Kevin's Monster Review - Underworld: Rise of the Lycans and Outlander
by Kevin Powers
January 25, 2009
This weekend should prove particularly fun for sci-fi fans. Underworld: Rise of the Lycans takes us back to the beginning of the shadowy battle between vampires and lycans, while Outlander presents an altogether new conflict between ancient Vikings and what may be "the next big thing" in monsters of the genre, Moorwens. While each film maintains an engrained appeal for any fan of the category, it's Underworld that proves the better breed, thanks in large part to leads Bill Nighy and Michael Sheen. Outlander has the capable James Caviezel and John Hurt, sure, but neither do particularly well with the half-hearted story; whereas the origins tale for Underworld serves as a deft complement to the series.
Underworld: Rise of the Lycans - A Step Back in Story, But Not in Quality
Directed by: Patrick Tatopoulos
Kevin's Rating: 7 out of 10
Rise of the Lycans is certainly new territory for the Underworld story. Gone are the latex and leather trappings of the first two films, and in their place, chain-mail and armor. It's less sexy and less urban this time around, which were two appealing hallmarks of the series. Lead actress Kate Beckinsale is gone, as well, though she's replaced by the, dare I say sultrier, Rhona Mitra. The story and medieval setting is definitely a different taste, but something that we can gladly sink our teeth into all the same.
Mitra stars as Sonja, daughter to the vampire king Viktor. Despite her lineage and looks, Sonja is a rebellious, fierce warrior who often disobeys her father, opting to fight in battles as opposed to tend to her position on the council. Her side-stepping convention reaches a treacherous level when she gets involved with Lucian , a lycan slave (and Viktor's favorite). We quickly learn that Lucian is but one of a large group of shackled lycans that serve the vampire community, most notably in protecting their stronghold during the daylight hours. The vampires are increasingly in need of protection as attacks against them and their human neighbors, with whom they have a symbiotic relationship, have increased. The assailants are a line of lycans that can no longer change back to human form, and therefore are regarded as mindless, feral beasts. Viktor's way of handling this threat highlights his disdain for the entire race, sparking Lucian's battle to be set free.
Truly, the best part of Rise of the Lycans is Nighy. As the embattled king, dealing with his daughter's betrayal and the bestial uprising from both in and outside his walls, Nighy manifests one of the best vampire characters of the genre I've ever seen. If Viktor was ever taken in a more grounded, Stoker-like direction (e.g. sans the blue eyes and exaggerated surroundings), watch out! Sheen's return as Lucian, as well, is appropriately counterbalanced. I have to give the guy credit for running around in the muck and mud shirtless for virtually the entire film, especially in one scene with Mitra. As for the death-dealing diva, she serves as an acceptable if not better female lead in the story. I'm still out on which one I prefer.
For those who have seen the other two films, you know what happens to Mitra's character and where the story is headed. One of the fun aspects of this prequel is connecting the dots, and realizing that the team did a fantastic job sewing this film into the other two. The DVD box set will be a keeper for sure. Not that a lot happens in Rise of the Lycans, mind you, or that every question is answered (particularly in regards to the character of William). And while the film did fall a tad short in the special effects -- some of the blood and CGI is too conspicuous -- and the plot is little swift and spotty, all told it's a fitting addition to the series.
Outlander - Focuses on the Wrong Outlander
Directed by: Howard McCain
Kevin's Rating: 3.5 out of 10
The other period battle vying for your attention takes place in 709 AD, and involves an ancient Viking village, a downed space traveler and the beast he's hunting called a Moorwen. While Outlander surrounds the hunter Kainan, adapting to his Old World environment and continuing his mission, what you really want is to see and learn more of the Moorwen -- mainly because that's the only part of the film director Howard McCain got right. Kainan bonding with the Vikings, the accessory special effects and the progression of the plot are all boring and at times disappointing. The film's sole noteworthy accomplishment is bringing this intriguing alien beast into the genre. Interestingly, McCain was a writer on Rise of the Lycans, and that film's director, Patrick Tatopoulos, worked on creature effects for Outlander.
