Sunday, November 25, 2012

The Underworld series and the fall of the Lycans

I've just seen the most recent of the Underworld movies, I might have missed a bit of the beginning, but no more than a bit, and there's a trend I've been noticing.

Spoilers for all the movies.

In Underworld Vampires and Lycans (Short for "Lycanthrope" which means WolfMan, as opposed to "Werewolf" which means ManWolf) are both portrayed as complex groups that are ultimately composed of people.

We see the world of these creatures largely through the eyes of Selene and Michael.  Selene, a vampire warrior, has been told a history of the war between the two species which she comes to realize is a lie.  Michael, a human who shares a common ancestor with Vampires and Werewolves alike, hasn't been told a damn thing and is thrown into the center of things ignorant of all.

What we eventually realize is that while the Vampires are working toward extermination of their former slaves, the Lycans, the Lycans are working toward a different goal.  They're trying to unite the two species.  For all the death destruction and kidnapping (well, just the one kidnapping) they rain down on the world, they're basically the good guys.

The vampires want to kill the other side, the Lycans want peace.  Lucian's end goal is to create a hybrid species and to have a peace treaty.

And when we find out how the war started, we learn that it was because Victor (one of the head vampires) had his own daughter executed while Lucian was forced to watch for the crime of getting pregnant by Lucian.  Victor, a racial purist, didn't want the species to mingle.  Prior to that Lucian was a willing slave.

The Lycan leader's embrace of the Vampires as kindred extends all the way to the Vampire that ultimately betrays and murders him.  Whom he, in his dying breath, calls "Cousin."

He also says, in the sentence immediately preceding that, that his will is done regardless of his death when a hybrid is created.  (Michael.)

So the goals of the two species in the first movie:
Vampires: Exterminate the enemy.
Lycans: Make peace with the enemy.  Bring into the world the kind of hybrid Victor's daughter would have had, had she not been killed by Victor.

Lycans seem to be the good guys.  Especially when we consider that the only people to turn out to be truly undeniably evil are vampires (Victor, Kraven.)

-

Underworld: Evolution does some creative rewriting of the back stories of various things, but when comparing vampires to Lycans it works like this:
Vampires: Include characters good, bad, and medium.
Hybrids: Include characters good and bad.
Lycans: Don't even get to speak.  Appear as either monsters to be killed on sight (not the Lycans you know) or guard dogs to be killed.

The Lycans have gone from the driving force of the first movie to the hardly important force of the second.  They've gone from the good guys to acceptable cannon fodder.

-

The next film made was Underword: Rise of the Lycans which, from an in-world perspective, comes first.

It completely overturns everything we were told about the original situation of the Lycans in the first film.  It changes events significantly and reframes the entire narrative.

That said, unlike the film before and the film after, it does show the Lycans in a positive light.  They are slaves who wish to be free, they are hunted like animals, they are capable of camaraderie beyond racial lines and love beyond species lines.

The vampires, by comparison, are slave holders and extorters.  They are a privileged class that preys on those less fortunate and the only one who appears as anything approaching good does so via the love of a Lycan.

It's a pretty good image for the Lycans to have.

-

The next film, the one I just saw, and the most recent in universe as well as in the real world, is Underworld: Awakening.

Lets put it this way:
Vampires: Complex tending toward heroic and compassionate.
Lycans: Evil to the point of vivisecting a twelve year old girl (well, trying to at any rate.)  There is no complexity, there is no variety, there is no dissent.  They are simply Evil.  No.  That doesn't do it justice.  They are EVIL.

-

In in-universe chronological order it goes like this:
Prequel movie: Lycan = I am Spartacus!  Except I win rather than get crucified.
Original movie: Lycan = I am complex but my ultimate goals are peace and reconciliation.
The next movie: Lycan = I am acceptable cannon fodder.
Most recent movie: Lycan = I am Evvvviiilll...  Find me a twelve year old girl so I can cut her into little pieces.  Let me kill people for the fun of it.

Notice any kind of a trend here?

-

If you're interested in seeing for yourself, and have a blu-ray player you can get all four together for what looks to be a bit cheaper than getting them separately. [Link removed because: Screw you, Amazon.]

6 comments:

  1. Hm.

    I assume the scriptwriter's wife didn't run off with his dog, or something...

