Have Your Say: Aggregate Review Scores Are Good / Bad

Associate Editor, Features; Rotterdam, The Netherlands (@ardvark23)
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Have Your Say: Aggregate Review Scores Are Good / Bad
Director Brett Ratner made some waves last week, when he publicly stated his opinion about aggregate review scores. I quote from Entertainment Weekly's article about it:

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.
Ok, stepping back for a moment here, because in this short bit Brett is already saying a lot of things you might agree or disagree with.

- You might disagree with Brett Ratner about whatever he says, because you hate his films.
- You might scoff at his example of Batman v Superman, a title on which opinions sure do differ.
- Intelligent, intellectual reviewing still exists (ahem).

Regardless, his concern with regards to review-scoring is an interesting one. I mean, I always strive to choose what films I see based on doing the appropriate research. But I'd be lying if I said I never peek at Rotten Tomatoes, Metacritic or IMDb for a quick look at the numbers.

So let's leave those three items listed above alone for now (well, bar the last one maybe...), and focus on the subject of aggregate review scores. Do you feel influenced by them, and do you think that is a good or bad thing? Chime in, in the comments below, and HAVE YOUR SAY!

(PS: Thanks to Kurt Halfyard for giving me the idea and showing me the article.)

(PPS: The picture above is from the poster for Return of the Killer Tomatoes, should you wonder...)

Kurt Halfyard contributed to this story.

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God of JoyMarch 28, 2017 10:29 AM

Ugh. It's hard for me to get around the fact that it is Ratner and there is probably part of him grumping about his movie scores. Rotten Tomatoes is handy because it IS a generalized aggregate - it can give an off the cuff impression if the movie is flawless (96-100%), has issues (40-80%), or is bad (20% or less). And what's more, you can use it as a jumping off point to read reviews from critics and movie goers alike as they post snippets and links there as well. It doesn't stop me from seeing bad movies (cough, Warcraft) but it can help manage expectations and my pocketbook in deciding whether to spend hard earned cash on a movie theater as opposed to waiting for a cheaper video rental in the future. It does not replace film critiques, it supplements them.

ZetobeltMarch 28, 2017 11:02 AM

Rotten Tomatoes is an excellent tool to moviegoers.

And Brett Ratner is the least appropriate person to talk about cinema.

ArmitageXMarch 28, 2017 11:06 AM

I don't think they're good nor bad. They just are. As I've seen friends of mine say since "Tomatogate" (as we've called it), you're perfectly capable of liking a movie even though the critics don't. There's no shame in that. I may go to RT or MetaCritic to get an idea of what the consensus on a film is before seeing it, but I don't let it sway my vote 100%. If I want to see the film, I'll see it regardless of what the critics are saying and form my own opinion.

Niels MatthijsMarch 28, 2017 11:06 AM

I never found (online) scorings to be very useful, simply because taster differ. I hate certain films that get incredibly high ratings on RT, I love certain films that get very low ratings. I never read any reviews before watching a film either, so I'm truly not bothered with them.

From Rattner's point of view though, it's a logical complaint because many people do care and sites like RT and MC reflect only the opinions of professional reviewers, which may differ quite a lot from the popular opinion. Sites like that may steer mindshare and future possibilities of the franchises.

As for his comment on film critics, I think that academic film criticism truly has gone downhill. It's not a very shocking statement and one that's been rehashed many times before. Personally I don't mind, I prefer more audience-centered reviews rather than entire film study dissertations, but let's not pretend a site like SA films that gap that people like Robert Egert left behind.

God of JoyMarch 28, 2017 11:31 AM

and for the record, Batman vs. Superman is currently scoring 27% critical, 63% audience on tomatoes. Which is accurate for me, though I side more on the audience score on this one. It did have some major flaws, but on the whole it was entertaining and more or less what I was expecting from Snyder and Co.

ManateeAdvocateMarch 28, 2017 12:23 PM

Aggregate review scores mean nothing to me. Some of my favorite films are widely hated by the masses. I've actually never visited Rotten Tomatoes.

chuckMarch 28, 2017 1:45 PM

I tend to ignore RT and read what critics with similar tastes as I have say. Not that I base seeing something solely off what a critic says but this way I can gauge what people with my similar tastes think and with my gut reaction to marketing material.

Like some others have said most of the films I enjoy ( lots of horror and sleazy B movie fare) NEVER score high in any sort of aggregate site so I can not base choices off of something that is never going to point me in the right direction of my tastes.

I can see how a RT site can help some less savvy/time constrained consumers make a decision on where to spend their hard earned cash ( lets face it, taking a family out to a film can cost upwards to 50-60+..that ain't chump change) and not "waste" their time/money on something they might not enjoy.But this also can hurt some people since they might miss out on something they would enjoy but got savage reviews.

I guess the correct answer is if you are a savvy movie connoisseur and friends/family around you are having a hard time trying to figure out something to watch do the right thing and help them out with your knowledge of film!

barbaraMarch 28, 2017 1:53 PM

Rotten Tomatoes meet a big need for consumers we need a filter. With more and more movies and technology for anybody to make just about anything. The greater the need for the ensemble of legitimate reviews. The score on Rotten Tomatoes is simply for busy people to grasp at a glance. I personally have my favorites critics however I don't always agree nor do they always agree with each other. Major marketing firms believe most reviews can be bought that's why I like independent critics. Mr. Ratner can reflect on old movies and after opening night wait for the morning paper yes to read the reviews in every paper. If only the news papers could get rid of Rotten Tomatoes they might sell a few more papers.

