Bored on lockdown, you look up the reviews for a film you’ve heard about. The initial screen on Rotten Tomatoes indicates that it’s great, 93%, but experience reminds you that this is just the critics’ score.
You click through to the full page, and the audience score is 14%.
Wha . . . ?
There are various conspiracy theories about this, like how big studios manipulate ratings on YouTube trailers. But having looked at many examples, the truth seems fairly prosaic.
For the most part, critics are twits. The dark fear that keeps them tossing and turning between wanks at night is the ever-present possibility that they may be exposed as frauds. That someone will say, how come you get to make money watching films and talking nonsense about them? Or, how could you have disliked that film by a black director? Are you racist or something? Racist! We got a RACIST over here!
It is possible that some reviewers might get studio kickbacks. However, in most cases this would not be necessary. If they start liking Bad films, or disliking Good ones, they’ll get fewer invites to industry functions, not so many dinner party invites, and that carefully seduced Big Account won’t retweet them so often, or even unfollow them. They might lose their job, there being an infinite supply of unemployed film school graduates to replace them.
Twits rely, more than brains or education, on their connections and their reputation for Wokeness and Diversity Pokemon Points. Writing thoughtful and independent reviews won’t cut it.
Hence, the most common reason for enormous disparities between critics and the audience is a fear of standing out as being the only one to dislike a woke movie. Not just dislike: a very woke film requires a five-star rating. A four-star rating means you’re only 80% woke, in other words, RACIST. Or SEXIST. Depends on what you were supposed to be fawning over.
Case in point:
The Shape of Water
Critic score: 92% Audience score: 72%
Perhaps this film was not so bad (I have not seen it), but critics dared not give it a realistic three stars due to its multiple woke themes.
More to the point:
The Last Jedi
Critic score: 90% Audience score: 43%
I haven’t seen this one either, but it looks like a disappointing and mediocre effort. Critics had to give it 4-5 stars because of the Strong, Female Lead and Progressive Themes.
On the other hand, I doubt many audience reviewers took points off for the same reason. Most people are normies, and will only get offended at a movie’s ‘message’ if they’re beaten over the head with it at the expense of entertainment.
Here’s an interesting comment from a Reddit thread on the topic:
Is it possible that the alt-right is brigading the reviews of this movie because of some of the SJW casting choices? I found some of the racial and gender subtexts to be pretty ham-fisted so I could see some wackos seizing on that. This is a genuine question, I don’t have an opinion one way or the other yet.
Personally, I thought the movie was pretty good. Some of the visual stuff was so creative and clever, and way more well executed than any of the blurry bullshit you see in comic book movie. But the dialogue was pretty bad and the humor was very poorly done.
The percentage of people who are anything close to alt-right is probably around 5% – about the same as the proportion of people who could be described as SJWs. Reading audience reviews, we overwhelmingly discover normie-tier concerns such as dullness, logical errors, and poor scripting.
While only 5% of the viewing public will be SJWs, more like 80-90% of professional critics will be, such is the nature of the beast. That’s the real reason for the discrepancy in this case.
Here is further evidence that normie audiences will not vote down a Woke film that is nevertheless entertaining and heart-warming:
Critic score: 93% Audience score: 93%
I haven’t seen it, but I’ll take that as evidence it’s not too bad as a work of art despite the lack of historical accuracy.
Rotten Tomatoes audiences love love love soppy, black-white friendship, we’re all the same underneath stories. The Shawshank Redemption, Bad Boys, that one with the guy in the wheelchair. American History X. Often the audience likes them more than professional reviewers who get spooked by outdated SJW talking points.
