The Review at a Glance: (max score: 5 )
Audio/Video total rating:
( Max score: 100 )
Studio and Year: Sony Pictures - 2009
MPAA Rating: R
Feature running time: 92 Minutes
Disc Format: BD-50
Encoding: AVC (MPEG-4)
Video Aspect: 2.40:1
Audio Format(s): English/French Dolby TrueHD 5.1, Spanish/Portuguese Dolby Digital 5.1
Subtitles:English SDH, English, Spanish, Portuguese, French
Starring: Michael Sheen, Bill Nighy, Rhona Mitra, Steven Makintosh, Kevin Grevoix., David Ashton
Directed by: Patrick Tatopoulos
Music by: Paul Haslinger
Written by: Danny McBride, Dirk Blackman, Howard McCain
Region Code: A
Blu-ray Disc release Date: May 12, 2009
"The birth of a hero. The rise of a legend. The beginning of a war"
The prequel story traces the origins of the centuries-old blood feud between the aristocratic vampires known as Death Dealers and their onetime slaves, the Lycans. In the Dark Ages, a young Lycan named Lucian (Michael Sheen) emerges as a powerful leader who rallies the werewolves to rise up against Viktor (Bill Nighy), the cruel vampire king who has enslaved them. Lucian is joined by his secret lover, Sonja (Rhona Mitra), in his battle against the Death Dealer army and his struggle for Lycan freedom.
This film takes place before the first Underworld film and details the birth of Lucian, the events surrounding the development of the Lycan race and what began the war between the vampires and Lycans. The film moves quickly as Viktor who is currently governing the coven rules with an iron fist. Werewolves are beasts that are unable to take human form until one gives birth to a small child/wolf that can take human form at will. The decision is made to use him to turn humans into “Lycans”. They are bred and used to watch over the vampires during hibernation as well as serving as slaves. They are all fitted with special collars to prevent them from changing. Lucian is given a position of prominence and is not subject to the slave treatment of the others but is also fitted with the requisite collar. Viktor’s daughter Sonya is adored by her father and as such is given a place on the counsel in addition to being a Death Dealer that hunts down and kills the “wild” werewolves living outside of the secure walls of the coven castle. Unbeknownst to Viktor and the rest of the coven Sonya and Lucian having been having a torrid love affair. Lucian has grown tired of the treatment of his kind and plans to escape and free his imprisoned brethren. He eventually does so with Sonya’s help. Subsequently this comes to light and she is imprisoned. Lucian learns of this and returns alone to rescue her. Things don’t go smoothly and Lucian and Sonya are captured. She is brought before the counsel and tried for her “crimes” against the coven and summarily sentenced to death. Lucian is sentenced to a lifetime of servitude which includes witnessing the death of his beloved Sonya.
These events were touched upon during a flashback sequence in the first Underworld film. I thought that this film was good but unnecessary. Underworld and Underworld: Evolution chronicled things pretty well. The backstory on the war isn’t a complicated one. I thought that if we needed to know anything it would have been more useful to have a deeper background on the relationship between Sonya and Lucian. What drew them together? Why would a slave and a princess fall in love? This film showed them briefly as children (never together) and then fast forwards to adulthood in a scene where Lucian saves Sonya from attack by a pack of charging werewolves. By that point they were already in love and sneaking around. There is no background on the elders, Selene or how things ended up as they did at the start of Underworld (Kraven being in charge etc.). There is mention of William but nothing more. Raze’s origin and relationship to Lucian is covered pretty well. I have to admit that as a fan it was good to actually see the events that were quickly touched upon regarding this story fully realized. Michael Sheen and Bill Nighy have these characters down cold and I thought that Rhona Mitra did a credible job as Sonya. On its own I think that Underworld: Rise of the Lycans holds up okay but its 92 minute runtime makes it feel rushed. The action based sequences are decent and the special effects are in line with the other films in the series. While I liked it I just feels like more of an add on than an integral part of the franchise.
The rating is for bloody violence and brief sexuality.
AUDIO/VIDEO - By The Numbers:
REFERENCE = 92-100 / EXCELLENT = 83-91 / GOOD = 74-82 / AVERAGE = 65-73 / BELOW AVERAGE = under 65
**My audio/video ratings are based upon a comparative made against other high definition media/blu-ray disc.**
(Each rating is worth 4 points with a max of 5 per category)
- Low frequency extension:
- Surround Sound presentation:
- Dialogue Reproduction:
(Each rating is worth 4 points with a max of 5 per category)
- Black level/Shadow detail:
- Color reproduction:
Underworld: Rise of the Lycans comes to Blu-ray Disc from Sony featuring 1080p AVC encoded video that has an average bitrate of 24 mbps and lossless Dolby TrueHD 5.1 channel audio that has an average bitrate of 3.7 mbps.
