Rotten Tomatoes has become the bane of many reviewers existence. It has been to used to prove, disprove, and get people into saying this movie is good or bad on an “objective” level based on how many people say you should see it.
There are many reasons this is all wrong (some of that I may get to, we’ll see), but what made me really think about it was seeing the disparity between critic and audience scores for the Dolittle. I reviewed it and was not having it. I would be in the 18% negative, but why then would there be a 77% number of audience members who liked it? When I went to the cinema to watch it there were families, kids, old people who want to see safe, heartwarming pictures, and then me. They all went to the cinema to enjoy the film. I went to watch it so I could write about it and for you to read what I felt. I try to go in with an open mind, but all the jokes I found terrible were loved by everyone else. A dog sets off to guard the castle only to pull back and see him rubbing his butt on the carpet. That’s so funny (I am eye rolling real hard). I may hate it, but I am the minority in the room. Does that make me wrong? Does it make me seeing it as a cheap, shallow film become wrong because everyone else quite enjoyed playing in the kiddie pool?
This goes for Bloodshot as well. Not the dogs and kiddie pool and farting dragons, but the large gap in critic versus audience enjoyment. Critics (myself included) did not like Bloodshot. It’s not good. Overall 32% of us enjoyed the film. Meanwhile regular audiences enjoyed it at 78%. A whole 46 point difference is pretty strong. This comes from the place of easy enjoyment. People see a man get shot like he’s on his way to take out coronavirus and we cheer. Add in the reality bending twist and some inventive tech and I can see why someone can like it. Especially if you see a couple of movies a year. It makes sense.
The obvious answer is no. There is no such thing as an objective opinion, but there is the consensus opinion. To use a hot button example let’s got to Rise of Skywalker. Rise of Skywalker has a 52% critic and 86% audience score respectively.
Now, I love Rise of Skywalker for a lot of reasons. None of those matter to the discussion here. Here, I am just saying that I fall on the other side of the line. I found the film enjoyable and would recommend it. This comes in tandem with the fact most normal people who do not fixate on films I talk to also seemed to enjoy it. Those same people also enjoyed The Last Jedi too. There is no difference for them. They come to see laser swords, blaster fights, space dogfights, and new aliens all in a pretty good three act structure. That does not mean it shouldn’t have more themes and ideas going on, but they aren’t their to decry head-cannon or possible plans. They’re showing up to enjoy themselves. Star Wars is still good and always was good for them.
See, the audience wants to go to the theater and just have a good time. They look for that good time to be had. That’s not to say they are lemmings who are “tricked” into seeing films. They see the films they think will be good, or cool and have a good time. They could be wrong, but to leave any kind of review at all means that they had a big reaction one way or the other. That would make their reviews possibly more accurate than a professional critic because they are normal people.
The point of reviews are to judge if you should spend your money at the movies (there are other reasons, but for ease of conversation that’s the only one). The problem is that most critics see more films than a regular audience member. The critic is not a layperson, but an authority. They have knowledge about the craft of filmmaking most people don’t, but it is still just what they think. Therefore judging if Becky and Brad from Braxtonville should go see that wacky space feature, or a cop drama, or girls night comedy doesn’t seem like a job for a critic, but it’ll happen anyway because it’s their job. Meanwhile Brad and Becky get to pick if they want to go, or that there is a movie they want to see and they’ll see it regardless of the fact it has a 37% critic score because it’s got that one actor from the thing they like.
I am not saying that critics are obsolete. They just give another perspective, and multiple perspectives are important to the discourse. There has to be a better solution than two totally different meters judged by two distinct groups of people. It adds unnecessary confusion for people if they should see it (and gives ammo for dumb debates).
I have a solution: the Ketchup meter (or maybe salsa. Anything that smashes two tomatoes together).
The Ketchup Meter is the average of the scores together. Seems obvious, but think about it. Is Dolittle an 18%, a 77%, or 48 (rounding up from 47.5)%? I mean it is all still an opinion, but I would say it is closer to just below average than I would say it is an unwatchable train wreck or pretty good.
Let’s try Rise of Skywalker then. Is the movie 52%, just better than average, 86%, a solid flick, or 69% (nice), a better than average but still not great film. I mean personally I go more to the 86, but I can see an argument closer to 69 (nice) than 52.
Let’s go back to a recent movie I reviewed, Underwater (read the review it’s good). Is that film a solid 50%, the most average movie ever, 62%, above average and pretty okay, or 56%, just above average? It tries too hard to be so mundane as a 50%, but not real good either so that 56% makes sense.
Okay, so let’s try the monster brawler Godzilla: King of the Monsters. Is the film 42%, not a very good movie, 83%, a really good movie, or 63 (rounded from 62.5)%, an above average action film? I may enjoy it closer to the 83%, but can see an argument closer to it being a 63%. Not all of the characters are that strong, and it does just devolve into a a big action fight with hard to understand stakes.
Let’s try again with the controversial Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice (read our review of it while you’re here. It’s good and well discussed). Is it closer to the 28% of bad and unwatchable, 63%, a better than average film that isn’t great, or 46 (rounding from 45.5)%, a worse than average movie? I mean I think it has too much care, heart, and effort, even as misplaced as all of that was, to be considered sub 30%. It may be a stinker, but it’s not unwatchable (it is if you’re a big Superman fan like me, but overall I’d say it’s not atrocious like a 28 says).
Finally we will do one of my favorite films, Valerian & The City of A Thousand Planets. Is that film 47%, slightly below average, 53%, slightly above average, or is it closer to 50%, the most average movie ever made? The answer is that they are all wrong. It’s too weird, inventive, clever, and fun to be so mundane as a 50%, and that’s the beauty of movies. Even as I have this system that works most of the time even it will fail me.
There will be no perfect system to quantify how good a movie is. Brad and Becky will still go see whatever they want to see regardless of what big ol’ New York City reviewer man thinks. They may agree with that critic, they may not. They just want to have a good time, and will probably.
I think this Ketchup Meter gets closer to what most people actually think, with the two ends being the spectrum (everyone loves a nice fluid spectrum that effects only themselves and not other people. I mean getting mad because someone falls on one side of the spectrum and you don’t like that would be ridiculous and never happen). It would still all be used for fanboy fighting, but they’ll do that no matter what you do. Therefore, focus on the possible audience member and how they’ll take the information. Would it help them get a better picture of the film they’re seeing over what their uncritical friend and overcritical family member thinks? I believe so.
But, there are some movies people will just totally enjoy and get sucked in that neither side agrees on. So, while everyone else will look, and ask what is wrong with them and say, “Avengers: Age of Ultron is not the best Avengers movie because it has the lowest score on Rotten Tomatoes than any of the others.” And I will say that they are wrong because I just enjoyed it more than them.
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