Surprise: 'Justice League' And 'Batman v Superman' Financier Brett Ratner Doesn't Like Rotten Tomatoes

Ben Affleck as Batman in 'Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice' Warner Bros

The director of X-Men: The Last Stand, Tower Heist and Dwayne Johnson’s Hercules movie, Brett Ratner, doesn’t like Rotten Tomatoes. Speaking at the Sun Valley Film Festival (via Entertainment Weekly), Ratner called the review aggregator “the worst thing that we have in today’s movie culture.” Even though he’s a powerful part of that movie culture, Ratner has found himself in a sad position: the worst thing in today’s movie culture victimizes him.

“I think it’s the destruction of our business,” Ratner said. In addition to directing and producing, Ratner finances movies through RatPac-Dune Entertainment, a company managed by Ratner alongside Australian billionaire James Packer and Steve Mnuchin, our Treasury Secretary who lied to Congress about his bank’s practice of foreclosing on hundreds of homes per week with falsely signed affidavits. Together they’ve provided funding for over a hundred films, most recently including The Accountant, Barbershop: The Next Cut, Midnight Special, Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, Keanu, The Conjuring 2, Suicide Squad, Fantastic Beasts and Where To Find Them and the upcoming Wonder Woman, Justice League, Aquaman and The Flash movies.

If Rotten Tomatoes wields any influence on box office returns (it doesn’t seem to), then it’s easy to see why it’d be a threat to Ratner’s business. And even if it doesn’t actually hurt box office, Ratner is just as fearful of reputational damage. “Now it’s about, ‘What’s your Rotten Tomatoes score?’ And that’s said, 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,” he said.

If success is measured only in dollars, Ratner has a point: Batman v Superman hit nearly $900 million in box office. It’s not Star Wars numbers, but it’s still a lot of money. But maybe audiences judge Batman v Superman on metrics other than money. Which did people bring up as a point of criticism more: the RT score or when Batman and Superman stopped fighting when they learn both their moms are Marthas?

Still, Ratner doesn’t hate Rotten Tomatoes because he believes it could cost him millions of dollars or because it calls a lot of his movies shitty. Instead, he couched his condemnation as a defense of the art of film criticism. “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.”

While Ratner’s concern is touching (and there are definitely problems with the state of film criticism online), there’s more and better film criticism now than ever. There are niche sites like Bloody Disgusting, review blogs like Horror Movie A Day, and journals everywhere. There are fantastic Twitter accounts like @JoannaDiMattia, @vrizov, @jhoffman and @BBW_BFF. You can watch YouTubers like Red Letter Media and Jenny Nicholson. And The Dissolve archives are still up, bless ‘em. Plus, speaking of Pauline Kael, it’s not like The New Yorker has stopped running movie reviews.

It’s true that Metacritic, Rotten Tomatoes and other review aggregators can flatten opinion, reducing a movie to a number, but it’s not the case that film criticism has been similarly flattened. Instead, reviews as consumer guide and film criticism as arts writing have been decoupled. We have a crude consensus for people looking for a thumbs up or down before spending $18 on a movie ticket and we have much, much more for those passionate about movies as art. And while Ratner speaks in defense of the art, he soon makes it clear he’s more upset with the informed consumer.

“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,’” Ratner said. Two of this week’s big releases Power Rangers and CHIPs — have Rotten scores. Could both of those movies suck? And what would be the real motive for someone who'd rather you not know? 

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