- Marvel Studios
- “Captain Marvel” is the latest blockbuster to be targeted by online trolls who are taking to Rotten Tomatoes and other review-aggregator sites to tank user scores.
- Rotten Tomatoes changed its policy recently so that users can’t review movies prior to their release, but a representative told The Hollywood Reporter that the website could take further measures.
- These negative campaigns don’t necessarily hurt a movie’s box office, though, and “Captain Marvel” has already grossed $500 million worldwide in less than a week.
- Still, some Hollywood studios now have teams dedicated to combating internet trolls.
Audiences and critics rarely agree on what makes a good movie. At first glance, it appeared the same could be said for the latest superhero blockbuster, “Captain Marvel,” which hit theaters this past weekend.
When the movie first opened, it had an abysmal 31% Rotten Tomatoes audience score, which was easily the worst audience score for a Marvel Cinematic Universe movie yet. It’s now a more respectable 62% while the Rotten Tomatoes critic score is 79%.
But those scores don’t tell the whole story. “Captain Marvel” was a victim of negative online campaigns, and even before its release, it was hit with fake negative reviews on Rotten Tomatoes from people who hadn’t seen the movie yet.
Earlier this month, Rotten Tomatoes announced that it was changing its review policy on the website, and users would no longer be able to leave comments for a movie prior to its release.
“Unfortunately, we have seen an uptick in non-constructive input, sometimes bordering on trolling, which we believe is a disservice to our general readership,” Rotten Tomatoes wrote.
But Rotten Tomatoes could take even further action to stop internet trolls from “review bombing,” or posting a surplus of negative reviews in an effort to tank a movie’s audience score. A Rotten Tomatoes representative told The Hollywood Reporter that additional changes are being considered that could include making users verify that they have seen a movie.
The negative campaign didn’t hurt the movie, though. “Captain Marvel” has already grossed $500 million worldwide in less than a week. And it didn’t bother the movie’s directors, Anna Boden and Ryan Fleck.
“It’s pretty crazy, but it’s all good because the thing is people care about these characters and people care about this movie, even if caring about it means they have to go trolling online,” Fleck told Business Insider. “It means they care enough to take the time to do that. So it’s fun for us because we have never made a movie where people besides our parents are amped to see it.”
A Rotten Tomatoes spokesperson told The Verge that the site has faced an increase in “review bombing” in the last 18 months, and movies like “Star Wars: The Last Jedi” and “Black Panther,” which have diverse casts of people of color and women at the forefront, have been particularly affected. And the trolling hasn’t been limited to Rotten Tomatoes. “The Last Jedi” star Kelly Marie Tran, the first Asian woman in a prominent “Star Wars” role, deleted her Instagram account last year after facing racist and sexist attacks.
But like “Captain Marvel,” the negative campaigns didn’t have an affect on audience turnout for those movies. Both “Black Panther” and “The Last Jedi” grossed over $1 billion worldwide. “Black Panther” was the highest-grossing movie domestically last year with over $700 million.
BoxOffice.com analyst Shawn Robbins told Business Insider it’s “tough to gauge how much real impact” review-aggregator sites have anymore on audiences.
“There was a time when they provided some valuable insight into a film’s level of anticipation or fan approval, but much of that has been corrupted for certain titles by a vocal minority of users,” Robbins said. “‘Black Panther,’ for example, went on to become one of the most successful superhero films of all time, and ‘The Last Jedi’ finished with an excellent box office total regardless of backlash.”
Comscore analyst Paul Dergarabedian told Business Insider that “any negativity thrown at the film has only heightened the level of conversation and thus interest in it.”
Studios are still taking extra measures to prepare for trolls, though.
Digital ad spending in 2019 in the entertainment industry will reach $6.64 billion, up from $3.45 billion in 2016, according to EMarketer, Bloomberg reported. Hollywood studios have also increased marketing teams to combat internet trolls, and some have up to 40 people on a team, according to Bloomberg.
“Reasonable observers and analysts realize that grassroots campaigns to harm a film’s profile aren’t always reflective of real-world sentiment, but it’s understandable for studios to be concerned about the potential impact given the amount of risk they’ve taken on big-budget titles and how quickly social media of any kind can create a false narrative that spirals out of control,” Robbins said.
But even “The Last Jedi” director Rian Johnson, who said he faced death threats when the movie was released in 2017, is putting a positive spin on the attacks against “Captain Marvel.”
“Pretty much the new ‘Certified Fresh’ badge,” Johnson tweeted last week.
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