According to SlashFilm, director Brett Ratner believes that Rotten Tomatoes will be the undoing of Hollywood and what it stands for. The title of this article itself is already manipulative, calling out Ratner as the director of “bad movies.” To be fair, Ratner’s filmography has not had the utmost success with films like X-Men: The Last Stand (2006), Money Talks (1997), and Hercules (2014) -- although his comedies like Rush Hour (1998), Tower Heist (2011), and The Family Man (2000) were and are debatably very entertaining movies. Despite some of his less than satisfying films, however, he does have a fair point and something interesting to say here (at the Sun Valley Film Festival, covered by Entertainment Weekly):
“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.”
Some critics (especially from, unsurprisingly, Rotten Tomatoes) are already in a huff about this, but one thing that most everyone can agree on, especially when it comes to movies, is the mentality where you either have to love a movie or hate a movie. You can’t just like it or like it a bit; you think it was the best thing in the world, and, if you don’t, then you must hate it with an unbridled passion. If someone asks you if you liked a movie, and you say, “Yeah it was pretty good.” That person who loved will say, “Just pretty good? It was amazing. You must have hated it.” Sadly, Rotten Tomatoes has fallen in with this demographic. While there are many good things that Rotten Tomatoes has to offer, the percentage out of a hundred says that anything below 60% is “rotten,” and anything 60% and above is “fresh.” Love it or hate it. So, something can be fresh at 61% or fresh at 98%. What does that mean? Well, both are fresh but one is … fresher than the other? DVDs and Blu-Rays are now at the point where when they are released they have a “Rotten Tomatoes Certified Fresh” stamp on the cover (not a sticker you can take off but an actual logo that is part of the physical cover). So many movies that deserve a chance don’t get that seal because they are not deemed “fresh.” It seems like we were getting along fine without that stamp sign of approval. Just because Rotten Tomatoes thinks it is fresh doesn’t mean you will anyway. Everyone has their own opinions.
One of the main problems with Rotten Tomatoes is the huge scoring range. Sure, it is easy to explain the difference between a say a 65% and a 90% for a movie; while both are “fresh,” one is considered extremely well done and the other is considered good but basically just average. How do you explain the difference though between say a 72% and a 73%? What’s the difference? The percent out of one hundred leaves so much wiggle room, which is why it really helps to have something like IMDb which has a score out of ten, or something that has a score just out of five, or even the grading system of A+ through F. It’s much easier to explain the difference between 3 out of 5 and 4 out of 5, or a B+ and a C+, then it is explaining the difference between two little percentage points out of a possible hundred.
If we love everything, there’s not much room for discussion because everyone feels the same way. If we hate everything, there’s not much room for discussion either because, again, everyone feels the same way. Everyone has their own opinions, and it is possible to fall somewhere in the middle on how you feel about a movie or anything, for that matter. There have been quite a few movies that I give the benefit of the doubt, giving them a chance, and they end up being pretty entertaining movies despite their low or “rotten” score. Is Rotten Tomatoes really destroying Hollywood? No; that is a bit of an exaggeration (yes, a bit). But everyone, even those critics out there, should keep in mind that Rotten Tomatoes does have some problems, and we should keep in mind, like Brett Ratner said, that a movie is worth more than a number and a label, no matter how “great” or “bad” that movie may be.