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Underworld: Rise of the Lycans by Patrick Tatopoulos (Director)
Review by Charles Mohapel
Screen Gems, Sony Pictures Home Entertainment DVD  ISBN/ITEM#: B001HN697M
Date: 15 May 2009 List Price $28.96 Amazon US / Amazon UK

Links: IMDB.com / Previous Tech Revu Article - RED Camera System / RED Digital Cinema Camera Company Home Page / Show Official Info /

Like many people I first became interested in the Underworld series when watching a promo spot featuring Selene the Death Dealer, the gorgeous vampire played by Kate Beckinsale and her pair of high tech automatic pistols. What kept my interest was the intriguing combination of lots of rapid fire action set against a backdrop of luxuriously detailed medieval history laced with the intertwined origins of the elegant vampires and the savage Lycans.

Knowing that Underworld: Rise of the Lycans was a prequel that gave the audience the richly layered backstory that many of us craved, I was eager to see what bonuses were available on the DVD.

Trailers, Previews, and Promo Spots:
Blu-ray Disc is High Definition
The Taking of Pelham 123 (In Theaters June 12)
The International (On DVD)
Blood: The Last Vampire (In Theaters July 2009)
2012
Fired Up
Waltz With Bashir (Animation)
The Informers
The Sky Crawlers (Anime DVD)
Quarantine
Resident Evil: Degeneration
What Goes Up
The Art of War III: Retribution (On DVD August 11)
The Shield, Seasons 1-7
The DaVinci Code, Extended Cut (Blu-ray)
The Grudge 3
Messengers 2: The Scarecrow

Blood: The Last Vampire is a film from the producer of Hero and Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon and tells the story of a female Chinese vampire killer who reminds me of a female version of Blade as played by Wesley Snipes.

First of all, I'm of the firm opinion that Underworld: Rise of the Lycans does an excellent job of completing the Underworld trilogy, while at the same time leaving the producers with plenty of latitude to explore this rich world with other characters should they wish to do so.

Special Features:
Filmmakers' Commentary On/Off (92 minutes)
Underworld: Rise of the Lycans - From Script To Screen (9:17)
The Origin of the Feud (19:57)
Re-Creating The Dark Ages - The Look of Underworld: Rise of the Lycans (13:00)
Music Video: Deathclub (Wes Borland/Reinholder Remix) by William Control, featuring Matt Skiba (3:50)

I heartily recommend watching Underworld: Rise of the Lycans with the Filmmakers' Commentary Off the first time, then watching it again with the Filmmakers' Commentary On, though not necessarily back to back. This was one of the most enjoyable and informative filmmakers' commentaries I can remember watching, all due to the involvement of Len Wiseman (Producer), Patrick Tatopoulos (Director), Richard Wright (Producer), Gary Lucchesi (Producer), and James McQuaide (Visual Effects (VFX) Supervisor and Executive Producer). Although none of them appear on the screen during this featurette, all of them laugh as they list the roles each of them had in the Underworld trilogy and how they work closely, a statement confirmed by the easy banter and camaraderie that permeates this segment.

We also hear from Production Designer Dan Hennah who previously worked as the Supervising Art Director on the Lord of the Rings trilogy. Michael Sheen who plays Lucian, leader of the Lycans, came straight from working on Frost/Nixon and spent the next three months getting into fantastic shape for Underworld: Rise of the Lycans. Sheen definitely brought an intensity to the role and also contributed a number of suggestions to the production.

Unlike Underworld which was filmed in Hungary and Underworld Evolution which was filmed in British Columbia, Canada, Underworld: Rise of the Lycans was filmed in New Zealand using the RED Camera System (see TechRevu article).

The courtyard where much of the film takes place was designed and built under the watchful eye of Dan Hennah and I admit to being impressed by the fact that the set was only 25 to 30 feet tall, but looks taller thanks to the CG wizards, who also contributed about 400 CG shots to the film.

Watching "Underworld: Rise of the Lycans - From Script To Screen" was very enjoyable, so much so that when it ended, I wanted more. I immediately replayed this featurette and watched while keeping an eye on the timer - I was quite surprised to see it lasted 9 minutes, 17 seconds - it seemed like 5 minutes at the most. Here we listen to Richard Wright, Patrick Tatopoulos, Gary Lucchesi, Len Wiseman, and Tom Rosenberg (Producer), as they trace the development of Underworld: Rise of the Lycans from start to finish.

In "The Origin of the Feud", we listen to Richard Wright, Tom Rosenberg, Patrick Tatopoulos, Len Wiseman, Michael Sheen (Lucian), Rhona Mitra (Sonja), Bill Nighy (Viktor), Kevin Grevioux (Raze, writer, co-producer), and Steven Mackintosh (Tannis) as they discuss the origins of the feud between the children of Alexander Corvinus. I admit taking the side of the vampires in the first two films, but after viewing Underworld: Rise of the Lycans, my loyalties switched to the Lycans due to the vicious actions of Viktor. This was another featurette that left me wanting more.

Watching "Re-Creating The Dark Ages - The Look of Underworld: Rise of the Lycans" we hear Director Patrick Tatopoulos talking of how he made daily sketches in 6 or 7 notebooks while shooting was happening. Listening to Production Designer Dan Hennah talking of how he used elements of Romanesque, Georgian Russian, Turkish Byzantine, and Celtic elements in creating the world of the vampires was interesting, especially since this featurette showed samples of each as he spoke. One thing I noticed was that behind the scenes footage showed clearly how crew members wearing bright modern clothing stood out so visibly while walking amongst the subdued costumes of the cast. I admit to being very surprised to learn that the production had only 2 werewolf suits and that all scenes with hordes of werewolves were CG. This was the fourth feature that left me wanting even more.

I'm quite selective about the music videos I watch and "Deathclub (Wes Borland/Reinholder Remix)" by William Control and featuring Matt Skiba did nothing for me. The Lycan wannabes shown in the video reminded me of the the pathetic pets and minions of the vampires in Blade and even Viktor would never have let them sink so low.

While none of the trailers and promo spots got me excited, except for Blood: The Last Vampire, I got what I wanted and much more with an action-filled movie, a great filmmakers' commentary, and three outstanding featurettes.

In my opinion, the single disc of Underworld: Rise of the Lycans is a must own for fans of the Underworld trilogy and vampire flicks in general.

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