Carol Danvers finally made her MCU debut in theaters this weekend in Captain Marvel, and while it was a smooth and uninterrupted flight at the box office, there was plenty of turbulence on review aggregator site Rotten Tomatoes. Early in the day on Friday, the latest MCU movie had a dismal audience score of 33% on the site from over 58,000 reviews. That afternoon though, the number of audience reviews dropped drastically to 7,000, good for a 35% score.
So why did Rotten Tomatoes purge over 50,000 Captain Marvel reviews from its system? The reason is mostly due to a glitch related to some changes the site recently made, as Rotten Tomatoes explained in a statement to The Hollywood Reporter:
We have identified a bug in the post-release functionality for the movies that have released into theaters since our product update last week. The quantity of user ratings (which is displayed directly below the audience score and is intended to only include the quantity of users who have left a rating or written review after a movie’s release) had included both pre-release and post-release fan voting.
Basically, the 58,000+ user reviews that showed up on the morning of Captain Marvel’s release included both new reviews, presumably from audiences who went to Thursday night preview screenings, as well as reviews that were submitted prior to the movie’s release. Therefore, the reviews were purged so as to only show reviews that could have been submitted by people who had actually seen the movie, versus those who submitted reviews when they couldn’t possibly have seen it yet.
This comes after the recent product update Rotten Tomatoes implemented that made it so that audiences couldn’t review a movie before it was released. As updates often do, it came with a bug that allowed those older reviews to still initially show up for Captain Marvel. Rotten Tomatoes made other changes to pre-release movies on the site as well, changing the ‘want to see’ metric from a percentage to simply a running count.
Rotten Tomatoes also made it so that people can’t comment on a movie before it hits theaters. The company explained that decision, saying:
We are disabling the comment function prior to a movie’s release date. Unfortunately, we have seen an uptick in non-constructive input, sometimes bordering on trolling, which we believe is a disservice to our general readership. We have decided that turning off this feature, for now, is the best course of action. Don’t worry though, fans will still get to have their say: Once a movie is released, audiences can leave a user rating and comments as they always have.
Non-constructive input? On the internet!? In an effort to combat the non-constructive input, people can’t comment on a movie until they could have actually seen it. The only thing they can do now before a movie is released is to say whether they want to see it or not. After the movie is released though, people are free to give their rating and comment as they always have been to have their voices heard.
The campaign against Captain Marvel came in response to some comments from the film’s star Brie Larson about inclusion and diversity in the film press, comments which certainly could have been phrased better and ones she later clarified.
Whether Rotten Tomatoes purging of thousands of audience scores, and the retooling of its model that changes what input audiences can give and when, will make a difference is debatable. Despite being purged down to 7,000 on Friday, Captain Marvel’s audience scores are now back up to a count of over 54,000 with a rating of 58%. That’s more than the number of audience scores for Avengers: Infinity War. Something tells me those scores may not all be legit and submitted in good faith. Especially considering the film has an "A" CinemaScore. Rotten Tomatoes is fighting a losing battle.
It doesn’t matter though because Captain Marvel still absolutely crushed at the box office in its opening weekend, breaking records and flying higher, further, faster to instant success. It’s almost as if all this trolling had absolutely no effect at all and convinced no one they shouldn’t see the movie. Although not everyone loved it and there are legitimate criticisms to be made.