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Blu-ray Reviews

HTF Blu-ray Review: Underworld: Rise of the Lycans

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#1 of 18 OFFLINE   Todd Erwin

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Posted May 11 2009 - 01:06 PM

Underworld: Rise of the Lycans (Blu-ray)

Studio: Sony Pictures Home Entertainment
Year: 2009
Rated: R
Film Length: 92 minutes
Disc Format: BD50
Aspect Ratio: 2.40:1 1080p AVC Codec
Audio: Dolby TrueHD 5.1 (English, French), Dolby Digital 5.1 (Spanish, Portuguese)
Subtitles: English, English (SDH), French, Spanish, Portuguese

US Release Date: May 12, 2009

Movie: out of
A prequel to Underworld and Underworld: Evolution, Underworld: Rise of the Lycans tells part of the backstory hinted at in the previous films. A war is underway between vampires and a breed of werewolves unable to return to human form. An imprisoned werewolf gives birth to Lucian (Michael Sheen), the first of its kind able to switch freely between werewolf and human. Viktor (Bill Nighy) reluctantly allows Lucian to live, and uses his blood to create a slave army of Lycans to protect the vampires during the daylight hours. A forbidden love affair develops between Lucian and Viktor’s daughter, Sonja (Rhona Mitra), and we finally get the Romeo and Juliet storyline that the first Underworld failed to deliver on.

Len Wiseman, after directing Live Free or Die Hard, turns the director’s chair over to Patrick Tatopoulos (production designer on the two prior films). Tatopoulos does a capable job, keeping the action sequences exciting and the pacing brisk. Bill Nighy, who seems to be making a career of late playing villains, is over the top as Viktor, with glimpses of his Davy Jones character from the Pirates of the Caribbean movies (minus the CGI makeup) appearing from time to time. The big surprise here is Michael Sheen, see more recently as David Frost in Frost/Nixon, as the anti-hero Lucian. Sheen appears equally comfortable in action sequences as he does in more dramatic scenes.

Underworld: Rise of the Lycans is a genre filme, first and foremost, well-deserving of its R rating from the MPAA for its violent and often gruesome action sequences and a graphic love scene. Like most prequels, the film does suffer from a lack of peril, as we know the ultimate fate of these characters and how the story will likely end. Ultimately, though, the ride from beginning to end is a fun one, and much more enjoyable than what is passing for horror these days.

Video: out of
Filmed in High Definition using Panavision Genesis cameras, the 1080p AVC encode was difficult to review. This is a darkly-lit film, bathed in blues with lots of shadows. Additional grain appears to have been added during the digital intermediate process, giving the film a gritty look. At times, however, the additional grain seems so artificial that the HD cinematography looks too much like processed video and not film. Still, this Blu-ray does do a nice job replicating the theatrical presentation.

Audio: out of
The English Dolby TrueHD soundtrack, although at times immersive with its use of music and discrete sound effects, was disappointing. The dialogue was difficult to hear, mixed at a much lower level than the rest of the audio. I do not recall this being an issue when I first experienced this film during its theatrical run last winter, and the other language tracks do not exhibit this problem. Unfortunately, the 640 kbps English Dolby Digital track also exhibits the lower-level dialogue issue.

Special Features: out of

Not necessarily a Special Feature, but I found the Blu-Meter on this title to be annoying. Whenever you scan through the film, the meter takes up about 1/3 of the screen. Most other Sony titles that have this feature are not as obtrusive, and it takes up very little real estate.

Sony has loaded this Blu-ray with an abundance of extras for viewers to sink their teeth into, all in high definition.

Playstation 3 Theme and Wallpaper A pleasant surprise, not mentioned on the cover, is an Underworld: Rise of the Lycans theme and wallpaper for the PS3. Accessible as a disc download from the Games menu on the Playstation 3’s XMB screen, the theme consists of 3 lobby cards from the film that randomly rotate whenever the PS3 reloads the XMB (such as ending a movie or game) and a set of icons in white stone with red backlighting.

CineChat is Sony’s BD-Live online text chat feature, similar to the chat features on Universal’s Hellboy II and The Incredible Hulk. A Sony BD-Live user ID is required, and chats are by user invitation only.

