Rant: On Reviews and Disagreeing with People

I try my best not to ever read reviews – I made that a habit a long time ago. I honestly really like to decide for myself what I will think of a movie or book or album without being clouded by other people’s opinions. And in reality, that’s almost always the best way to do things. It’s why I’m so fascinated by other people throwing disproportionate tantrums when critics hate a movie, or when people hate that a certain movie was made (Ghostbusters; I’ll get to it).

I saw today that someone had started a petition to shut down Rotten Tomatoes after the site almost universally panned Suicide Squad (it’s currently sitting at 27% rotten). First off, and I’ve talked about this before, critics have very different criteria for movies than comic book fans do. If you’re honestly a fan, whether or not a film critic likes a comic book movie you’re looking forward to should be a moot point. Whether or not you end up liking it is all that matters.

Second, I can’t believe people think a Change.org petition is the solution to everything. Funnily enough, when I started looking into this before I decided to write on it, I found some interesting things. The original petition is this:

We need this site to be shut down because It’s Critics always give The DC Extended Universe movies unjust Bad Reviews, Like

1- Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice 2016

2- Suicide Squad 2016

and that Affects people’s opinion even if it’s a really great movies (sic)

Hmm, that’s not really how life works, is it? Censorship issues aside, it’s horrible that our society’s first reactions to things that don’t agree with their opinion is to try to shut them down completely. Again, that’s not how life works. However, as I kept looking into it, I found this clarification from later in the day:

First : Thank you very much for reaching more than 5000 supporter
Second A Clarification : A petition definitely won’t shut down the site
The aim of the petition is to deliver a message to the critics that there is a lot of people disagree with their reviews.
A lot of people the supporters and the opponents of the petition act like we are already going right now to shut down the site
not it’s just a way to express our anger

All right, fair enough, although you did expressly ask for the site to be shut down because it hurt your feelings. But Rotten Tomatoes isn’t even the one doing the reviews; Rotten Tomatoes is a collection of critics’ reviews, and it also gives a platform for people to review after seeing a movie, almost like Yelp for movies. It’s mostly useful for people who do rely on reviews, but it’s also very useful for people who aren’t sure they want to pay to see a movie in theatres or wait until it comes out to rent or buy.

The petition only reached not even 19,000 signatures, so it’s really a small segment of people complaining, and was most likely picked up by the news because it was so ridiculous. You want to know the best way to disagree with someone’s negative review? Go see the movie! Pay money to go see the movie in theatres, especially opening weekend, and heck, why not write your own positive review after the fact? Plaster it all over social media that you loved the movie, and that you went to see it, and that you think other people should too. That is the real way to deal with negative reviews, not trying to shut down an entire company (even if you later say you just wanted to “send a message”).

Just for fun, here’s a list of movies that were panned by critics, but are widely known as successful, and in some cases, iconic movies:

  • Boondock Saints
  • Fifth Element
  • Fight Club
  • It’s A Wonderful Life
  • The Wizard of Oz
  • The Blues Brothers
  • Animal House
  • The Empire Strikes Back

Now, on the flip side of my rant today, are the people so thoroughly upset that new versions of movies from their childhood are being made, often with entirely different casts, that they try to completely obliterate the movie before it’s even released (see: Ghostbusters, told you we’d get there). I’m amazed that people think a new version of a movie will ruin the one that was already made years ago. How will it do that, by recording over everyone’s VHS or DVD copies of the movies? You guys know Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind is fiction and we can’t erase memories, right?

Oh no! There go my memories of the original Ghostbusters!

Oh no! There go my memories of the original Ghostbusters!

If you really don’t want to see the new version of a movie you’ve loved your whole life, I have a simple solution for you: Don’t go see it. They’re making a new version of The Mummy with Tom Cruise, and I absolutely love the one with Brendan Fraser. Am I going to sit around and start fights from behind my keyboard with people who think it looks good just because I don’t? No, I’ll probably just not see it. Being upset that the new one will ruin the Brendan Fraser one would be like thinking that gay marriage negatively affects my marriage to Captain America somehow just by existing.

At the end of the day, if something that isn’t actually directed at you or harming you, and is in fact an optional activity you can choose to partake in, is making you this upset, then you’re the one with the issue. We’re all individual little snowflakes with our own tastes and desires; just because a critic doesn’t like something you love, or they’re trying to make money off a new version of one of your favorite movies, doesn’t mean your life is ruined. Will some people not go see Suicide Squad because of the reviews? Probably. And they were probably the people who weren’t sure they wanted to see it in the first place.

