Sunday, February 01, 2009

Underworld - U: Evolution - U: Rise of the Lycans

I saw a really great movie earlier last week, but first, a quick update on Batman: TAS (if anyone still cares). I will be getting back to that soon. There's still one thing that will occupy my nights for the next week or two, but once that's taken care of I'll make better use of my time than just playing the XBox all the time (I just got Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time, which is pretty cool) and get some Batman reviews done too. Along with the cartoon I plan to review some comics; I finished Batman: No Man's Land Volume 1 recently and want to discuss it, as well as a few books from the Dune series.

There will be spoilers for the previous two films, and probably some for this one as well.

I thought Underworld: Rise of the Lycans was a great movie. The relationship between Sonia and Lucian was really well executed and they're both quite sympathetic characters. Viktor, on the other hand, is NOT a sympathetic character. It's interesting to see how the point of view of the films changes.

The first, Underworld, was mostly from Selene's point of view, from the perspective that the vampires with the good side of the war, and the lycans were the bad; Viktor was Selene's hero and her savior. But as we get to know Lucian through Michael (Michael was bit by Lucian, and as he undergoes his first werewolf transformation he sees Lucian's memories) we learn that Lucian's woman was executed by her own father, Viktor, for loving him, because she was a vampire and he was a lycan.


Then there's the big reveal later that it wasn't lycan's that slaughtered Selene's family, with Viktor arriving in time to save her life (only to turn her into a vampire so she could hunt down lycans for the next 600 years), but that Viktor in fact was her family's killer, and he spared her because she reminded him of the daughter he had lost. So with Viktor the bad guy at the culmination of the movie, Selene kills him and the lycans leave her and Michael in peace.

Underworld: Evolution picks up soon after the first, with Selene and Michael hiding from the vampires, with Selene planning to return to her coven and wake the last remaining Elder Vampire, Marcus, to explain everything that transpired in the first, in hopes of winning amnesty for Michael from the vampires. It's again told very much from the vampire perspective, this time Selene and Marcus. The plot of the first film was that the lycans were trying to combine the vampire and lycan bloodlines to create a hybrid which would be more powerful than either, and they succeeded in Michael (which is why the vampires want to destroy him, Abomination!). However, they also inadvertently turned Marcus into a hybrid, only he's a much more powerful hybrid, he being the original vampire, he's more a bat-man and he looks really cool. Anyway, he seems to have gone a little insane from the transformation, and he decides to kill all the vampires in his coven and find out why Viktor thought Selene was so important (and then kill her). And free his brother.

Turns out his brother, William, is the original werewolf. Marcus and William are the sons of Alexander Corvinus, a noble of types from centuries ago. A plague swept through the land and killed all of those under Alexander Corvinus, he too contracted the virus, but somehow he didn't die. His body was changed such that he stopped aging and getting sick, and he became the first immortal. He could still die, of course, by violence, but natural causes of death no longer affect him. I guess sometime after this point he had two sons who grew to adulthood and stopped aging, the virus and its effects having been passed to them. Then one was bitten by a wolf and the other a bat, and the vampire and werewolf species came into existence. But the werewolf that William because was not like the lycans of later days. He was permanently transformed into a large, somewhat humanoid wolf creature, and became completely feral, all his past humanity lost. Also, he was highly infectious. He went on murderous rampages throughout the countryside, and those he murdered would come back to life as crazed wolf-creatures like him.

At some point Marcus came to Viktor, a human noble or ruler of some type, who was dying of old age, and he offered him immortality. Viktor turned his armies and the nobles of his court into vampires and immediately took over as the ruling vampire. He and his armies hunted down the feral werewolves, trying to exterminate them, and in a concession to Marcus, to capture William. This is actually the point at which E:U started, which the capture of William, and his eternal imprisonment. We see some more that Viktor is actually a really big stupid head and convinced of his own superiority over all others we have no reason to like him.


Okay, so back to Marcus hunting Selene and Michael. He learned that Michael has been wearing a pendant that Lucian had all through the first movie, which we learned he took from Sonia after she was murdered, which had been given to her by her father, Viktor. From another rather old vampire Selene and Michael had learned why Viktor had murdered Selene's family, for it wasn't just to feast on the blood of humans, it was to guard a secret - the location of William's prison, for Selene's father was the one that built the sarcophagus that William is imprisoned in. And the pendant is part of the key. Marcus kills Michael, finds out where the sarcophagus is being kept (because vampires and werewolves can read each other's memories through drinking each other's blood - which I thought was pretty cool), and rushes off to free his brother.

Selene takes some army-type guys with her (who are actually in the employ of Alexander Corvinus) and rushes off to stop Marcus from freeing the most infectious and powerful lycan. They bring the body of Michael with them. Marcus frees William, who attacks the soldier guys, quite easily killing them (so they can shortly rise as rabid dog werewolves for Selene to kill. Then she's left to face William and Marcus, but Michael's body finally finishes healing itself and he joins the fight. Marcus and Selene fight up on a bridge, while William and Michael fight down below, Michael being cleverer and more agile he eventually wins the fight by getting on William's back, grabbing William's upper snout, and tearing his head in half. This distracts Marcus enough that Selene is able to push him into the still rotating blades of a crashed helicopter so he can get blended into bite size bits, and the movie ends with Selene and Michael probably going to be able to live the rest of their lives out in peace.


And finally back to the movie I'm trying to review, Underworld: Rise of the Lycans. This movie appears at first to be told from the vampire perspective, but is really all about Lucian and the lycans, with a little bit from Sonia and Viktor thrown in. You know, for guy who died at the end of the first movie Viktro got as much or more screen time in the sequels than the Selene did.

