Whenever a movie is about to hit the theaters, many fans immediately head to the film review aggregator website Rotten Tomatoes to see if the film is officially “rotten” or “fresh.” Sometimes, that determines one is going to see the film. Other times, ( hardcore fans), will see a film in spite of critics because “Rotten Tomatoes doesn’t mean anything.” Needless to say, the film review website is an important part of the movie industry and the movie experience in an Internet age. Rotten Tomatoes has its supporters (those who love a “fresh” score), but the website also has its detractors. Ben “Sadfleck” Affleck surely didn’t appreciate the site for giving Batman v Superman and Live By Night poor scores, and it looks like he’s not alone.
Rush Hour director Brett Ratner recently was interviewed by Entertainment Weekly at the Sun Valley Film Festival where he spoke his mind about the aggregator website and its influence in the film industry. He was not a fan.
“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.”
Now, Ratner might not be the best representative for this cause, because he may have a serious ax to grind in regards to the quality of his movies. Although he gave us the Rush Hour movies (the first two are arguably good movies), he also gave us some stinkers like X-Men: The Last Stand, Hercules, Movie 43, and New York, I Love You among others. Those films are critical duds. In his case, this might be a case of rage against the site that dared to criticize the less than stellar films on his resume. However, that doesn’t mean that the argument doesn’t hold any weight. Rotten Tomatoes can sink a movie before we get a chance to see the film for ourselves. At the end of the day, film critics are interpreting the art just like the rest of us. We still have to decide for ourselves.