The lossless Dolby TrueHD surround mix is a good that has excellent dynamic energy and rich palpable bass that drive the film’s action based sequences. Detail and clarity are first rate as the sounds of crossing swords, growling beasts, and catapulted spears have enriching realism. The sound field is three dimensional as it fills the room with the spatial, multi-layered nuance and seamless directional pans that correlate with the events unfolding onscreen. Dynamic range runs the gamut as the battle intense moments engage the entire surround platform. This is evident during both the Lycan escape and later castle attack sequences. The thrusts and impact of the large steel spears as they are catapulted and hit their respective marks is impressive. Similar viscerally involving surround sound can be heard as the hoards of Lycans converge on the vampire castle in the final act. Bass is demonstrative and tactilely focused so that it can be felt deep within the room. The opening of the shifting roof in the death chamber scene delivered a few ultra low frequency transients that literally shook the room. Dialogue is crystal clear and tonally distinct. I did find that during certain scenes dialogue blended too much with other sounds within the front soundstage. This made some of the softer spoken words hard to discern. This is a mild complaint that didn’t taint an otherwise excellent and entertaining surround sound experience.
This film utilizes a stylized visual design that has a limited color scheme that works aesthetically well for the subject matter. The color range is limited to shades of dark blue, gray and black with splashes of crimson red and forest green hues. Warm golden accents are used throughout to break up the film’s monochromatic essence. This comes in the form of glowing candle light or alternating flesh tones that have lifelike complexional color as opposed to the ashen/blue that is predominant the majority of the time. What enhances the effect is its presence amidst the other dark blue/gray/black elements within the same shot. Contrast is strong and blacks are deep without compromise to delineation. Shadowy areas exhibit excellent depth of field and visible gradational stages. Resolution is excellent as images are crisp, delineated and dimensionally strong. The visual design isn’t such that it offers high gloss, razor sharp quality but that doesn’t keep this presentation from looking great.
- Blu-ray Disc Exclusive Cinechat: Send on-screen instant messages to friends while you watch the movie at the same time
- Blu-ray Disc Exclusive Behind the castle walls: PiP BonusView feature
- Lycanthropes around the world - Interactive map feature
- (HD) Underworld: Rise of the Lycans - From script to screen 9 minute featurette
- (HD) The origin of the feud 19 minute featurette
- (HD) Recreating the dark ages: The look of Underworld: Rise of the Lycans 19 minute featurette
- Music video: Death club by William Control
- 11 Previews
- BD-Live enabled
- Digital Copy Bonus Disc
Underworld: Rise of the Lycansis an above average prequel that while not necessarily a viable ingredient in appreciating the relevancy of the war between vampire and lycan as depicted in the Underworld universe, does make for a decent watch. Its high definition presentation is top shelf in both respects. The bonus supplements are on point and round out this excellent Blu-ray Disc offering from Sony. If you are a fan of the series this should have a place in your collection. Otherwise give it a rent before purchase.
AVS Forum Blu-ray Reviews
Reference Review System:
JVC DLA-RS20 1080p High Definition Front Projector
Carada Precision Brilliant White 96" Screen
Oppo 970HD universal disc DVD Player (480i HDMI)
Toshiba HD-XA2 HD DVD Player (HDMI Audio/Video)
Panasonic DMP-BD55K Blu-ray disc Player (HDMI Audio/Video)
Sony Playstation 3 Blu-ray disc Player (HDMI Audio/Video)
Marantz DV7001 Universal Disc Player
Denon AVR 5308CI THX Ultra 2 Preamp/Video Processor
Sherbourn Technologies - 7/200 Seven Channel Amplifier
Philips TSU9400 Pro Series Touch Panel Remote Control
Canton "Ergo" Series speakers
Axiom Audio QS8 Quadpolar speakers
SV Sound PB-13 Ultra (Rosenut finish)
APC AV S15BLK Power Conditioner/Surge Protector
Furman SPR-20i Stable Power Regulator
Wireworld, VizionWare, Audioquest, Best Deal Cables - Audio/Video/Speaker Cabling
Cool Components - CP-CP102 cooling package