I was recently engaged in a discussion about this film and its main protagonist, the vampire warlord Viktor, with a friend and our conversation prompted me into more serious thought about his actions. It is very easy to put an “evil” stamp on Viktor and indeed, in some respects he is very much so, but when you pause to consider the motivations for his actions they become somewhat understandable even if we cannot condone them.
Rise of the Lycans revolves around a forbidden romance between Viktor’s beautiful daughter Sonya and Lucian, the first of a new breed of werewolves. Lucian is different from the others for he was born human and is capable of willful transformation, whereas older breeds never shift back into their original form. Rather than killing him at birth, Viktor chose to keep him alive in the hope of using him to create a new breed of slaves. Many years later, his willful daughter causes him no end of trouble and forces him to punish Lucian for going to her rescue and removing his shackles. Viktor has more respect for Lucian than any of the other Lycans and looks on him with fondness, but maintains a distance in order to remind everyone that no one is above punishment, not even his “favorites.”
Despite the laws of the Coven, Lucian and Sonya have been secretly married and when their betrayal is discovered, it forces Viktor to retaliate against them in order to avoid showing weakness to his enemies. This decision ultimately kills his daughter and creates a powerful adversary in the form of Lucian, who for the next several centuries attempts to extract a terrible revenge on the breed responsible for destroying his wife and unborn child. However obvious and long-lasting the consequences of these actions, it remains prudent to point out that none of them are faultless. If it were not for Sonya’s disobedience, Lucian would never have been punished for removing his shackles. Viktor would never have imprisoned him. With time, it might have been been possible to appeal to Viktor for mercy and allow Lucian to become a Death Dealer. Had Viktor shown mercy instead of the fury of justice, the war would never have begun.
However, we must also look at the motivations behind his quest for justice… Viktor never wanted to kill Sonya. He was willing to sacrifice Lucian as a traitor but wanted to leave her out of it until she forced his hand. He had no choice but to imprison and punish her once the truth was out, because it would have shown weakness on his part to do otherwise. There are three Elders among the Coven — Markus, the father of their kind, Amelia, and Viktor, a warlord with great armies at his disposal. With the imprisonment of Markus’s brother William, from which the Lycans rise, by the orders of Viktor and Amelia, it was decided that to avoid disagreements and the potential destruction of the Coven, only one Elder would be awake at a time, taking turns in the leadership position with century-long reigns. Viktor’s position therefore is somewhat precarious. Were he to show favoritism, the Coven might choose to awaken Amelia or Markus.
It is not to say that Viktor had no choice but that it would have been dangerous for him to do otherwise. Arguably, he should never have sacrificed his daughter but it was a case of putting his own position of power and the laws of the Coven before his emotional responses. One had to be put aside in order to carry out the other. One might ask how someone could do such a thing, but pause and consider the world of the vampires. It is a cold, brutal, and merciless existence outside any form of human compassion or understanding.
Christian children’s author Patricia St. John wrote in one of her books about a young Muslim boy who has never been taught anything but cruelty. His younger sister is blind and therefore helpless and worthless apart from to be used as a beggar. Frustrated with her constant needs, the boy is eager to be rid of her — until it becomes apparent that her new master wants to abuse and mistreat her. The boy takes her to a missionary and as he watches their interaction, comes to learn the concept of love and kindness. In the book’s most tear-jerking passage, he finds a lost, starving kitten in the street and rather than killing it or kicking it as would have been his original nature, he carries it home to his sister. It is symbolic of the transformation in his life, and reminds us that kindness cannot be taught. Compassion is learned, it is not instinctive. Our human nature is evil and therefore without being taught concepts of morality or restraint, we would be entirely without them, barbaric to our very core.
There are cultures around the world in which what is taught is not humanity or compassion, but ruthlessness and hatred. I realize that Christians are much maligned in modern culture, that we have become a scapegoat for every possible perceived offense, that people we do not know and have never met in our lives still hate us, but I cannot fathom the reason why. Certainly, Christians are not without faults, for as individuals we are still a fallen race in need of salvation, but without the teachings of Christ, our society would be a much different place. The laws that govern our nations are founded on the basic principles of human rights — human rights that would not exist outside some form of faith. Even in pagan cultures, there were still laws based on religious principles — marriage was sacred, and theft was punished (although at times in the most depraved ways based on the culture). Were it not for this much-hated thing known as religion, we would all be monsters, because ALL our concepts of good and evil, of right and wrong, are based on principles we have been taught that find their foundation in the roots of faith. Even equality, which our society so demands, is a religious principle, because under what other circumstances would it be needed?
In the world of vampires and werewolves, no such laws exist. There, the concept of right and wrong is based on disobedience to a chosen set of laws. Viktor maintains his power and strength through intimidation and cruelty, because he has never experienced anything else and has put aside his humanity in order to remain “strong.” It does not excuse his behavior, but goes a long way toward explaining it.