A few months ago a friend of mine let me know about some interesting comments Hollywood filmmaker and producer Brett Ratner (Rush Hour, Money Talks, Red Dragon) made about review aggregate site Rotten Tomatoes, saying “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.”The crux of this argument seems very reasonable. There’s no question in my mind that Rotten Tomatoes has watered down film criticism thanks to the average consumer’s desire for a bottom line and a rating rather than insightful commentary and criticism. Too often you’ll find reviews on Rotten Tomatoes reduced to a burn, or even worse, some pun that’s relevant to the film. Sometimes it seems that critics have their bottom line written up before they even see the film (check out old reviews for Apocalypto or Lone Ranger for examples).  If a classic, prose writing critic complains about the state of things, I say there’s something to it, but that’s about film criticism, not about the filmmaking industry as Ratner stated. I left his comments alone after reading them, mostly because no one was taking his comments very seriously. As savvy a film producer as he is, many of his movies have been rightfully blasted by critics. Chalk it up to sour grapes. Only now a few film executives involved in the box office disappointments Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales and Baywatch are chiming in. They blame poor Rotten Tomatoes scores for their lackluster box office performances (domestically anyways). This week’s The Mummy didn’t allow film reviews until today, just two days before its release. My feeling is that film studios, rather than be accountable for the movies they produce, and work on creating better products, will scapegoat Rotten Tomatoes and avoid critical reviews all together in the future. We’ll see if this is the case, but I feel like that situation is inevitable since execs don’t want to admit mistakes. Rotten Tomatoes helps movies. Films like Get Out, made for 4.5 million, made over 200 million thanks in large part, I believe, to stellar word of mouth-starting with Rotten Tomatoes. Small films that people otherwise would not have been interested in or maybe not even heard of, get boosted by this system. The truth about films that are “harmed” by Rotten Tomatoes, is that they probably didn’t have much interest to begin with. Suicide Squad was brutalized by critics, and still made a killing because people were in. They wanted that movie. Now, if/when they make a Suicide Squad 2, and if/when it gets horrible reviews, it will very likely bomb at the box office because people aren’t as keen on a second dosage. Many people are growing wary of sequels and remakes. A sequel or remake with bad reviews? Don’t bet on it.

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