Unfortunately, it takes quite a while for the audience to discover more about the beast that's ravaging neighboring villages, who emits strange fluorescent lights before attacking. Instead, we have to suffer through an undue number of background social sequences that ultimately have little to do with the inciting incident. We do, however, get introduced to Ron Perlman's character Gunnar, who is a heavy-hammered badass and an opposing king to Rothgar. It's well into the movie before you begin to uncover how Kainan got to Earth and the origins of the Moorwen -- in other words, the real bite to the story.
Once we learn of the creature's motivations, however, the film becomes even more tiresome. I don't want to reveal too much, but when the battle heightens, the plot assumes a straight, clear shot towards the end, which is frustratingly predictable. True sci-fi fans will be left disappointed at what the story could have been. That's assuming you see the entire film. At the beginning, Kainain's crash is pretty well done, but the subsequent CGI is laughable. There's an early Matrix-like sequence with Mist-like special effects that is bafflingly bad. I guess the film's budget went to creature effects instead.
I wouldn't be surprised if Outlander turned into a cult favorite given it's unique tale, possibly along the lines of Pitch Black. While I can't say I'm there, I certainly would welcome another film that expands on the Moorwen's background -- one that gives the creature justice, both in presence and story.
Reader Feedback - 21 Comments
first of all Rhona Mitra has to be one of the hottest women alive, and second of all, despite the poor review of Outlander I am really excited to see it. I understand that it will be somewhat disappointing but the storyline is awesome and I love the cast and I usually like anything with Caviezel. I hope it does become a solid cult classic.
Scott McHenry on Jan 25, 2009
Don't think this Kevin guy would know a good movie if it slapped him on the side of the head in a dark alley. Just another anon internet blogger, with an opinion that means about as much as a fart in the wind. For what it's worth - I thought Underworld was mildly entertaining, within the constraints of the franchise - and Outlander looks like a B-grade popcorn flick - and I mean that in a good way. I for one am awaiting Outlander.
TX9000 on Jan 25, 2009
Rhona Mitra....Was I talking out loud? Was I?!
yumm on Jan 25, 2009
You think Mitra is more attractive than Beckinsale, your opinion is invalid.
MBD on Jan 25, 2009
I saw Underworld this past Sat night. I have to agree, Rise of the Lycans was an enjoyable flick especially if you're a fan of the first two. It wasn't anything extraordinary but it's a good add on to the the franchise. If there was one thing that I must pick on, it'll have to be the ending. I thought they could've made it bit more dramatic and added more to the battle scenes.
Omega728 on Jan 25, 2009
I saw UW3 Friday night and it was very lacking. I enjoyed the action, humor and of course Bill Nighy's Viktor. However, it was inconsistent with the first two films. *If you recall from the first film, Michael Corvin was having a dream of Sonja being ashed. In the sequence Sonja had dirty blonde hair or light brown; meanwhile, Mitra does not.* There are more inconsistencies between this film and the first two. Can you spot them all? It is the inconsistencies that make this my least favorite of any saga based movies. I understand having different actors, but when it comes down to it the minor details can immerse you into the film or leave you on the outside.
Lycan@Heart on Jan 25, 2009
Underworld is awesome. And of course I'll just state the obvious and confess that Rhona Mitra has registered on the hotness scale ever since her short exposure in Hollow Man (and I'm only referring to her lovely looks, not the ghastly context). As for Outlander, I can't help but remain optimistic for the moment. Hope it turns out well.
bRINGER on Jan 25, 2009
That is funny, #2 insults the critic (Kevin) first, and then he confirms that his opinion on both movies is the pretty much the same. So basically, this TX9000 says: Kevin is a stupid moron that don't understand what a good movie is, but his review is exactly what I think. BTW, TX9000, Kevin's name is above the review, and your burp of words is #2 in comments below that review. So who's opinion is a fart in the wind? Cursing over the Internet... that's classy.