Will I still be going to see Suicide Squad? Of course. Other people’s opinions don’t affect the things that I love or if I will love them. For all I know, the movie may be terrible, but I’m going to go see it for myself to make that decision.

14 responses to “Rant: On Reviews and Disagreeing with People

  1. The Fifth Element wasn’t universally panned by critics. There were some dissenting opinion concerning the abilities of some of the actors and a few scathing reviews, but there were also a number of positive ones. It also got several nomination and awards, more than you would expect for a foreign movie. It was also way more successful than you would expect, being in fact the highest grossing foreign movie so far.

    Fight Club was a highly debated movie, which isn’t exactly the same as being “panned”.

    It’s A Wonderful Life got mixed reviews, but it was also nominated for several academy awards, including best picture. Again, to claim that it was “panned” is misleading. (Plus, I actually think that the concept behind the movie is better than the movie itself, and that it is mainly the many reruns and nostalgia which make it so beloved – in the US. A lot of countries happily ignore this movies as well as The Wizard of Oz. Which was actually acclaimed upon release and won several awards. It might have even won Best picture if not for the fact that it went up against Gone with the Wind. I really have no idea where the story that the critics didn’t like this one is coming from. Neither do I understand why you list The Blues Brothers, which got three out of four stars from Roger Ebert who also declared Animal House as one of the best movies of the year (otherwise the reviews were a little bit more mixed).

    There were some Critics which had problems with the fact that The Empire Strikes Back had no proper conclusion, which yes, cause mixed reviews, but again, it is not true that the movie was universally panned. Again Roger Ebert was highly complementally about the movie.

    Can’t really comment on Boondock Saints, since the movie was indexed over here in Germany. It has only be taken off the index fairly recently. But I guess the issue here is more the content than the quality of the movie.

    In my experience, a movie which is truly panned by critics and then becomes a sleeper hit is very rare indeed. It is actually way more likely that a movie is praised and yet nobody watches it in theatres (like Shawshanks redemption, which I actually did see in theatres…though not because I read said critics, I simply liked movies set in prison back then), or that a movie splits the critics until a final consensus is reached. (Somewhat…I bet that critic from the US have a different perspective on A wonderful life than those from other countries).

    You can count me in as one of the people who won’t go and watch Suicide Squad in theatres. But that I am so excited about a movie that I will watch it no matter what is rare either way. I haven’t even made a final decision about the new Harry Potter yet, and I love Harry Potter.


    • I didn’t use the word universal for those movies, I said: “that were panned by critics,” which means I probably should have used a different verb from ‘panned’ but for brevity’s sake I said panned instead of “received multiple negative reviews in a manner similar to how Suicide Squad currently is and probably affected the movie’s box office upon initial release despite their now current success and praise from audiences.”

      I forgot to link my sources when mentioning those, and have some thoughts on the idea that critical acclaim is/is not equal to winning awards, which is to say, the two are mutually exclusive, The Academy decides who receives awards, not critics. Plenty of movies have done lukewarm with critics and gone on to receive award nominations and wins (Citizen Kane, The Wizard of Oz, It’s A Wonderful Life, etc.). Plenty of movies have done lukewarm with critics and been loved by audiences. Plenty of movies received positive review from Roger Ebert and negative reviews from other critics, and vice versa. In all actuality, the points that you are making refuting mine, which I will link to sources in a moment, shows the ridiculous importance that we give to reviews when they really are just one person’s opinion. The fact that you remember these movies receiving positive reviews while I found multiple sources claiming otherwise sums up why people getting so upset about movie reviews and starting petitions to shut down critics is so absurd. In the long run, the critic reviews mean very little, and what matters is what we as individuals think about the movies we see. It’s entirely subjective.


      On the Wizard of Oz: “I sat cringing before MGM’s Technicolor production of The Wizard of Oz, which displays no trace of imagination, good taste, or ingenuity… I don’t like the Singer Midgets under any circumstances, but I found them especially bothersome in Technicolor… I say it’s a stinkeroo.” – Russell Maloney, The New Yorker

      On Fight Club: New York Daily News called it “hardly groundbreaking”, the Miami Herald referred to it as “a bit of a dud”, and the Boston Globe said that its “chic indictment of empty materialist values fizzles.”

