Underworld: Rise of the Lycans (DVD / Blu-ray)
Reviewed by Uncle Creepy
Starring Rhona Mitra, Billy Nighy, Michael Sheen, Kevin Grevioux
Directed by Patrick Tatopoulos
Distributed by Sony Pictures Home Entertainment
The Underworld franchise is unique in the fact that with every entry it seems to get better and better. In this day and age of everything being done and done to death, that is truly an anomaly.
This third chapter of the series is a prequel that spends its time showing us every possible variation of the color blue imaginable, oh and how the war between vampire and werewolf all got started. Even if you're not paying attention or couldn't care less about the film's rich mythos, at its heart Underworld: Rise of the Lycans is still very much just one hell of a monster mash that's enjoyable no matter what you're looking for from it.
For an in-depth look at the film itself allow me to refer you to Nomad's Underworld: Rise of the Lycans review. He pretty much nailed it and honestly I really don't have anything else to add. Instead let's focus on the subject of the day -- the DVD and the Blu-ray.
It's pretty safe to say that you already know that the Blu-ray looks and sounds better than its DVD cousin. Make no mistake though -- the picture quality on the DVD is nothing to scoff at as it is in its own right pretty bitchin'. But this flick in 1080p? Holy shit!
Like I said ... this movie is blue. Incredibly blue. In fact you're likely never to see blues like this ever again. To compliment them there's also a rich variety of deep blacks bringing the shadows to life. These can bring out the little details like castle textures, wolf fur, and landscapes to an eye-popping degree, and for the most part this flick looks great. There are a couple of minor problems though. Occasionally there's a little bit of digital noise present and there are points within the final fight between vamp and lycan that started to get a bit muddy. Ok I get it, frenzied action, giant set pieces, mucho CGI, yadda, yadda, but is that really an excuse for things to look nothing short of stellar in High definition? I can't help but feel as if this bun wouldn't have benefited from a bit more time in the visual oven.
The Dolby TrueHD 5.1 soundtrack more than makes up for these couple of shortcomings as it is a complete knock-out. Underworld: Rise of the Lycans is sure to give your home theatre system one hell of a medieval work-out. Especially during the battle sequences that are rife with weapons clanging, werewolves growling, and flesh tearing. Really good stuff.
For the most part the DVD and the Blu-ray have a similar set of special features except for a few high-def exclusives. We'll get to them in a bit, for now let's look at the meat of the product.
Things kick off with a massive commentary track. I say massive just because of the sheer volume of people involved -- director Patrick Tatopoulos, writer/producer Len Wiseman, executive producer James McQuaide, and producers Richard Wright and Gary Lucchesi. Despite the high number of participants, things never get confusing or off-track. In fact I'd hazard to say that the film was just as fun with the commentary track as it was without. From there we pile on the making-of featurettes. There are three present - Underworld: Rise of the Lycans - From Script to Screen, The Origin of the Feud, and Re-Creating the Dark Ages - The Look of Underworld: Rise of the Lycans. These are all presented in HD and run anywhere from about ten to twenty-minutes each. Judging from their titles I can assure you they are exactly what they say they are, so no big surprises in terms of content. Add on a quick music video for the song Deathclub by William Control and those are you shared extras. On to the Blu-ray specific features.
Besides being BD Live enabled, one of the coolest new features found here is something called Cinechat. What this basically does is enable the viewer to chat via instant message with other viewers on a global stage. Pretty nifty! Next up is the Lycanthropes Around the World Interactive Map which basically lets you navigate a virtual map to find out about actual werewolf stories from around the globe. Sadly it's not as exciting as it sounds. Finally there's the gem of the whole bunch -- the Behind the Castle Walls: picture-in-picture feature. If you're going to watch one extra on Blu-ray let it be this one. Throughout key moments of the film a pop-up window will appear with tidbits from the cast and crew. This was -- believe it or not -- the highlight of the entire package. It's nothing short of a must-watch!
It should also be noted that you can get Underworld: Rise of the Lycans either on its own or in a special three film box set that packs in the first two films of the series along with this one. Good stuff!
If they do make a fourth Underworld flick, I gotta say I'd totally be there. The series has remained a fun, violent, monster-laden ride and it only shows signs of getting better. Bring it on before Beckinsale can no longer fit into those delicious leather pants!
3 1/2 out of 5
4 1/2 out of 5
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