KurtMarch 28, 2017 2:22 PM

Reposting my comment from Social Media feed that was the genesis of this article:

His opinion on how people pick what they see, past and present is such utter nonsense. People reading detailed film criticism was never truly wide reaching. I've got no facts, but haven't people always predominantly gone (and continue to go) by TV commercials/trailers, posters, and what their friends say? Any contributions Rotten Tomatoes has made, is just extra, not reductive. (Despite what critics or execs think, it's mainly enthusiastic cinephiles that are (and only ever were) deep reading and going significantly by reviews, and my guess is that they are 5-10% of the movie going audience at best.)
Might it not be the exhausting mega-franchises that Holly Wood seems to hedge all their bets (and their marketing budgets) on that make people less film savvy than an online website?
In 2017, there is some of the most detailed, insightful film writing (and video essaying) in the history of the art form. And it is easier to access (than say, print copies of the NYT or the New Yorker, or Paulene Kael / Susan Sontag / Manny Farber texts/essays pre-internet. (And those are easier to get a hold of too in the 21st century).
Film criticism and discussion is NECESSARY to a healthy vibrant cinema culture, but ROTTEN TOMATOES is no more diminishing in effect than the ThumbsUp/Down did in the Ebert/Siskel TV era.
I call BUNK on Ratner, like many (but not all) of his junkfood films.

KurtMarch 28, 2017 2:25 PM


All of this is accurate.

KurtMarch 28, 2017 2:26 PM

And in all fairness, it was the 100% RT Score that got me off my ass to see Jordan Peele's GET OUT, and I'm thankful that I did.

Unflinching_EyeMarch 28, 2017 3:14 PM

If you keep in mind that RT's binary scoring system is a bit crude and reductive, I think it can be a useful tool to gauge quality.

Metacritic definitely gives a more honest score.

Ard VijnMarch 28, 2017 6:43 PM

Agreed. The fact that it wasn't under 25 intrigued me, as it meant a seizable fraction of critics actually liked the film.

Ard VijnMarch 28, 2017 6:44 PM

Hear hear!

LamontRaymondMarch 28, 2017 9:36 PM

Of course I use aggregated scores. If I want to know HOW good a movie is, Metacritic is the only way to go. Seems every so-so movie that is basically "liked" by most critics is up there in the 90s on Rotten. I mean, even the new Ghostbusters is "Certified Fresh". On the other hand, IMDb's user average is nothing but ballot stuffing contest.

SilasBodnickMarch 29, 2017 2:23 AM

Metacritic is vastly superior to both Rotten Tomatoes and IMDb. Case in point: Look at the Best of Year lists - Metacritic's best movies are truly the best. RT's top list is corroded with very above average movies that just so happen to not have any "negative" reviews. So sure, it's helpful on "should I see it", but it fails when you want to measure quality.

ZetobeltMarch 29, 2017 10:14 AM

Give it a try. Search for some of your fvorite films on RT. Maybe you'll be surprised. ;-)

ZetobeltMarch 29, 2017 10:35 AM

A very quick and dirty check with my kind of movies.

Audition (1999)
Metacritic 69
IMDb 7,2
Rotten Tomatoes 80%

Battle Royale (2000)
IMDb 7,7
Metacritic 81
Rotten Tomatoes 87%

Love Exposure (2011)
Metacritic 78
IMDb 8,1
Rotten Tomatoes 90%

Himizu (2013)
Metacritic 66
IMDb 7,2
Rotten Tomatoes 94%

Pixels (2015)
IMDb 5,6
Metacritic 27
Rotten Tomatoes 16%

Overall Winner: Rotten Tomatoes

Ard VijnMarch 29, 2017 8:48 PM

You made me spill coffee with PIXELS.

trollMarch 29, 2017 8:56 PM

Personally I prefer to read reviews from people and sites, like this one, that I trust. A score doesn't really help me any. What I like may not be liked by a critic. Gene Siskal ( my age is showing) never seemed to like a single movie I did. That didn't make him a lesser critic, it just meant I never sought out his opinion on a movie.

ZetobeltMarch 30, 2017 12:54 PM


Ben UmsteadMarch 30, 2017 3:18 PM

First up: Ard, an excellent choice for a header image. My seven year old self is smiling.

Now, onto the main event.

I don't use aggregate review scores to determine what I will see. Granted, I am in the minority in so many ways (seeing films early at film fests at the very onset of buzz, attending press screenings, being so ingrained in what's coming out for those above reasons and more), but in terms of a general flashy release, no, I do not use RT or Metacritic. I'll read some particular reviews or think pieces, speak to people close at hand and see if something fits. And if the occasional press screening for a studio release comes my way and I have a crumb of interest, heck I'll go. It's how I saw Warcraft, a film I was not planning on seeing in general release. And you know what? I appreciated some elements of it immensely.

Bottom line: I am, and always have been, and always will be way outside of who these systems are made for. It's perceivable that they are a help to those who use them, but that isn't me. Nor is it anyone in my family, because most of the time those folks just ask me for advice, and regardless of my taste, hone in on what I know about them and recommend accordingly.