Underworld: Rise of the Lycans is a dark, vampire-werewolf movie that attempts to predate itself. Telling the story of the “origins” of the vampire-werewolf feud, it shows the frontstabbing and backstabbing that marked the first two movies, making humans a mere afterthought for this sci-fi Hatfields and McCoys. Viktor (Bill Nighy) hopes his human-Lycan breed, Lucian (Michael Sheen) can protect his daylight-impaired clan from being attacked; but instead, a Romeo-and-Juliet-style romance develops between Lucian and his daughter, Sonja (Rhona Mitra). When the enslaved Lycan werewolves decide they’ve had enough, civil war erupts and the special effects shine on a medieval tale.
The big picture involves Lycan versus vampire, while the smaller one continues to revolve around the love story that is Lucian and Sonja. Somehow, the love story that was the story of Selene (Kate Beckinsale) and Michael (Scott Speedman) always seemed more believable than this one does. And the storyline in the first two movies revolved around the same tension and struggle between the two family lines, but setting it against a modern era (or a future one) made it doubly entertaining. Still, one could enjoy the Rise of the Lycans on its own ground, as a solo film, more in the vein of Lord of the Rings, Pathfinder, or something similar.
The special effects and the action scenes are always worth the price of admission, but I remain interested in the social consciousness that the story seems to evoke. The vampires’ use of the Lycans resembles the ways in which African slaves were used in the United States and elsewhere in the 17th and 18th centuries; the rise of Lucian within the ranks of the prisoners and with the other Lycans is Gladiator-like (I know that’s fiction but it resembles historical slave uprisings); and the frustration over a “mixed blood” relationship remains in many societies today.
Lucian remains the centerpiece throughout, as he searches to be true in love, as he longs to be a positive leader and deal with his animalistic cravings while being civilized (think Hellboy or Angel). When he returns to free those left behind, including Sonja, Lucian plays out the stereotypes and natural (and done before) order of things, but the excitement is ramped up and the battles are fierce. As has been true of the Underworld movies throughout, this is no helpless damsel in distress that he comes to free though: Sonja, like Selene, can take care of herself.
And I know I’ll reap the ire of some for this, but Lucian is a Christ-figure. He’s Jesus as Moses, as he leads his people out of the slavery that they’re bound to within the opening of the movie; he’s beaten excessively, and unmercifully flogged for his “insubordination”; and he is willing to sacrifice everything for what he believes in. So, yes, this is a dark, bloody tale of love and special effects, but in the end, there’s hope for the rejection of sin, the salvation of all people, and an equality of love that can overcome the darkest evil.
In closing, I’m torn between campy and serious so I’ll give you multiple options: The “deep” closer is blood might be thicker than water, but love runs deeper than blood. Or maybe you’d prefer the lighter version: Like blood? Than come and get it.
Either way, if it’s blood you want, then it’s blood you’ll get.