Friday, January 23, 2009

Movie Review: Underworld: Rise of the Lycans

There are many things that can be said about the Underworld franchise, more than a few of which are negative. It can be said, for instance, that these are bad movies, that by any metric - be it acting or writing or directing - the series is sub par. A similar complaint could likewise be brought against the cinematography. Or editing. Costume design. Set design, wardrobe, effects - both practical and computer generated, production, and catering. And we've heard the key grip was mediocre at best.

But such criticisms have no place here. They are, admittedly, valid and appropriate in the world outside, but we in The Middle Room judge movies like these by other criteria.

And, in many ways, this was an exceptional film. The color correction alone was fascinating to watch: so much blue was added that the picture, at times, seemed as animated as Speed Racer. Of course, in the case of Speed Racer this was the intended effect, while in Underworld: Rise of the Lycans it seemed accidental... but that is the very point.

Underworld: Rise of the Lycans is a dramatic failure, an unintentional comedy, and a glorious one at that. Is it the next Chronicles of Riddick? No, it is hard to imagine any film achieving the glory of Vin Diesel's (iD&Di: 1.0) classic. But it is a worthy attempt, nonetheless.

It is difficult to describe the experience Rise of The Lycans offers its viewers. It is as if the makers of a SciFi movie of the week were given the time and money to attempt to recreate Lord of the Rings. The script is written as though penned by a sixteen year old, and each line that escaped Bill Nighy's lips is one of comedic brilliance. Yes, there is genius in this picture's simplicity. To state that cliches occupied the dialogue doesn't do the film justice: it was as if every line was a cliche. Indeed, we never realized how many cliches existed until we saw them delivered, one after another, in Rise of the Lycans.

At all times we were engaged, and we were not alone. The audience was never silent: not for a moment did the laughter cease.

It should be added that the film was intended to be dramatic. This did not detract from our enjoyment, but rather enhanced it. Anyone can make a bad movie without trying, but only but attempting to craft a good film can one fail and make something gloriously bad.

And glorious Underworld is. It is pablum for the soul, and for, if nothing else, it was worth the cost of admission. That vampires and werewolves slaughter each other in bloodbaths of video game-quality CG doesn't hurt, either.

If Chronicles or Riddick is a five star picture, Underworld: Rise of the Lycans deserves three. They may not be the brightest of stars, but they deserve something for effort.

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