble actions, the Lycan is punished and imprisoned with his own kind, doomed to live out his days as a lowly servant. However, unbeknownst to Viktor, Lucian and Sonja have been secret lovers for quite some time. The two plan to escape, but not before Lucian can free his enslaved brothers from their bonds.
Every prequel may indeed prove itself to be a tragedy, but there's a reason tragedies have been the prevailing source of entertainment for so many centuries. There's something compelling and unnerving about watching the inevitable unfold; seeing a story run its course regardless of how desperately its characters try to alter their destinies. Rise of the Lycans will draw obvious comparisons to Romeo & Juliet and other tales of doomed, star-crossed lovers: theirs is a familiar tale of unforgiving fathers, the consequences of conflict, and the endurance of true love. To that end, I wouldn't blame anyone for thinking this entry in the Underworld series is wrapped in tired cliches and self-indulgent gravitas. But to simply write off the first Lycan struggle as predictable and pretentious would be to miss the point. Yes, it's slower than its two predecessors; yes, it takes a lot of time to flesh out its on-screen relationships; and yes, it sometimes raises more questions than it answers. Even so, the slowburn story allows the third act to actually resonate. Unlike Underworld and Evolution, Rise of the Lycans allows its viewers to invest in the trials and tribulations of its characters. By the time its legions of werewolves and vampires finally show their teeth, it has a resounding impact.
Plus, let's be honest: watching two iconic beasties go toe-to-toe and claw-to-claw is a surefire way to make a fanboy froth at the mouth. Rise of the Lycans treats its eventual clashes with all the weight and urgency of a legitimate battle royale. Some character introductions are a bit clumsy (Kevin Grevioux's Raze plays an all-too-obvious role in the rebellion), but it doesn't seem to matter so long as Sheen's Lucian is such a magnetic force in the tale. He not only manages to elevate the entire film, he single-handedly changes the way series fans will view the original Underworld. Lucian is no longer the hand-wringing villain he once was, his plight is revealed to be far more intriguing, and his endgame gives the first film meatier themes to play with. Make no mistake, Underworld actually lives up to its age-old promises and gives vampire and werewolf fans like myself something more substantial than silver-tipped bullets and chunky transformations.
Perhaps I'm looking too far into what I should recognize as a meandering actioner, but I found myself enjoying Rise of the Lycans more than Underworld and Underworld: Evolution. It strikes a fine balance between its supernatural dust-ups and gut-wrenching plot developments, produces some surprisingly strong performances, and sheds new light on earlier (um... later?) entries in the series. I have no doubt some of you will absolutely loathe the film's slower pace and inclusion of romantic melodrama -- I doubt I could muster a successful argument against either criticism -- but it all clicked into place for me. So with that, all I have to say is this: well done, dear Underworld... I look forward to our next rendezvous.
Underworld: Rise of the Lycans Blu-ray, Video Quality
Sony has given Rise of the Lycans the same high-quality, high definition treatment it afforded the first two entries in the Underworld series. Blessed with a sharp and stunning 1080p/AVC-encoded transfer, the film looks nothing short of amazing. The heavily-processed image is intentionally slathered with searing blues and oppressive shadows, but the at-times monochromatic palette rarely obscures fine detail. Objects have been naturally rendered without the assistance of any glaring edge enhancement, textures are refined and exceedingly revealing, and delineation is impressive (particularly considering the abundance of pitch-black expanses that litter the presentation). More importantly, the picture itself isn't disrupted by a single, significant technical anomaly -- aside from some intentional crushing, I didn't detect any errant artifacting, troubling source noise, or bothersome banding. While a filmic veneer of grain does pepper the proceedings, it remains steady from the opening titles to the closing credits. Best of all, crisp and consistent contrast leveling injects an enviable amount of depth and dimensionality into each frame. The stylized nature of the film prevents the transfer from achieving Blu-ray's oh-so-hallowed "picture window" effect, but it comes pretty close. My final verdict? The Blu-ray edition of Rise of the Lycans lines up perfectly with its series predecessors and will give fans plenty to rave about when it hits store shelves.
Underworld: Rise of the Lycans Blu-ray, Audio Quality
Rounding out the disc's AV one-two punch, Rise of the Lycans also boasts a looming, booming Dolby TrueHD 5.1 surround track that will bring the film's climactic clashes thundering into your living room. While it's by no means as aggressive or as unrelenting as the PCM mixes that accompany Underworld and Underworld: Evolution (Lycans is, after all, a quieter film), it still delivers the sonic goods anytime it's called upon. Dialogue is impeccable, intelligible, and perfectly prioritized amidst the at-times chaotic soundscape. Low-frequency extension is robust and powerful -- an early encounter between Lucian and a band of werewolf raiders, a dangerous jailbreak, and a third act castle siege are demo-worthy scenes -- while active rear speaker support envelops the listener with convincing acoustics, persistent ambience, and a number of head-swiveling illusions. Better still, pans effortlessly whisk by and directionality is spot on, proving that the film's sound designers weren't interested in using lazy tricks to artificially enhance the track's immersive properties. Once again, Sony demonstrates its ability to capture the essence of a theatrical presentation and transplant it to a consumer's home theater.
Underworld: Rise of the Lycans Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
Underworld: Rise of the Lycans offers fans all of the special features that appear on the concurrently-released DVD, upgrades the quality of the content with high definition video, and even adds in a few exclusives (most notably a well-produced Picture-in-Picture track). The package may not be as extensive or involving as those we've seen on Underworld releases in the past, but it should still satisfy anyone who enjoyed the film.
Underworld: Rise of the Lycans Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
Critical consensus be damned: I thoroughly enjoyed Underworld: Rise of the Lycans, appreciated its focus on story and character, and wholeheartedly embraced its so-called cliches. I know I'm in the minority, but I had a great time watching this one. The 2-disc Blu-ray edition is even better. It features a striking video transfer, a strong TrueHD audio track, and a healthy helping of supplemental material (including an exclusive PiP experience). I suppose it's safer to rent this critically-panned prequel if you didn't catch it in theaters, but fans should lay down their credit card with confidence knowing that Sony has delivered another remarkable Blu-ray release.
Underworld: Rise of the Lycans: Other Editions
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Underworld: Rise of the Lycans Blu-ray, News and Updates
• The Sky Crawlers and Underworld Box Announced - March 16, 2009
Sony Pictures Home Entertainment have announced that they will bring the Mamoru Oshii film 'The Sky Crawlers' to Blu-ray on May 26th, day-and-date with the DVD release. Additionally, they have announced that they will bring the 'Underworld BD 3-pack' to Blu-ray ...
• Underworld: Rise of the Lycans Announced for Blu-ray - March 13, 2009
Sony Pictures Home Entertainment has announced that they will bring 'Underworld: Rise of the Lycans' to Blu-ray on May 12th, day-and-date with the DVD release. Video will be presented in 1080p AVC accompanied by a 5.1 Dolby TrueHD soundtrack. The release will also ...
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