Film director and producer Brett Ratner has come out swinging against film critic aggregate site Rotten Tomatoes, calling it, among pother things “the destruction of our business” and “the worst thing that we have in today’s movie culture.”  His comments were made at the Sun Valley Film Festival.  The director of ‘Hercules’ and ‘X-Men: The Last Stand’ as well as the three ‘Rush Hour’ movies (and producer of the TV show inspired by them) expressed admiration for traditional film criticism, but railed against Rotten Tomatoes, which seemed to mainly stem from the overwhelmingly poor reception to ‘Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice’, a project that Ratner was involved with financially.

Ratner called out Rotten Tomatoes, which collects professional reviews of films and TV shows and determines whether they are positive or negative, then averaging those scores out, indicating whether they are “rotten” (bad) or “fresh” (good).  Ratner stated:

Debby Wong /
Debby Wong /

“The worst thing that we have in today’s movie culture is Rotten Tomatoes. I think it’s the destruction of our business. I have such respect and admiration for film criticism. When I was growing up film criticism was a real art. And there was intellect that went into that. And you would read Pauline’s Kael’s reviews, or some others, and that doesn’t exist anymore. Now it’s about a number. A compounded number of how many positives vs. negatives. Now it’s about, ‘What’s your Rotten Tomatoes score?’ And that’s sad, because the Rotten Tomatoes score was so low on ‘Batman v Superman’ I think it put a cloud over a movie that was incredibly successful.”

“People don’t realize what goes into making a movie like that. It’s mind-blowing. It’s just insane, it’s hurting the business, it’s getting people to not see a movie. In Middle America it’s, ‘Oh, it’s a low Rotten Tomatoes score so I’m not going to go see it because it must suck.’ But that number is an aggregate and one that nobody can figure out exactly what it means, and it’s not always correct. I’ve seen some great movies with really abysmal Rotten Tomatoes scores. What’s sad is film criticism has disappeared. It’s really sad.”

‘Batman V Superman’ earned a combined score of 27%– hardly the worst ever, but still pretty bad, especially considering– as Ratner pointed out– how much went into making it.  It’s unclear what Ratner meant about the movie being “incredibly successful.”  True, financially, it made an astonishing amount of money, $837 million.  This is undermined a bit by its $250M budget (not counting marketing), but it still managed to turn a profit.  The curiosity factor of having DC’s biggest heroes on screen together trumped the negative reviews tendsas most wanted to see the film first-hand regardless of the negative reviews.  And many weren’t swayed by those reviews, as ‘BvS’ has an audience score of 67%, MUCH higher than the professional critics’.  (But if he meant it was successful artistically… he’s just basically wrong.)

But Ratner’s assertion that it has somehow led to the death of criticism seems unfounded, as Rotten Tomatoes includes an excerpt from the reviews it references and links to the full reviews, if a reader wants to know more.  And Ratner’s comment that “the number is an aggregate and one that nobody can figure out exactly what it means,” seems… well… kind of ignorant.  It’s not complicated.  The review is either positive or negative and that is compared and contrasted with hundreds of other reviews.  The aggregate score is an average.  That’s like third grade math.

Jeff Voris from Rotten Tomatoes, replied in a statement:

“At Rotten Tomatoes, we completely agree that film criticism is valuable and important, and we’re making it easier than it has ever been for fans to access potentially hundreds of professional reviews for a given film or TV show in one place.  The Tomatometer score, which is the percentage of positive reviews published by professional critics, has become a useful decision-making tool for fans, but we believe it’s just a starting point for them to begin discussing, debating and sharing their own opinions.”

Moviegoers are either swayed by reviews or not.  If they are, Rotten Tomatoes offers them a valuable tool by offering all the reviews in one place.  But quite often, as in the case of ‘BvS’, it doesn’t matter.  Many people want to make up their own minds.

In addition to that, many films are just “critic proof” anyway, especially those geared toward specific under-served demographics.  These types of movies almost always earn poor reviews, but score big with those that the movies are really made for, including women, African Americans, Christians and horror fans.

Do reviews help you determine whether or not you go see a movie?  Or are you one of those people tend to disagree with them anyway?

Source: Entertainment Weekly