Director and producing mogul Brett Ratner says film critic aggregation site Rotten Tomatoes is a destructive force in Hollywood.
Speaking at the Sun Valley Film Festival last weekend, the Rush Hour director wanted to make it clear he has plenty respect for traditional film critics. But he says reducing hundreds of reviews culled from print and online sources into a popularized aggregate score has become a toxic and often inaccurate label.
“The worst thing that we have in today’s movie culture is Rotten Tomatoes,” said Ratner, whose company RatPac Entertainment co-financed Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice (among dozens of other Warner Bros. titles). “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.”
Directed by Zack Snyder, Batman v Superman cost about $250 million to make and grossed nearly $900 million worldwide — despite being considered a disappointment (with a 27 percent score on Rotten Tomatoes).
“People don’t realize what goes into making a movie like that,” Ratner continued. “It’s mind-blowing. It’s just insane, it’s hurting the business, it’s getting people to not see a movie. In Middle America it’s, ‘Oh, it’s a low Rotten Tomatoes score so I’m not going to go see it because it must suck.’ But that number is an aggregate and one that nobody can figure out exactly what it means, and it’s not always correct. I’ve seen some great movies with really abysmal Rotten Tomatoes scores. What’s sad is film criticism has disappeared. It’s really sad.”
Some other popular titles with low Rotten Tomatoes scores include Home Alone (55 percent), Hook (30 percent), Wet Hot American Summer (32 percent) and The Mighty Ducks (15 percent). More recently on the TV side, Netflix’s Iron Fist scored only 18 percent from critics but its audience score is 83 percent.
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We reached out to Rotten Tomatoes about Ratner’s thoughts, and Jeff Voris gave us a statement in reply — and it’s not as contrarian to the director’s stance as you might expect. “At Rotten Tomatoes, we completely agree that film criticism is valuable and important, and we’re making it easier than it has ever been for fans to access potentially hundreds of professional reviews for a given film or TV show in one place,” Voris wrote. “The Tomatometer score, which is the percentage of positive reviews published by professional critics, has become a useful decision-making tool for fans, but we believe it’s just a starting point for them to begin discussing, debating and sharing their own opinions.”
The director also revealed that a Rush Hour 4 could be in the works. “I think it will happen; we’re talking to writers,” he said. “We could call it Grumpy Old Rush Hour.” The original film was released in 1998 and starred Jackie Chan and Chris Tucker as a pair of mismatched law enforcement officers and unwitting partners. The blockbuster hit, which grossed $244 million worldwide at the time of its release, spawned two sequels with Chan and Tucker.
As for Ratner’s other projects, his planned Johnny Depp sexual assault drama, The Libertine, has been put “on hold” due to issues surrounding the actor’s divorce.
The Sun Valley festival, which EW is a producing sponsor, is now in its sixth year. Ratner was on hand to accept the Idaho festival’s Pioneer Award, which given to individuals with a trailblazing career. In addition to directing movies like X-Men: The Last Stand and Red Dragon, he’s also produced titles such as 2015’s The Revenant. The festival also honored Oscar winner Geena Davis with the Vision Award, as well as Girls and Get Out star Allison Williams.