Practical Creature FX Are Awesome! Watch “Underworld: Awakening – Building a Better Lycan”

A. Quinton — May. 11th 2012

I’ve always liked the Underworld werewolf aesthetic, which was originally developed and executed by Patrick Tatopoulos & crew. The Lycans are the polar opposite of the Twilight / True Blood “fluff-wolves” I detest – they’re big, hairy, and monstrous in a way that’s fantastically bestial. The task of bringing these big guys to life for Underworld: Awakening fell to the folks at MastersFX (based in the Vancouver area, which gives me fanboy “cool stuff in close proximity” paroxysms). Todd Masters and his staff had to evolve Tatopoulos’s design into something that would stand up to the unforgiving clarity of hi-def film, and if you’ve seen the film I think you’ll agree that they pulled it off with authority. If you want to get a better look at the Lycan suits used in Awakening and learn about the challenges of building, maintaining and performing in them, check out this extra from the Awakening Blu-ray release: Building A Better Lycan.

There’s so much great stuff crammed into this 10 minutes that I don’t even know where to begin. The detail on those suits are just incredible (those masks! those hands!), and it looks like the Lycan “performers” Richard Cetrone and Dan Payne had a lot of fun, despite the hardships of being stuck in skin-tight foam latex onesies for 12 hours at a time. Craig might not have been a fan of the film or the digital effects, but from the perspectives of craftsmanship and werewolf aesthetics, I think there’s a lot to like here. I’m going to pick up the Blu-ray this weekend, if only to watch Building A Better Lycan on something bigger than my Macbook. Many thanks to @Hoof_Pony for sending me the YouTube link!

  • But we’re Gorgeous! 

  • Koshiinian

    Nope, don’t like them. Faces are too short and blank looking.  More like baboons.  Not very big are they?  Are they still doing digitigrade?  The old ones were much taller because of this.

  • Based on the things you DO like, I think you’re probably on the wrong site. No “werewolves” with horns or wings here. :)

  • Koshiinian

     Cursed werewolf – good.  american werewolf – good.  Bad moon werewolf – good.  latest howling werewolf – good.  Werewolves with bald shiny skin and cat faces that look about five feet tall – shit.  What sort of werewolf has WINGS anyway?

  • Doruk

    I actually rather like the visual design of the Underworld werewolves.  The short face makes sense to me as something that fits the idea that these are creatures HALFWAY between men and wolves, the snout is shorter than wolves, but longer than humans.  And of course they would look like baboons, isn’t that sort of a great way to describe a baboon’s look?  A human face with a wolfish snout and huge fangs attached ;)

  • Viergacht

    Looks like they’ve softened the extreme boxy/angular look Tatopoulos likes in his designs – this version looks much more organic and less stylized. I’ve got to admit, the Underworld movies aren’t great cinema but I really like their visual take on werewolves. The way they build up the neck and shoulders and those dead black shark eyes are nice stylistic touches. 

  • I wholeheartedly agree, Andrew. Practical effects are awesome. I wish filmmakers would trust them more instead of relying on the crutch that is CGI. Of course, this would require more creativity at the writing stage and for them to gear the action more toward what can be done on the soundstage (which, as this featurette shows, is quite a lot).

  • Viergacht

    Well, actual wolves only run about 75-90lbs, so something half human and half wolf would logically be smaller than the average human.

  • someNerd

    The practical effects in this movie where great. The actual scene these guys are from (well theres two, but there mainly from the coven attack) is truly the best  action sequence in the whole series imo (no shaky cam, you can actually see the lycans kicking vampire butt for once) Using cgi on the skinny guys is understandable (and it didn’t look that bad) the uber lycan on the other hand… not so much.
     The first few minutes of this movie was terrific. It was dramatic, it wasn’t flashy,it was engaging and  there was no involvement with selene or hybrids. Werewolves and vampires and being killed by humans (like some brutal stuff, dragging vampires out into the sun) This is the set up to a good movie. What if your roommate or family member was a werewolf/vamp, would you just let them be killed, do they even deserve to die? well I don’t know because underworld never explains if they are evil, outside of caring for their own race. We never see a day in the life of one, their feeding habits or a human turning into one, and no Micheal doesn’t count. And then a few minutes later… Selene is back and that entire concept is thrown out the window and we get more of the same (hybrids, boss lycan,) 

  • Wow!! I’m so happy that the Underworld series has always done really scary, practical, werewolves. In this age of big CGI wolves or characters that simply turn into a wolf, it’s nice to see actual Werewolves!