Critic reactions to the DCEU haven't exactly been universally positive. The only real critical hit to date has been this year's Wonder Woman, which proved once and for all that a female superhero can triumph in the box office.
For Justice League, Rotten Tomatoes took an unusual approach. They decided to hold back the Tomatometer score until the day before the film's release, and release it to launch their new "See It / Skip It" video campaign. Now the score's finally out — so how has Justice League performed?
A Disappointing 40 Percent
Sadly, it looks as though Justice League won't be able to add that "Certified Fresh" banner to its marketing anytime soon. The initial critic score came through at just 43 percent, soon dropping to 40. Appropriately enough Rotten Tomatoes's video literally begins with the admission that this will be only the latest round of "Film Critic Vs. Super Fan."
The result will leave many fans deeply disappointed. At the beginning of November, we learned that the film was being called a "crowd pleaser," and was performing well in testing. First reactions on Twitter were actually relatively positive, leading fans to hope we'd get a final score somewhere between 50 and 60 percent.
A late review embargo left fans deeply concerned; studios tend to restrict reviews when they're not confident a film will succeed, and hope negative reviews won't have too much of a negative impact. Mashable pointed out that there's a direct correlation between restrictive embargoes and poor critic scores on Rotten Tomatoes, even suggesting they expected the film to score just 33 percent. The final result is a lot better than that, but still not great.
Justice League is likely to be another divisive film. As The Hollywood Reporter noted, "responses got more positive as reviewers got nerdier." As a result, it's distinctly possible that Justice League will still prove to be a "crowd pleaser," albeit one that's not particularly loved by critics.
An Unusual Approach By Rotten Tomatoes
There's a sense in which this critic score is a watershed moment for Rotten Tomatoes. This is the moment when a Rotten Tomatoes score has become a product in itself. They've turned the critic score into a big reveal, even disclosing it on a Facebook video in the clear hopes it would go viral and drive engagement. As Den of Geek noted:
"The purpose of Rotten Tomatoes, as per its own About Us page, is that it 'offers the most comprehensive guide to what's fresh'. The problem now, as it seeks to turn its aggregation number into a piece of sellable content for its own services, is the reader is inevitably down the priority list."
Needless to say, this approach is proving deeply controversial. Film studios already resent Rotten Tomatoes, believing the site wields far too much power. Their argument is probably overstated, but it suits Rotten Tomatoes to act as though they have a solid point. Now, however, we're seeing the site began to monetize that critic score in a far more visible way than we've come to expect. The framing of the video, which launches with a reference to the apparent conflict between fans and critics, is practically designed to trigger a war on social media.
Does a disappointing critic score mean Justice League is no good? By no means. The initial positive reactions on social media — suggesting the film is acceptable, albeit flawed — still stand. Likewise, the reality is that most reviews have been mixed. Unfortunately, Rotten Tomatoes renders mixed reviews into a binary "fresh" or "rotten." And by that standard, Justice League sadly has a bit of an odor.
Are you planning to watch Justice League this weekend? Let me know in the comments!