Critics are also unwilling to go out on a limb and admit they don’t much like an arty film that everyone else raves about. If they know it is supposed to be ‘arty’, and that all the rest of the chardonnay set are gushing about the references and throwbacks and winks and nudges, they fear they’ll look stupid for not appreciating them, or a Neanderthal for not caring and disliking it anyway. For example:
Critic score: 85% Audience score: 44%
Finally, a film I’ve seen. I like it okay, but I can understand why a lot of the audience reasonably would not. It’s a weak Cohen Bros movie. I find even their lesser efforts entertaining, with a few classic scenes here and there, but it’s no Big Lebowski. Not even close. I’d give it maybe 70% – amusing to watch on lockdown if you need to kill some time.
I can also see how critics claim to love it in order to preen how clever they are and how they wouldn’t expect you to understand all the in-jokes and loving parodies, you filthy pleb.
In some cases, the motivation for high critic scores is mysterious:
Critic score: 93% Audience score: 46%
What? I haven’t seen it, but it can’t have been woke because it was released back in 2001 when we were troglodytes that didn’t even let boys into girl’s change rooms.
Sometimes it goes the other way – the audience loves a film the critics hate. You’d think that this would be most often the case with dumb comedies and blockbuster action movies like Transformers, but in fact the SJW factor can be just as significant here:
Critic score: 18% Audience score: 72%
. . . Paul, burning for revenge, hunts his family’s assailants to deliver justice. As the anonymous slayings of criminals grabs the media’s attention, the city wonders if this deadly avenger is a guardian angel or a grim reaper.
Something something gun rights something something, you can see why the self-respecting reviewer is not allowed to enjoy something like this, no matter how entertaining he may secretly find it.
Oddly, Gran Torino got an 81% critic score. Safely crypto enough? Pre-Woke? Not sure.
Critic score: 68% Audience score: 88%
The difference was not so great in this case, but reading professional reviews indicates that many Good critics were not willing to give this film a chance. It has all the deliberate ambiguities, unreliable narrators, Easter eggs, creative cinematography, arty references, and openness to multiple interpretations that film school nerds usually lap up like soy milk, but in this case critics were consciously or unconsciously worried what the rest of their set might think if they admitted it was kind of cool.
Rivals might accuse overly positive reviewers of secretly being alt-right or incel apologists, even though everyone who’s watched it knows those terms have not the slightest relevance. All the Good people have an unspoken agreement to pretend that these things are relevant, thus making the labels suitable missiles to fire at anyone reckless enough to praise the film. Telling the truth could get you cancelled.
Speaking in general, one Redditer says this:
Nobody who knows what they are talking about freaking cares about RT audience score. It’s not a good metric.
Having watched a bunch of rubbish over lockdown, I would say the opposite is true. Arty flicks that plebs are presumed too dumb to like actually do pretty well on the audience score, so long as the films are not too dull. Citizen Kane and Brazil get 90%. Vertigo gets 93%.
Sometimes an audience score is not so high as I think a film deserves, but I have not once seen a great film with an audience score below 70%. Similarly, I have never seen a terrible film with a high audience rating. At the very least, a film popular with the mob will be funny, engaging, and watchable.
Edit: I found one. Both critics and the mob loved the awful Pan’s Labyrinth. A few people picked up on the logical idiocies, but I didn’t spot a single reviewer, professional or otherwise, who noticed that it was cartoonish, Communist propaganda.
Let’s finish with an interesting case. I am guilty of quite liking this film:
Critic score: 76% Audience score: 60%
This is the kind of film where these scores ought to be reversed, given that it is based on the (correct) premise that IQ is largely heritable. What happened?
Idiocracy was released in 2006, before the current wave of Woke, and many of the critic scores come from contemporary reviews. Back then, critics were not so afraid to admit enjoying a stupidly funny film that veers dangerously close to being politically incorrect. If it were released today, the critics would pan it. In fact, there’s no way it would be released at all.
Having said all this, Rotten Tomatoes remains a useful resource. If both critics and the audience like a film, it might be worth a look. If they differ, the audience score is more reliable, but is no guarantee.
If both critics and the audience hate a film, then it is rubbish. No exceptions.
Critic score: 13% Audience score: 22%