Don’t judge a film by its statistics

Rotten Tomatoes has proven to be quite the influential tool in a modern film’s release, with many quick to judge a film based on its rating alone. Rotten Tomatoes is a website that measures how many critics give a favourable review to a film, in the form of a percentage. If 60 percent of the reviews are deemed positive, the film is rated as ‘fresh’, while anything lower is ‘rotten’.

Of course, there are limitations with this model. Firstly, there is the notion that a film can be reduced to a statistic. Take the recent release of Darren Aronofsky’s mother!, a film that is intentionally designed to be divisive. It attained a 68 percent rating. To those unaware, 68 percent would suggest that the film was pretty good, but perhaps flawed in some way. However, the rating fails to divulge that mother! is a polarising film, with a mixture of 1-star and 5-star reviews.

How are you supposed to gauge from a rating the varying attitudes and opinions to these reviews? All 68 percent tells you is that 68 percent of the critics featured in this poll would give a positive review of the film.

Another famous event that bought Rotten Tomatoes into the limelight was the famous critical backlash to Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice. So-called “fans” lost their heads over the damning 27 percent score (therefore, judged as ‘rotten’) and this was furthered by Suicide Squad’s also less-than-stellar critical reception, also scoring a measly 27 percent. Petitions were created from dismayed fans to “close the site down”, who thought these scores had been rigged and also believed that they could damage the legacies of these films.

As flawed a system as Rotten Tomatoes is, one needs to understand that it is just an indication of a film’s general consensus, and not something that dishes out its own score. As film critic Mark Kermode puts it, “aggregate scores aren’t criticism, they’re just number-crunching.” Watch a film for yourself to form your own verdict – don’t judge it by a statistic.


About Author