Filmmakers’ Commentary is a roundtable discussion with producer and co-writer Len Wiseman, director Patrick Tatopoulos, producer Richard Wright, producer Gary Lucchesi, and executive producer and visual effects supervisor James McQuaide. The five discuss how the film was made, what it was like shooting in New Zealand, and even hint at a possible new cut of the original Underworld, replacing footage of the blond Sonja with footage from this film with the intended dark-haired Sonja (and why Sonja was blonde in the first film, due to budget constraints). They also joke amongst themselves about some of the mistakes made in this film.

Behind the Castle Walls: Picture-In-Picture is similar to Universal’s U-Verse feature, using interviews and behind the scenes footage in a window in the lower right corner of the screen. Unlike U-verse, it is not possible to turn this feature on and off at any point in the film and remain in the film. When you turn off the feature, you are taken back to the main menu. Although the standard pop-up menu is locked out, you can use the scan or chapter skip buttons to find a particular section of the movie with the PiP feature still engaged.

Lycanthropes Around the World Interactive Map is a rather useless feature, a bit of a letdown considering how heavily it is promoted on the disc’s cover. From the world map, you can choose a continent to explore, and then choose a reported sighting on that continent. The number of sightings is, sadly, sparse, as is the information provided once you click on the sighting. Expect slow load times for this feature, even on the Playstation 3.

Underworld: Rise of the Lycans: From Script to Screen A 9 minute EPK featurette with the filmmakers discussing how quickly they had to get the screenplay ready for shooting due to the WGA strike and actor commitments, shooting in New Zealand to keep costs down, and how they had to make all of the props and costumes from scratch.

The Origin of the Feud is a 20 minute featurette documenting the storyline and characters, and how they tie into the other Underworld films.

Recreating the Dark Ages – The Look of Underworld: Rise of the Lycans is a 13 minute featurette on the film’s production design.

Music Video: Deathclub (Wes Borland/Renholder Remix) This is your typical movie clip music video, with the musician performing the song interspersed with clips from the movie.

Previews Trailers for Blu-ray Disc Is High Definition, The International, The Sky Crawlers, and The Da Vinci Code play immediately upon starting the disc and can also be accessed from the Special Features menu. Also included on this disc are trailers for Close Encounters 30th Anniversary Edition, Resident Evil: Degeneration, Fired Up, Underworld, Underworld: Evolution, Resident Evil: Extinction, Passengers, and Quarantine.

Digital Copy Sony has included a second disc, containing a standard definition copy for iTunes, Windows Media, and PSP.

As with most Sony Pictures Blu-ray discs, this disc is BD-Live enabled. At the time of this review, no title-exclusive content was available on the Sony BD-Live portal. The good news, however, is that access times to the BD-Live portal seem to have improved.

Overall: out of
A better than expected movie, especially after a second viewing, with good video and a large abundance of features make this a rather handsome disc, but blemished by a weak audio track with dialogue recorded at such a low level many viewers may opt to turn on the English subtitles.

#2 of 18 OFFLINE   Todd smith

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Posted May 12 2009 - 02:21 AM

Toddwrt, are you still not capable of playing the full TrueHD track with your equipment? I have not read one other review that mentions dialog being mixed much too low.......some have complained about the type of dialog being used, but that is not the fault of the sound design/mix/recording. BR.com raved about the dialog in their review.

#3 of 18 OFFLINE   Todd Erwin

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Posted May 12 2009 - 03:07 AM

I upgraded my receiver last month, and stand by my review.

#4 of 18 OFFLINE   Aaron Silverman

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Posted May 12 2009 - 06:14 AM

So how did this movie compare to the first two? About the same? Opinions of the others (especially the first) were pretty widely mixed as I recall. I reviewed both for this site and was a little disappointed in them; now I'm wondering whether this one's worth watching (I seem to recall liking the flashback scenes in the others).
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#5 of 18 OFFLINE   Todd Erwin

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Posted May 12 2009 - 08:45 AM

I would say its about the same as the other two. I was actually a bit surprised at how good this one turned out.