Just another "anon Internet Blogger" on Jan 25, 2009
I can believe everyone is watching these movies in the cinema. I will wait until i can get a pirated copy to watch on my own PC before passing judgement. 😛
chrisuk on Jan 26, 2009
This one is my favorite of all of them top film.
Pinky on Jan 26, 2009
UW3 was an enjoyable escape. If you your down with the first 2, then you will love it. Have to agree about the info about William, and Mirta is just breathtaking. There was a few continuty issues but wtf........even my Wife liked it. I still want to see Outlander, even with the mixed reviews.
Tim "Cloverfield" on Jan 26, 2009
Interesting reviews Kevin. I'm sure by now you've learned to ignore internet hostility and keep on writin' fun reviews for us to read. I'll give Underworld a shot, though I wasn't a fan of the first one at all. Outlander didn't look to be anything more than a cheap action movie, which doesn't cut it in my opinion. It can enthrall me with good action all it wants, but until a film does something different and breaks the genre's mold at least through it's conventions I won't give it a positive review.
Will S. on Jan 26, 2009
Going to see it on the 'morrow. 7 bux during the day!
feohatestheworld on Jan 26, 2009
I haven't seen (and don't plan to) Outlander, but I loved the first two Underworld movies, and this thrid fit right in with them. I noticed the differences in the flashbacks from the second and this one, but I'm not worried about them, and they didn't diminish my enjoyment during the movie. Honestly, I'll be excited when they do come out in a set, and I hope they edit those flashbacks to match. I'll buy the set, watch it on Saturday, and hope they come out with another!
RStewie on Jan 27, 2009
I just saw Underworld: Rise of the Lycans last night I thought it was pretty good. I was very impressed with Michael Sheen, I really need to see Frost/Nixon now more than ever.
tzarinna on Jan 27, 2009
I havent seen UW3 yet but I have seen Outlander and tbh I think kevins review is pretty much spot on, Outlander is very much in the same vein of pitch black, it sometimes looks cheap and although the sets themselves seem to provide a quality feel to the movie some of the special effects let it down somewhat (the afore mentioned 'matrix' nod for example) and tbh the laser gun the lead char sets off with looks like a nerf blaster painted silver, then again it is a "B-Movie". However the CGI in the flashback offworldy sections as well as the creature effects all look as good as anything else you may have seen in a top budget movie of this genre. All in all I think this may well become a cult classic, and IMHO I think this movie was actually better then the other sci-fi releases of late, namely the remake of the day the earth stood still, although its the moorwen that's the star of the show in this one (just as Gort was in TDTESS remake), and I think this creature could possibly be the Aliens of the 21st century and if this move does have a sequel / spinoff thats half as good as pitch blacks spinoff (riddick) Ill be first in the que. But its a case of moar Moorwen for the win.
Nomad2k on Jan 27, 2009
Rhona Mitra is such b*tch, someone please tell her to stop pouting
alex on Feb 1, 2009
I want Outlander to reach the US and even if it does I am going to ticked if it turns out to be R-rated because it didn't look that way. PG-13 please and DVD soon, vary few creature-themed movies pull off the creature perfectly and this is a new creature. I don't care much for the story but I would like to know more about it. Enough creature scenes and I'm good.
Acro on Feb 4, 2009
Watching Outlander was the equivalent of watching a dog taking a shit on my front lawn. It's disturbing, smelly, it makes me angry, I want to kick it, but I still have to watch until completion because it's amusing to feel embarassed for the dog shitting out in the open...much like the actors in this film. Lycans was similar except the shitting dog was really a piece of nice ass!
Lokiluvcocky on Jul 16, 2009
#20 nice statement 🙂 felt the same way. outlander sucked. still have to see UW3. but its a shame beckinsale aint in it
yowsaman on Nov 17, 2009
Sorry, no commenting is allowed at this time.