Rotten Tomatoes are unlikely to disclose Justice League’s Tomatometer score before Thursday, more than a day after the review restriction will be gone. The DC Extended Universe’s mega team-up film is not only among the most eagerly awaited movies of the year, but, one that the viewers are keen to read reviews of, courtesy the uneven reception that the franchise has managed in the past, and the Zack Snyder/Joss Whedon film has found it quite a tough journey to reach the cinemas.
The social media restrictions were removed last Friday, and the fans got to hear the initial reviews (which were sprinkled with a positive description). However, the complete embargo on the reviews would remain in place till Tuesday, November 14 11:50 pm PST or 2:50 am EST on Wednesday, November 15. That is quite a delayed scenario for such a mega film which is, in fact, less than two days before the film comes out in the cinemas. This coupled with an overnight timing means that there won’t be too many people online at that hour. All this hints that there might be apprehensions about negative feedback. Although, we would be able to get a general feedback then, but, the typical barometer readings won’t be available for almost 36 hours beyond that.
Instead of revealing the Tomatometer score (a number derived by averaging out the positive as well as negative reviews of a movie), instantly as reviews appear online, Rotten Tomatoes would keep the score under wraps until 12.:01 am EST on Thursday, November 16 as part of their new Facebook show See It/Skip It. This implies that the score would be revealed a mere seven hours before the film’s first screenings start.
Let’s be clear that this is not an extended embargo by Warner Bros. In fact, Justice League is not the only film to be in this situation, earlier during the debut episode of See It/Skip It, the presenters SegunOduolowu and Jacqueline Coley revealed the Tomatometer score of A Bad Mom’s Christmas and last week revealed the much-delayed classification of Star Trek: The Original Series. But, the Justice League is a much grander project than either of those in terms of release size and DCEU’s complex cinema history. Last year we had seen how the commercially successful Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice and Suicide Squad were stuck at 27% and 26% respectively.
The fact is that the Tomatometer is not crucial. Its criteria is very simple, and cinema is a very subjective medium, and any single score is never much of a judge about any film. Nonetheless, the score has gone on to become a significant part of Hollywood’s movie hype mechanism which gives a general idea of critical perception and often serves as a tool to market a movie and has also led to complaints about adversely affecting the box-office collections. In fact, to delay revealing it is likely to make a huge impact on the typical pre-release hype.
Although this decision might even have a positive outcome. An early score by Rotten Tomatoes can often be a wrong indicator, even more so when the restrictions are lifted early because not everyone would have seen or reviewed the movie under scanner, therefore, the sample size might be small and thus, it could result in a biased number which might affect the opinion of others. This strategy puts emphasis on the reviews in the early stage and thus, it could be argued that they are trying to ensure that their site is not being misused. But, the truth is different.
Rotten Tomatoes have delayed the revelation not to reduce any skewed outcome, but, they are in fact harnessing the false sense of vitality built around the Tomatometer to get more viewers for their latest online show. Their first two episodes have portrayed the numbers as more valuable than even the most desperate outlets, and the fanfare is only a devise to ramp up the hype. Had it been only about protecting the art from the negative influence, then they wouldn’t have been selective in their approach.
This is not a great sign as the step has put Rotten Tomatoes more into the domain of the critics, rather than being a general aggregator. Its hosts give their views, and Tomatometer is being regarded as a formal stamp of approval, whereas it really is nothing more than an indicator. That’s a major change in trend related a metric which is already considered controversial, and it is more about the website rather than the reviews registered by it. The fact that this a Fandango website (a company depending on ticket sales and co-owned by Warner Bros. and Universal), makes it prone to manipulations by holding back of the potentially harmful ratings.