While the specific reasons remain a topic of heated debate, everyone seems to be in agreement that things are, in the most general sense, quite bad. Whether you’re concerned about encroaching fascist powers or a restriction of free speech, the planet’s eventual heat-death or vanishing industries and the jobs that go with them, everyone can find something to lose a little sleep over in 2018. Credit the movies, then, with giving us fair warning. Cinematic visions of the future have always favored the dystopian over the utopian, preferring to nail-chew over our shared anxieties rather than build upon hopeful fantasy.
The value of a Rotten Tomatoes score is once again a hot topic, thanks to a widening divide between how critics view a movie and how audiences see it.
Discussion about that divide flared recently over Star Wars: The Last Jedi, which received more than 100,000 reviews and an audience score hovering around 56 percent — much lower than the critics’ “Certified Fresh” score of 91 percent. A similar disparity occurred with the release of Justice League in November, wherein the film received a lackluster 41 percent score from critics and a whopping 78 percent from audiences.
The latest movie to experience a noticeable difference from critics and fans is also one of Rotten Tomatoes’ biggest divides: Netflix’s Bright. The film, which I called the “cinematic embodiment of a busted, spewing sewage pipe,” has a 27 percent “rotten” overall rating from critics, but an audience score of 89 percent.
Justice League, Star Wars: The Last Jedi and Bright released within five weeks of each other, making the gap between audience scores and critics’ ratings more noticeable, but this has always been the case on the platform. Vox noted that “the [audience] score is often out of step with the critical score,” adding that “sometimes, the difference is extremely significant, a fact that’s noticeable because the site lists the two scores side by side.”
There are numerous theories about why audience scores and the critics’ ratings are often so different. Vox hypothesized that because people are spending $20 on movie tickets and snacks, they’re inclined to like the movie a little more.
FiveThirtyEight suggests that because some movies may come attached with controversial, cultural components — look at the reaction from some outspoken reactionists to 2016’s all-female-led Ghostbusters — there is an organized attempt to either drive the audience score down (aka “review bombing”) or inflate its overall rating.
“The point is that this is a hugely instructive case for why internet ratings need to be approached with way more nuance than they currently are,” FiveThirty Eight’s chief culture writer, Walt Hickey, wrote last year. “People put far too much faith in numbers that are preliminary, decontextualized and, in the end, oversimplified.”
Hickey is referring to both the audience score and the official “Tomatometer,” which is the single number attached to critics’ rating. The Tomatometer has become controversial in recent months, with many people in the film industry and outside of it pointing to the Tomatometer as the reason for a film’s box office success or failure.
Rotten Tomatoes’ Tomatometer is easy for people to point to and debate because of its prominence on the site: A rating, displayed in large font, sitting beside a symbol reiterating its status. Other polling institutions, like CinemaScore and ComScore, release their own data, but it’s not as easily accessible for the public.
In the case of Star Wars: The Last Jedi, despite a negative audience score on Rotten Tomatoes, the movie received a CinemaScore of “A,” which is the same as Star Wars: The Force Awakens and Rogue One: A Star Wars Story. Deadline reports that a positive CinemaScore rating often translates to a successful box office opening weekend and generally positive sentiment among viewers.
This year’s Golden Globes race is the closest in years with a whole range of film and TV titles in the running to emerge victorious at the ceremony scheduled to take place in Hollywood this Sunday (7 January).
Leading the film pack this year is Guillermo del Toro’s fantasy romance The Shape of Water with seven nominations which, while spearheaded by a fantastic Sally Hawkins performance, faces tough competition in the form of romantic drama Call Me By Your Name, black comedy Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouriand Steven Spielberg drama The Post.Then there’s WWII thriller Dunkirk which looks set to win Christopher Nolan his first Golden Globe for Best Director.