'The Dark Knight Rises' Raises Ugly Debate on Rotten Tomatoes
Even before "The Dark Knight Rises" opens to the general public, folks online are clashing over the reviews.
The critical controversies center around movie review aggregation site Rotten Tomatoes. Early this week, reviews of Christopher Nolan's final Batman film began coming in to Rotten Tomatoes. Everything was fine for the first 30 or so reviews, all of which were positive on the film. But then, a critic named Marshall Fine posted a negative review. The reaction was – well – let's just say it was not pretty.
Fine didn't respond to a request for comment from Speakeasy.
Fine didn't trash the film, he merely said he felt "The Dark Knight Rises" was the weakest of Nolan's Batman trilogy. But within minutes, hundreds of people had posted comments on Fine's review, many of which were personal attacks on Fine. "I knew it would probably be controversial just because I was the first negative one, and the first person to burst that 100% bubble always comes in for some negative response, but it was like a tsunami," Fine said. "What's amazing to me — and sort of amusing to me — is that all of these comments are coming from people who haven't seen the movie."
The comments ranged from short, simple cursing all the way up to death threats. One poster said he wanted Fine to die in a fire. Another fantasized about beating Fine to death with a thick rubber hose. For Rotten Tomatoes, that was enough. The website shut down the commenting feature on all "Dark Knight Rises" reviews. Rotten Tomatoes Editor-in-chief Matt Atchiity wrote, "There are plenty of other things to get angry about, like war, famine, poverty and crime. But not movie reviews."
But the controversy did not stop there. Before the site had shut down all comments, film critic Eric Snider of Film.com also posted a negative review… sort of. Snider hadn't yet been to a screening of "The Dark Knight Rises," so, as a kind of joke, he posted a fake review. His fake review was one sentence saying the newest film was the worst Batman film ever made (including the poorly received Batman films of the late 1990s). But, if you bothered to read Snider's entire review, he quickly made it clear that he had not seen the film and was just kidding. He was trying to prank the Rotten Tomatoes posters to see if they would actually bother to read his review or just attack him for the one sentence blurb. He guessed most would just attack. He was right.
Along with all the rage-filled comments, Snider also got a death threat, from someone who said they wanted to stick a bomb –well – inside part of his body. Rotten Tomatoes, already stinging from the negative comments, felt Snider had gone too far with his fake review. They took the review down and have banned Snider's reviews from their site.
On his twitter feed, Snider said he was not trying to prank Rotten Tomatoes, only the "awful commenters there."
Snider didn't respond to a request for comment from Speakeasy.
Snider, by the way, did finally get to see "The Dark Knight Rises" and, while he thinks it is the weakest of Nolan's Batman films, he still liked it enough to give it a solid "B."
In the couple days since Fine and Snider were attacked, a few more negative reviews of "The Dark Knight Rises" have surfaced. The consensus now seems to be that the film is a very good one, but not perfect and many say it is a bit too long (The Journal's Joe Morgenstern gave the film a positive review). But the question remains, why do some people want so desperately for a movie to be good that they are willing to attack a few critics who say otherwise?
"These 'crazy people' have already locked themselves into liking the film," says Collider.com film reviewer Matt Goldeberg. "They've been hit with so much marketing from the studios that they feel like they have invested time, energy, and passion into the film even before they have seen it. For someone to say, 'it's not good' is not an acceptable answer to them. As a critic, I want people to have a conversation with me about films, a conversation that goes beyond 'I agree' or 'I disagree.' They don't want to have that conversation."
Once "The Dark Knight Rises" opens in theaters, tonight at midnight, the critic bashing and analysis will certainly quiet down. After all, once the public has weighed in on a film, critics' comments carry less and less weight. Hollywood fortunes are often made on films that critics savaged. To real people, praise or pans from a friend carry more weight than a dozen prominent critic reviews. Still, it would be nice if the people who savage the critics would at least wait to see them film first.
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