Rotten Tomatoes Is Making It Harder for Trolls to Review-Bomb Movies
Ever since movie studios have started treating the female characters of nerdy pop culture like human beings, review aggregator websites have had a problem. Most notable is Rotten Tomatoes' scourge of review-bombers: people (read: dudes) who give movies in blockbuster franchises featuring female protagonists one-star or zero-star reviews weeks before their release to hammer the collective audience score into the ground. It happened to Ghostbusters, it happened to Wonder Woman and Star Wars: The Last Jedi, and now it's happening to Captain Marvel ahead of its March 8 debut. Today, Rotten Tomatoes announced that was going to change.
In a press release sent out Tuesday morning, the review aggregation site outlined its future plan to "modernize its audience rating system through a series of product enhancements." Firstly, in a new bunch of redesigns that began rolling out today, Rotten Tomatoes plans to make the website interface much easier for visitors to understand and use. This involves moving the audience score to sit next to the critical score so that people can quickly compare the two, and changing the "want to see" percentage score to a ticker number that changes in real time so that it won't be confused with an audience percentage score. The biggest change, though, is that fans -- i.e. people who are not critics -- will not be able to post reviews of movies prior to the movie's release, arguably a feature that should not have even existed to begin with.
This effectively hamstrings homegrown campaigns to dive-bomb a movie's Rotten Tomatoes score in an attempt to keep people from going to the theater on opening weekend. Notably, this move comes right after both Captain Marvel and Star Wars Episode IXmade headlines this week for their dismal audience scores -- a direct response to people posting nasty "reviews" that are really nothing more than trolling. (In 2017, IMDb opted for the nuclear option, and closed its message boards for good after it became clear that trolls had pretty much completely taken over.)
This won't stop those same people from posting their whining after a movie's release, but Rotten Tomatoes is slowly getting a handle on things in that department too. Future changes involve "new audience score iconography, personalization and community features, verified reviews from ticket purchasers, enhanced security to protect its data integrity," all to make it easier for people to figure out what the consensus on a movie really is. That stub verification feature could be the ticket, though the presser didn't outline how it would be implemented, but the site could also stand to start managing and blocking accounts that routinely do this. There has to be some overlap between the people bombing Captain Marvel and those who did the same for, say, The Last Jedi.
It's also worth mentioning that the "review-bomb" strategy doesn't really work to begin with: Wonder Woman and The Last Jedi are two of the highest-grossing movies in the past five years. But it's also plenty irritating for the average moviegoer who just wants to know if the film they're going to see is something they'll like. Of course, the best way to find that out is to just go see the movie.