      On It’s A Wonderful Life: http://www.moviestalk.com/10-great-movies-that-flopped/4/

      On The Wizard of Oz again: http://www.moviestalk.com/10-great-movies-that-flopped/6/

      Browsing through the critic reviews collected by Rotten Tomatoes for The Fifth Element, you see that it’s mostly mixed – I was basing listing that from what I remembered at the time when it came out, which is that it was not incredibly well received (at least in the US) and therefore was out of theatres relatively quickly. Is it now beloved and kind of a cult classic? Absolutely.

      And more: http://screenrant.com/great-movies-panned-critics/?view=all

      Honestly, a Google search for “great movies panned by critics” turns up a large amount of articles with sources and quotes as well as box office listings and award nominations for movies where critics and audiences disagreed. For my post and to support my point, these are the ones that I used. Does that mean every critic everywhere felt this same way? No, and it is incredibly rare to find a movie so abhorred by critics that basically every review is negative (I can think of a few, Cannibal Holocaust comes to mind immediately). But my point was that almost every movie receives at least some negative criticism, and it should in no way affect whether or not a fan of said movie’s content will like the movie. Everyone has their own opinions, since enjoyment is, again, entirely subjective.


      • Yeah, you can find one or two bad reviews for every movie. I just don’t get why there is this need that DC movies HAVE to succeed.


        • I don’t either, personally I’m more of a Marvel fan. I think it probably comes from a sense of seeing the other team consistently win while your team is so hit or miss. I mostly want to see the DC cinematic universe unfold out of sheer curiosity, especially after Dawn of Justice. The only movie of theirs I’m really looking forward to is Wonder Woman, because Gal Gadot did such an amazing job in BvS


          • And for more on Batman v. Superman, listen to this Sunday’s episode of Comparative Opinions 🙂 I say this for others coming across this… Julia already knows as she was one of the hosts!


        • I think some of this might be the “Amazing Spider-Man 2” syndrome, where the fear is that if one movie doesn’t succeed (whatever the studio’s definition of “succeed” is, given that ASM2 made a whole bunch of money), all of these other movies that have been “promised” now will be cancelled. Luckily, the movie people are most excited about – Wonder Woman – is already to the point of production that I imagine it’s *going* to come out so at least there’s that.


          • Yeah, but the Spider-man movies have brought in diminishing returns since the very first movie, so it wasn’t one movie which sealed the deal, it was the overall trend.


          • Which still makes it odd that they were so heavily planning so many movies so many years out, which I want to say started the current trend of not only planning said movies but staking a claim on a release date and letting everyone know they’re coming. I kind of miss the days where we really only knew what the next movie was going to be. Also I thought Spider-Man 3 was the top grossing of those?


          • I guess Spider-Man 3 is the outlier, otherwise it is a steady drop off. http://www.boxofficemojo.com/franchises/chart/?id=spiderman.htm


          • look at the domestic numbers. Spider-man 3 is only the outlier if you see it internationally. Domestically each release made less money, despite being released in more theatres and to higher ticket prices. I know that some people are still all over the original Spider-man trilogy, but personally I think it never caught on as well with the more general audience than the MCU movies did, which (with the exception of the Avengers movies) made more with each sequel.


          • I think (probably from reading We Minored in Film) that just looking at the domestic numbers isn’t what Hollywood is doing – and it’s certainly not what they should be looking at. Still a downhill slide, fair enough.


          • True, the international numbers count, but it is still a noticeable trend. Even if you go international, it is still there, just with one outlier thrown in. (Plus, I might be wrong, but I think Spider-man 3 was released in more markets than the other two, which thoroughly screwed up the numbers).


  2. It’s really silly to think that Rotten Tomatoes is the problem. Shutting it down won’t stop the source reviewers. (I’m not saying that the source reviewers are a problem either.) In general, find a reviewer who matches your taste, and pay attention to what they say. It’s not that hard to do.

    I understand the perception that critics panning a movie might make the studio gunshy about the bigger picture, I understand that, but it’s just a risk we take as being fans. It’s worse when fans start acting like lunatics, in my opinion.

    (Great article, as always Julia.)


  3. Pingback: Suicide Squad – Concerns Answered? – Comparative Geeks

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