Blood-sucking returns to its roots

Amanda Marie Alvarado

As a fan of vampire films, before the unfortunate dawn of ‘Twilight’, I’ve learn to expect disappointment 90 percent of the time. What began with classics like ‘Nosferatu’ often get bled dry to satiate commercial interests (two words: Tom Cruise). Vampire lovers, once lured, encounter an experience with little plot or bite. Thus, the 2003 release of the action-horror film ‘Underworld’ ‘- portraying the origin and centuries-long war between vampires and Lycans (werewolves) ‘- shockingly renewed the immortal thirst.

A back-story as intelligent and developed as ‘Underworld’ demanded a prequel. The series followed in 2006 with a moderately successful sequel, ‘Underworld: Evolution.’ This installment details the fall of the twin fathers of both species. To fans’ disappointment, the film did little more than capitalize on Kate Beckinsale’s rising stardom. Never fear ‘Underworld’ fans! The third film returns to the series’ original glory, and even surpasses expectations.

In a Romeo-and-Juliet version of immortality, ‘Rise of the Lycans’ depicts the archetype of forbidden love reverberated in the previous films. Set in the ancient past, before vampires were driven underground, the prequel fully explains the circumstances leading to the vampires’ enslavement of Lycans and the resulting blood feud. The beautifully crafted story drives our emotions, heightened due to the fast-paced action and visual effects. At the center of the film is the star-crossed, legendary relationship between the vampire king’s daughter, Sonja (Rhona Mitra) and the first hybrid werewolf, Lucian (Michael Sheen).

Michael Sheen, a quickly rising industry name and star of Academy-Award nominated ‘Frost/Nixon,’ provides depth and range in his stunning portrayal of Lucian. Sheen’s sheer brilliance gives the film significance in a genre not well known for its caliber of performance. In contrast, Bill Nighy, as Viktor, spits out his lines with the same bored expression he wore at the Jan. 22 premier. Despite the divergence, true Underworld fans and those of the genre will appreciate Patrick Tatopoulos directorial debut. Given a higher visual effects budget, acting and script, the prequel actually surpasses the original’s prominence.