In the words of Anne Hathaway‘s Catwoman, “There’s a storm coming.”That “storm” involves anyone writing a scathing review of “The Dark Knight Rises,” the coveted final film to Christopher Nolan‘s Batman triology.
Just this occurred when site Rotten Tomatoes, the review-aggregator site that brings film critics and anonymous Internet commenters together, featured the first unfavorable review to the much-anticipated film.
For those unfamiliar, the popular website takes every review for a given movie, labels it “fresh” or “rotten” and gives it a “Tomatometer” score (fresh reviews divided by total reviews).
“The Dark Knight,” the previous entry in Nolan‘s acclaimed Batman trilogy had a score of 94%. This time around, fans were anticipating an elusive 100%, a score that’s nearly impossible for a modern day blockbuster to achieve when between 200 and 300 reviews are tallied. Even “Toy Story 3” missed the mark.
When that inevitable first negative review came in, retaliation from commenters was expected. However, the response wasn’t expected to be so massive. Or vicious.
Marshall Fine has been a critic for nearly 50 years, chairman of the New York Film Critics Circle, and written for over a dozen respected publications including the Los Angeles Times and Entertainment Weekly. But in the pop culture zeitgeist, he’ll be remembered as the guy that gave the first bad review for “The Dark Knight Rises.”
Fine is no Armond White, a contrarian that consistently bashes Pixar films, but praised “Jack and Jill.” (For which White claimed Rotten Tomatoes kicked him off the website). In fact, Fine agrees with the “Tomatometer” 75% of the time. Commenters on Rotten Tomatoes were not concerned with his credentials or history of objective criticism. They just wanted another gold star for the film they haven’t even seen yet. Fine didn’t give them that star.
To make matters worse, the quote used on the Rotten Tomatoes to sum up his review compared “Rises” to the critically-reviled “Transformers” franchise. “At times, the action is so massive and thunderously clunky that I might as well have been watching one of the Transformers movies.”
The result? His website’s server, “Hollywood and Fine” crashed from all the traffic. Fine requested the review be temporarily removed to restore the website (for those concerned, the review still counted on the “Tomatometer”). Among the savage, profane comments directed towards Fine on Rotten Tomatoes and his website, there were even death threats.
This lead to the suspension of “Dark Knight Rises” review comments on Rotten Tomatoes. Editor-in-chief Matt Atchity defends the decision in a letter he posted to the website titled “This Is Why We Can’t Have Nice Things.” In the letter, Atchity discusses future plans for the website as a result:
– We’ll ban you for threats and hate speech — we’re trying to have fun here, so (to quote Wil Wheaton) don’t be a d—. And don’t try and argue about your right to free speech — this is a business, and we have the right to refuse service to anyone we feel like.
– We’re probably going to move to a Facebook-based commenting system that doesn’t allow for anonymity. You’ll have to stand by your comments, just like a critic does. So you’ll still be able to argue about a movie you haven’t seen, but people will know it was you. (I know that won’t make a difference for some people, but at least there may be some measure of responsibility).
The letter then discusses another negative “Rises” review, a posted by Eric D. Snider of Film.com. The difference? Snider’s review linked back to his personal website, and he hadn’t even seen “Rises” yet. The quote he used for his review said, “Rises” was the worst Batman film ever. He ended with, “I include ‘Batman & Robin’ in that statement,” just to ensure he got a rise out of fanboys.
The move was a ploy to drive traffic to his website. And, of course it, worked. Readers were treated to a lecture on why Snider thinks he is better than Rotten Tomatoes and their readers (he has since removed it, but see a screenshot in Atchity’s letter). Snider did the same thing for “The Dark Knight,” and according to Atchity’s letter, his reviews will no longer be accepted on the website.
The “storm” is far from over with websites now devoting articles to reviewing Fine’s review.
Fine’s review is now back on Rotten Tomatoes, and he has company, as nearly a dozen other critics submitted their unfavorable reviews on the movie. Currently, “Rises” is holding steady in the mid-80s. Perhaps once everyone gets too see the movie, the dust will begin to settle and we can all begin our post-Batman lives.
“The Dark Knight Rises” opens Friday, July 20. Check out the trailer below.
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