    ReplyDelete
  2. I read it more that with the passing of Lucian and the... absence... of Michael (who's run off with Selene, and with Selene seems to be caught up in matters of survival to the exclusion of any larger issues), the goals of the Lycan leadership have shifted from reconciliation to ascendency (possibly, in their perception, as a matter of self-defense). But, yes: who're the Bad Guys in any given film is an issue that seems to shift wildly and almost radically. Which may actually make it more realistic, rather than less...!

    ReplyDelete
  3. Connectivity problems have eaten my post, twice.

    This is getting aggravating.

    I have two basic points:

    --

    Point 1:
    There seems to be a shift in the portrayal of Lycans.

    In the first movie they were portrayed as people, in the second they weren't really portrayed at all appearing only as cannon fodder guards or not-the-Lycan-you-know cannon fodder monsters. The third movie had to cast them in a positive light (or be pro-slavery) but even it seemed much more concerned with vampires than Lycans. The fourth movie portrayed them as evil-evil-evil!

    For comparison:
    Every single movie had a definitely good vampire, at most two had a definitely good Lycan. Every single movie had an ambiguous vampire in it, at most two had an ambiguous Lycan in it. Two movies had definitely evil vampires in them, two movies had definitely evil Lycans in them.

    As for hybrids three movies with a good one, one movie with one killed before it was born, one movie with an evil one.

    There are more definitely evil Lycans in a single shot of the most recent movie than there are definitely evil vampires in every single movie in the entire series combined.

    The writers seem to be on Team Edward, and increasingly so.

    --

    Point 2:
    The current premise (humans are trying to exterminate both vampire and Lycan alike) is the best reason for teaming up that the two groups have ever had.

    It could be argued that the reason for the apparent lack of dissent amoung the Lycans is the mentioned attempt on behalf of some of the Lycans, against the wishes of their elders, to fight back rather than hide.

    This could, potentially, have allowed the elders to sit back and watch as those Lycans most difficult to control were exterminated by the humans, leaving their own hands clean and their flocks free of the loudest dissenting voices. Thus allowing for their take over from the inside strategy of chopping up a little girl to be largely unopposed.

    That said, if there is another movie and it doesn't involve an underground community where vampire and Lycan live together, side by side as allies, friends, lovers, and whatnot then someone seriously fucked up because the current premise is basically begging for it.

    ReplyDelete
  4. Oh, yes: I'd love to see Selene, Michael, their daughter, and the other vampire (David?) start pulling together a cross-species coalition to deal with the results of their exposure to the humans. Believe you me, if I were writing the sequel, that is SO where I'd go with it.

    ...Welcome to Midian...

    ...but I digress...

    That said... yes, I'm watching the latest installment right now, and you're absolutely right about the Lycans being unambiguously the bad guys here. As someone who is fundamentally pro-werewolf, I'm still incline to think that the all bad guy, all the time approach in this film represents a particular faction of the race, and not the race itself. It wouldn't be that hard, after all, to convince uninformed fellow Lycans that you needed to get a young girl back - without letting them know that you intended to vivisect her in order to harvest and clone her genetic material.

    But it's the sort of action that could have social consequences in later movies...

    ReplyDelete
  5. It actually surprised me that we didn't see cross species cooperation more quickly.

    Consider the end of the first movie. Selene just killed Viktor, Amelia has been killed by the werewolves with the cooperation (via non-interference) of other vampires. The remaining vampire Elder has been infected with werewolf blood and become a hybrid himself.

    Selene and Michael are in the middle of the werewolf lair. The lair of the werewolves who were trying to create a hybrid. You know, like, say, I don't know... MICHAEL. Sounds from the shadows indicate that werewolves still survive in said lair.

    I fully expected the next movie to have Selene and Michael running with the werewolves and the vampires in disarray because their system of government had just been destroyed (they always had an elder at the top, now two are dead and the remaining one isn't a vampire anymore.)

    Also, what of Kraven's men? Were they all killed? Because once the vampires realized they were traitors the only allies they'd have left would be the werewolves they'd been working with (assuming word didn't get out about Kraven killing Lucian.)

    Instead the werewolves are almost entirely absent, Marcus goes on a killing spree, and an entirely new organization is introduced headed by an immortal human.

    ReplyDelete
  6. Yeah, ta first the Lycans were clearly hr good guys, but now, everyone is working as hard as possible to make them more and more evil. I seriously wish we could get a werewolf-style movie of this with a dude as the main hero wolf guy or something. Preferably played by Tyler Posey (Scott Mccall from Teen Wolf, lol).

    ReplyDelete