Underworld: Rise of the Lycans turns away press

Fans of the first two Underworld flicks could be justifiably skeptical of the latest entry in the franchise, seeing as how lead actress Kate Beckinsale and director Len Wiseman (also Beckinsale's hubby since they fell in love while shooting the original film) are absent from those roles in this prequel that purports to tell the tale of how the war between vampires and werewolves began.

Wiseman, co-creator of the franchise, doesn't on the surface appear to have totally abandoned ship though, staying involved as a co-story writer and executive producer. Actor/writer Kevin Grevioux, a co-creator of the franchise with Wiseman, is also back as Raze, as is Bill Nighy as king vampire Viktor and Michael Sheen as head werewolf Lucian (fresh off his entirely different role as journalist David Frost in Frost/Nixon.) So despite the challenging absence of the captivating Beckinsale, Lycans doesn't appear to necessarily be one of those lame sequels that's just milking a franchise name with none of the original participants. The film also features another raven-haired British beauty — Rhona Mitra — as Sonja, the daughter of Viktor who has a star-crossed romance with Lucien.

As the Current's top fan of the first two Underworld flicks, yours truly was eager to check out the local premiere last night in order to determine if it's worthy of the public's time. But in a sign that bodes most ill for that worthiness, I was turned away at the theater door as the woman in charge said there had been a command from on-high at Screen Gems that no press be allowed in the theater. I was ready to give this flick every benefit of the doubt, because hey, it's still vampires vs. werewolves, and what's not to like about that? The franchise's use of the vampire-werewolf conflict and its inter-species taboo romances as a thinly-veiled metaphor for commentary on race relations has also given the first two films a deeper subtext than your average horror-action flick.

But if they don't want the film reviewed, than the chances that it's a worthy addition to the franchise plummet like a vampire at sunrise. Boo Screen Gems and shame on Len Wiseman for what would now appear to be a sell-out of the successful franchise that won him legions of fans (not to mention Beckinsale's hand in marriage.)


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