I started this review Wednesday morning after having seen the film, and it is now Sunday morning, and I've really forgotten quite a bit of the movie. I'm not sure if I remember how it started, or what for explanatory dialog there might have been at the beginning. Guess I need to go see it again. This movie takes place hundreds of years in the past (compared to the first two movies which take place in the now), as U:ROTL starts the vampires are at war with the lycans, but these are the original breed of lycans, the vicious, feral lycans; the mindless murderous beasts. The vampires have a nice big fortress they live in, with Viktor as the lord of the vampires. It's shown that the vampires have several of these lycans imprisoned, though I don't remember why, maybe to torment them, or experiment upon them, something or other. Anyway, the important point is that one of these feral lycans had a baby. A baby that wasn't a wolf-creature, but a human baby boy. Viktor kills the mother, and it just about to kill the boy, when he suddenly has a change of heart.

The boy of course, is Lucian, and he is raised as a slave of the vampires. He is quite intelligent, and unlike the lycans that gave birth to him, he can transform between wolf and human form (at the full moon). He is used by the vampires to create more lycans like him, taking from the human slaves the vampires keep. We also learn he is the (or a) blacksmith for the coven, and the favored slave of Viktor (and not the favored of the slave keeper, of course). We are also introduced to Viktor's daughter Sonia. She's an independent woman, strong and courageous, often disobeying her father to leave the safety of the fortress to hunt down the wild lycans. And eventually we are shown what we already know from the previous movies, Sonia and Lucian are in love, despite the class and racial differences.


I rather expected that we would see Kraven in this film. Evil Vicious Cousin Derek and I looked the movie up on last week to see who was in it, and seeing whoever as Kraven from the previous two films excited me a little, because he was a sneaky, slimy , backstabbing worm in the first film (and died in the first 20 minutes of the second) and I wanted to see his involvement in the origin of the war between Viktor and Lucian, and expected him to be one of Viktor's primary lackeys. But he wasn't. His lackey in this one was Tanis, the historian we met in Underworld: Evolution. Which was cool, I rather liked Tanis, and he had a very large part in this movie. For example, when Lucian and Sonia sneak out to boink he sees them together, and puts two and two together. But he's also cool and doesn't snitch on them to Viktor.

Anyway, this wasn't supposed to be a plot recap of the movie, more a general review and my thoughts on it. The action was good. The CG lycans were good. Viktor was a hateful evil monster, just like the first two movies, but he's a great actor and had a great presence in the film (and the first film too, I really, really liked Viktor in Underworld, right up until the end when we found out he was the bad guy). The design of the props, sets and costumes was really cool - the lycan slaves were fitted with collars that had 4 silver spikes in the front, so if they tried to transform they'd get skewered in the throat, the vampires were all very well dressed, especially Viktor, with intricate designs on his fancy robes and armor. Rage has the freakiest voice of anyone I have ever heard. And it's awesome.


The execution scene was excellent. We saw it in flashbacks in the first movie, and this recreation was very faithful, and very emotional. Lucian, of course, was torn apart (emotionally) as he was chained in front of Sonia to watch her die. At first he tried to be the brave one, trying to distract Sonia from her impending doom, but as the skylight was opened he lost his focus and control and completely broke down, trying to break free and save her, and finally slumping in defeat, while in contrast Sonia maintained her calm, even as the sun fell upon her and turned her into ash. Then when Viktor came back into the chamber (after night feel) to see how it went, he pulled the pendant from her neck, Lucian transformed, freed himself, took the pendant, and escaped, Again, just like in the flashback, but new and exciting all the same.

What we didn't see in the flashbacks is what Viktor did during the execution. After leaving Sonia and Lucian chained in the chamber, he went to Sonias room, and wept like I wouldn't have believed possible. He loved Sonia like no other, and was apparently really broken hearted to have had to sentence her to death. Speaking of which, she was brought before the council of vampires to be judged, he presented the crime and the sentence (death) and asked for a vote. Each of the council members voted in favor of the sentence, and he was the last to have to vote. And he hesitated. For several long seconds he paused, and in fact, there may have been flashbacks to her as a child, like when he gave her the pendant, but I don't remember for sure. But he hesitated a long while before finally saying, "Aye." So he sobbed and sobbed in her room, while his daughter burst into flame.


Lucian escaped, the wolves overran this fortress, and killed all the vampires except Tanis and the three elders (Marcus and Amelia, who were slumbering, and Viktor, who escaped after a near fatal encounter with an enraged Lucian) who escaped to presumably form another coven someplace else. And that's when the movie should have ended. Everything was perfectly awesome up to that point. Then there were the last thirty seconds or so.

Seriously. The movie was totally awesome, possibly the best of the three (the guy behind us said as much, but I very much enjoyed the previous two flicks), except for the last thirty seconds, in which they needlessly put in footage of Selene from the first movie, the opening shot of the first movie where she was perched on a ledge at the top of a tall building, with a voice over by Kraven, saying something (I don't quite remember actually, but it seems like it was something about how the consequences of the events of this movie would cascade down through time). It was completely pointless, and I'm sure somebody felt it was needed to tie this movie to the first two, maybe to make clear that this one is a prequel to the previous films, but it was so completely unnecessary and ham-handed that it almost spoiled the movie. It surely broke the mood we were in after the seeing the true ending of the film.

If you go see the movie (which I highly recommend to anyone that doesn't mind the rather copious amounts of blood), do yourself a favor and leave after Viktor leaves on the boat.

The abomination growing in her womb was a betrayal of me and the coven. I did what was necessary to protect the species. As I am forced to do yet again.

1 comment:

Marissa said...

I'm glad I didn't see these shows. Too much blood.