I have openly been an opponent of Rotten Tomatoes and the damage that it has done to the film industry in terms of giving the people an inaccurate portrayal of how a movie has been appraised. I've spoken out about it, I've argued with people over it and I've written pieces about it on a a few occasions.
Today Brett Ratner reminded me who some of the true victims of Rotten Tomatoes are: The Film Critics.
Many of us that are DC Extended Universe fans have been directing our anger at the critics directly for writing what looks to be biased reviews favoring the Marvel Cinematic Universe, FOX and basically anything else with a pulse over the DCEU. The truth is that while a bias may indeed exist, the critics are allowed to have it because it represents how they feel or at least it represents what they were willing to put on paper and post online in terms of their thoughts and feelings on the movies.
What they DIDN'T do was give it a "fresh" or "rotten" rating and put a value on it. That's what Rotten Tomatoes did and does on a consistent basis and that is what Ratner addressed recently when speaking to Entertainment Weekly at the Sun Valley Film Festival on the subject:
That very last part is what is the key here: Film criticism has DISAPPEARED. Ratner is absolutely right about this and we need to understand why.
He covered most of the reasons from the side of what Rotten Tomatoes does that creates the problem, but we as fans need to take a look at the other side, which is what WE do with film criticism. To begin with, we don't read it. Well, we don't read it for any understanding as a people. Most fans will look at the Tomatometer score and let that be their guide for what they think of the movie and they will allow that score alone to determine how they have appraised and judged the movie from here on out. I've seen people use it in arguments and cite it to justify what they believe is a "fact" about how a movie is great or how it sucks. That's the first problem. We DO look at that number and allow it to change our opinion collectively, and I'm not speaking to individual people here I'm talking about movie fans as a whole. The laziness that we display in relying on a Tomatometer score and nothing else to influence our opinions on movies is nothing short of asinine and is the most common way that we destroy film criticism in the first place.
The second problem comes from those who read reviews on Rotten Tomatoes, but only do so to get "triggered." I don't see people re-tweeting or posting positive reviews for movies they enjoy so much, but I see them posting bad reviews that angered them A LOT. I've done it on a number of occasions myself and that's on me, but it seems like collectively we are only interested in pointing out how bad reviews are crap instead of touting good reviews as positive. Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice got 97 "fresh" reviews that are posted on Rotten Tomatoes and most of them came from the Theatrical Cut released a year ago and not after the Ultimate Edition came out a few months later. Here's a few of them:
Before Rotten Tomatoes existed in its current form, these reviews would be published and read along with the negative ones and people would still have to make up their own minds on whether or not it was worth it to see the movie. Most of us wouldn't care and still go see it, which to be honest still happens now but back then there wasn't this "cloud" of perceived failure as Ratner alluded to in his comments hanging over the movie that people felt constantly needed to be brought up or defended. Now with that Tomatometer score, the cloud exists and the perception is that the movie is "objectively bad," which isn't what the critics are saying at all, but it's how a ton of fans and fanboys are taking it and that's what the bloggers are running away with on their sites.
The bottom line here is that Rotten Tomatoes allows a fan to be lazy and make sweeping generalizations without forming an opinion of their own on how good or bad a movie truly is to them. Worse, because of the "number," people are actually taking the perception of a review aggregator as fact to base their arguments for or against a movie's quality. So in the end, while the critics do supply their opinions on movies and have the right to do so, it is the bloggers, fanboys and even general fans that are taking it far too seriously and applying it to some form of alternative facts to prop up our arguments about these movies. That is what is dangerous and destructive when it comes to these movies getting a fair shake for their appraisal.
No matter what you may think of Brett Ratner and his career, you have to admit that he does make a very good point about the "disappearance of film criticism." It's been an eye opener for me as someone that has railed against critics since this whole controversy with the DCEU started last year. As much as I still do believe there is an inherent bias in how they appraise these movies, the truth that I have to reconcile is that the bias has always been there and it's not the first time that I disagreed with most critics about a movie. The difference now is that there is this culture of bloggers and social media that are taking the aggregation done by Rotten Tomatoes and turning it into a "source" for their arguments that they use to cloud and color the perspective of a particular movie. In essence, they are serving to "do our thinking for us" and destroying what film criticism truly is in the process.
As if the problem couldn't get any worse, there are several bloggers and non-journalists that actually consider themselves "professionals" and put themselves in the same place as critics like Kenneth Turan, Steven Rea and Richard Roeper who have been doing it for years before blogging was even a thing. Anyone that writes for Collider, MoviePilot or Comicbook.com is not even remotely the same level of professional as those veteran critics. In fact, they are not professional at all especially with how they carry themselves on social media and YouTube.
Yet it is sites like Rotten Tomatoes that enable them to be seen and considered as professional by counting their reviews among the true professionals, and tons of people actually respect and revere them as such, when they are anything but. That right there is the crux of the problem that we face when we are too lazy to make our own decisions on these movies without any overwhelmingly lazy influence like an aggregate percentage proven to be inaccurate at best and flat out false at worst.
If you are someone that bases your opinions of these movies from what Rotten Tomatoes tells you, then you are part of the problem and it goes well beyond BvS and the DCEU. Now when movies are made, studios and their crews have to take into account the social media perspective and actively try to guard against the laziness of Rotten Tomatoes and the people that follow it religiously, and this goes for any movie from any studio from here on out. In the case of the DCEU it doesn't matter because that's a billion-dollar franchise already in spite of the Tomatometer-led perception, but what about smaller movies that don't have a fan base eagerly awaiting the next movie? What happens when THEY get dragged by a rotten score and the bloggers and social media warriors pounce on it? You may not care about it, but it's seriously the death of legitimate film criticism and that's a very, very sad thing.
Brett Ratner has directed ONE movie that I actually like and that's Red Dragon, but he's been a producer all over Hollywood for movies like Black Mass, The Revenant and War Dogs so it's not like he doesn't have an idea of what is going on in the industry. Social media warriors aren't going to like what he has said and they're going to use "his crappy movies" as a defense against this argument, but he really is on point with this and deserves credit for saying it. Now let's see how many people actually take it to heart, if any.