RT Podcast

"Rotten Tomatoes Is Wrong" about... Underworld

Critics largely said it sucked, but fans turned this Kate Beckinsale vampire-werewolf flick into a five-movie franchise. Derivative exercise in style or howling good time? We're breaking it down.

by | March 4, 2021 | Comments

(Photo by (c) Screen Gems/courtesy Everett Collection)

When Len Wiseman‘s Underworld was released back in 2003, the movie about a vampire-werewolf war and the very sexy vampires, werewolves, and humans caught up in it, never really got critics’ blood pumping. In the wake of Blade, which had nailed the R-rated horror-action mashup, and The Matrix, which had redefined trench-coat cool, Underworld – with its comic-book–style blood and plentiful trench coats – seemed “tedious” and “derivative.”

And yet the movie hit with genre fans, who would push its Audience Score to 79% (its Tomatometer Score is a Rotten 31%) and throw down enough cash at the box office to sustain a five-movie franchise, the most recent of which was 2016’s Underworld: Blood Wars.

What do they love about Wiseman’s hyper-stylized, action-packed movies? Well, all that style, for starters. And the movie’s solid and fascinating history and lore. And then there is Kate Beckinsale‘s Selene, the tough-as-nails vampire warrior with a strong sense of justice, incredible marksmanship, and an ability to land any jump while looking cool as f—k. Even critics who grumbled at the been-there-done-that-ness of some of the first movie’s plot points and set pieces praised Beckinsale, whose most celebrated role until Underworld had been in Kenneth Branagh’s adaptation of Shakespeare’s Much Ado About Nothing. In Selene, everyone agreed, the world had been gifted the kind of iconic movie hero we hadn’t seen since Sarah Connor kicked liquid-metal ass in T2.

So, does Underworld deserve more love than that Rotten Tomatometer score is giving it right now? That’s what we’re asking in the latest episode of podcast Rotten Tomatoes Is Wrong, where regular hosts Mark Ellis and Jacqueline Coley are joined by writer, host, producer, Underworld lover, and one third of YouTube’s “The Whirl Girls,” Steph Sabraw. Together, they’ll look at what critics were missing, the power of Kate Beckinsale (and those outfits), how Wiseman got some of Britain’s fanciest thespians to slum it in a genre flick, and why this series became so damn popular.

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Check in every Thursday for a new episode of Rotten Tomatoes Is Wrong (A Podcast From Rotten Tomatoes). Each week, hosts Jacqueline and Mark and guests go deep and settle the score on some of the most beloved – and despised – movies and TV shows ever made, directly taking on the statement we hear from so many fans: “Rotten Tomatoes is wrong.”

If you have a suggestion for a movie or show you think we should do an episode on, let us know in the comments, or email us at rtiswrong@rottentomatoes.com.

Meet the hosts

Jacqueline Coley is an editor at Rotten Tomatoes, with a focus on awards and indie coverage but with a passion for everything, from the MCU to musicals and period pieces. Coley is a regular moderator at conventions and other events, can be seen on Access Hollywood and other shows, and will not stand Constantine slander of any kind. Follow Jacqueline on Twitter: @THATjacqueline.

Mark Ellis is a comedian and contributing editor for Rotten Tomatoes. He currently hosts the Rotten Tomatoes series Versus, among others, and can be seen co-hosting the sports entertainment phenomenon Movie Trivia Schmoedown. His favorite Star Wars movie is Jedi (guess which one!), his favorite person is actually a dog (his beloved stepdaughter Mollie), and – thanks to this podcast – he’s about to watch Burlesque for the first time in his life. Follow Mark on Twitter: @markellislive.

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