Don’t Trust Rotten Tomatoes

This really hit me while watching Warcraft. I am a fan of the Warcraft universe and was looking forward to the movie for about three months. Coming out of the movie, I did feel disappointed, but I felt that the movie I saw was a very solid building block for a sequel. There was nothing insufferably bad about the movie, no moments where I cringed, no moments where I scratched my head in confusion to reconcile the script. It was just that some of the arrows missed their mark. I felt I would give it a solid 60%, pretty good, but not fully realized.

My scale is simple:

  • < 50%: lacking in basic film-making and writing techniques. This could mean poor character motivations, deus ex machina, and not maintaining internal world consistency.
  • 50%–69%: Nothing necessarily wrong with the movie, no cringe-worthy or “huh?” moments, but it falls flat, preventing it from being a good movie.
  • 70%-89%: It is a good and enjoyable movie worth seeing if you have the time.
  • 90%-100%: It is a phenomenal movie that is a must-see for anyone who likes film.

I could completely understand people actually disliking this film, and there were plenty of valid criticisms. Some of which included: “it did not have the humor of the source material”, and “it felt like scenes were missing, so the scenes meant to be emotional eventually impactful fell flat”.

… And that’s when I checked Rotten Tomatoes.

28%? Really?

Now, here is what really struck me; how critics did not seem to understand the premise of this movie. Looking through the reviews, they seemed to think this movie was a high-fantasy movie in the vein of Lord of the Rings.

If “Lord of the Rings” and “Battlefield Earth” had a baby, it would look like the plot of “Warcraft.”
This is not “Lord of the Rings.” It’s barely “Dungeons & Dragons.”
Jones … is trying to deliver something like “The Lord of the Rings” minus the boring bits, but without the boring bits what you have is Itchy and Scratchy with maces.

This might be a failing of the movie, however, I did not come out with Lord of the Rings even in my mind. Nothing in this movie remotely reminded me of Lord of the Rings, so the connection appeared very tenuous.

Keep in mind; these are not nobodies, these were all listed under “top reviewers”. Those who are fans of this universe know that it is very unlike Lord of the Rings. It made me wonder — did these reviewers somehow believe that a high fantasy movie must be similar to Lord of the Rings, The Hobbit, or Game of Thrones? Is there no room for a property like warcraft?

However, some of the reviews were so lacking in substance that they made me wonder how these reviewers can even be listed among “top reviewers”. I have seen amateur YouTubers perform more informative and impartial reviews than this mess.

And what did better than Warcraft critically?

What finally really drove this home is the review of Ghostbusters. After watching Ghostbusters, I found a wide number of reviews from people with a wide variety of tastes. The best I heard was “fun!” and the worst was “the biggest piece of shit I’ve ever seen”. Through endless reviews, the prevailing opinion appeared to be somewhere between average and pretty bad.

On top of that, most fans of the original ghostbusters complained that the director had an utter contempt for the original audience. This is just a generic, poorly executed remake that adds little to nothing to the original property. Clearly, audiences did not receive it well because it lost $70 million in the box office.

Now, logic would say, if this movie was largely negatively received, rotten tomatoes should agree with audience opinion.

Really now. Certified fresh?

The Problems With Rotten Tomatoes.

The most major problem I have with Rotten Tomatoes is the scores are polarized. Reviews for pretty good movies turn to good, and not-too-good movies turn to terrible. This is due to it being a binary system — a movie is good, or it is bad. There is no grey. This means mixed reviews lean heavily negatively.

Other than that, critics are highly receptive to properties of known values. For example, Civil War is a good movie, but I felt it became very lacking in substance due to it being a fairly generic Marvel movie. 94% on rotten tomatoes. Having a movie that is largely unknown might receive largely negative reviews, even if it is objectively just mediocre.

Alternatives

If you want to know if a movie is entertaining and want a quick idea of what it’s about, Jeremy Jahns is great.

If you want a relatively impartial reviewer who will give you a balanced review, check out Chris Stuckmann.

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