#6 of 18 OFFLINE   Ron-P



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Posted May 12 2009 - 01:58 PM

Bought it today and will be watching it within minutes.
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#7 of 18 OFFLINE   Ron-P



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Posted May 12 2009 - 04:08 PM

I cannot agree with your review of the audio Todd. I just finished this film and found the audio to be excellent. I had no issues with unclear dialogue nor did I notice that it was mixed at a lower level. All channels were perfectly balanced. I'm running a 5.1 rig with a PS3, Onkyo 805, 5 Adcom amps (one per speaker), Polk Audio timber matched speakers and a DIY Tempest SonoSub all in a dedicated room. The film itself was good, not as good as it's predecessors, the weakest in the trilogy. Image quality was good but nothing reference, I agree with your review of the video.
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#8 of 18 OFFLINE   troy evans

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Posted May 12 2009 - 07:21 PM

This is exactly how I felt when I saw it in the theater. I went in thinking it would be epic in scope and it felt like a "made for tv" movie. I always thought the first two films were somewhat successful. This one could have went straight to video for all it accomplished. Don't get me wrong, I'll still get it to complete my collection. But it won't be an "ass breaker, must get title" for me. $15.00 will be my limit. Toddwrtr, great review by the way.
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#9 of 18 OFFLINE   Shane D

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Posted May 13 2009 - 01:30 AM

i watched the normal dvd last night and i was finding my self leaning forward once in a while to hear dialogue, it just seemed to be noticeable during quieter scenes

#10 of 18 OFFLINE   RDarrylR


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Posted May 13 2009 - 01:35 AM

They still make DVD's? Posted Image

#11 of 18 OFFLINE   Shane D

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Posted May 13 2009 - 05:22 AM

yeah i've not gotten a blu player yet. i'm still waiting for under 200 prices and for movies to drop some. the samsung 1500 is on clearence at walmart for that price i just still haven't whipped out the credit card yet.

#12 of 18 OFFLINE   RayJr


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Posted May 13 2009 - 08:50 AM

I have to agree with Todd...I watched it last night on Blu-Ray...and also found the dialogue at times was difficult to hear...so much so.. that I had to bump up my center level a bit. RayJr
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#13 of 18 OFFLINE   JMoore



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Posted May 13 2009 - 10:42 AM

I also had problems hearing the dialogue. I have a denon avr4308 and it picks up the TrueHD formate with no problem. I had to jack up the volume on my center channel. I also thought that the picture was too grainy.

#14 of 18 OFFLINE   Todd smith

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Posted May 18 2009 - 05:42 PM

Watched this over the weekend and while I agree the dialog was a bit low, especialy compared to 1 and 2 which I also watched, there were only a couple brief moments where I actualy could not make out what was said. I watched at -1 from reference. Minor issue at best. I completely disagree with this audio score in all due respect.....besides the minor dialog issue, the rest of the track is reference caliber. 2.5 out of 5 is ridiculous IMHO.

#15 of 18 OFFLINE   Ethan Riley

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Posted May 19 2009 - 04:02 AM

Haven't gotten this yet, but plan to tomorrow. How are your speakers set up that you wanted to watch it at -1? Was it a synch issue, or because of the muddled dialogue?


#16 of 18 OFFLINE   Todd smith

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Posted May 20 2009 - 02:17 PM

Besides a few exceptions, I watch all my films somewhere between reference level and -5 from reference level.....why would you not want to watch near ref level unless you dont like it loud and dynamic (which would be OK)? I have my speakers setup in the standard rec 7.1 arrangement in a somewhat treated (bass traps/first reflection traps) 12 x 17.5 room calibrated with AVIA.....

#17 of 18 OFFLINE   Yumbo



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Posted May 20 2009 - 08:19 PM

Volume is low, especially with dialogue. Picture is so-so.

#18 of 18 OFFLINE   Dave H

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Posted June 01 2009 - 04:24 PM

I watched this last night. All in all, not a bad movie - better than I was expecting. It had a decent story. Visually, it was extremely impressive - the high contrasted scenes really stood out and detail was outstanding at times. Some shots were soft and I believe this movie was shot on digital film, so some video noise was present at times. However, I think the transfer was generally very good. A small complaint - but the werewolf CGI didn't look too good at times. This surprised me somewhat.

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