Bookmark this post and return daily for update.
Every day for the next 8 days leading up to the opening of Terminator: Dark Fate, assuming there has been a change in the total number of reviews, I’m going to take a screenshot of the tomatometer film critics review score and display in this blog, with the most recent at the top, and older screencaps pushing downward in the post.
I wish that Rotten Tomatoes would provide this incoming data as a line graph, showing how a relatively small number of critics can wildly adjust a film’s score in the early stages.
This film is fluctuating with updates between a low of 56% (rotten) and high of 61% (fresh) after the first 35 film critic reviews have posted.
Some people undoubtedly are using this score to determine whether or not they want to see the film. We don’t, because often our moviegoer opinion does not agree with the rather small collective of film critics and, more importantly, we want to judge for ourselves. Some major wide release films have less than 100 film critic reviews.
Note: that the very first time the score for Dark Fate appeared on the site it was based on merely 28 film critics’ opinions. And it was only 2% away from being deemed “rotten” by the site’s only measure.
So, anybody just stopping by randomly at the site might think, “Hmm, Terminator: Dark Fate must be another so-so Terminator sequel.” (which it might, in fact, be) Will the person realize she/he is only looking at 28 critics opinions? Sure, some of these critics are from well known, respected publications. But do these 28 people really have that much influence?
Why do this?
I’m curious to display how the reviews come in and the overall scores rise and fall for a movie with high anticipation from moviegoers like me.
How The Tomatometer System Works
The Tomatometer score is based on the number of reviews received and whether or not it the review is positive (fresh) or negative (rotten). This scoring system is explained in detail here:
Oddly enough, the score is not as it appears to be to casual viewers: a % rating of how good the film is/isn’t. I’ve erroneously thought that before myself. Easy mistake to make, but there is a major distinction between the two.
61% in school would be a grade of F. But what that rating is saying is a little more than half of the critics sampled in the data reviewed the film positively. Of those reviewers, we really don’t know what their areas of expertise are, personal biases, etc. You’d have to drill down on each review to understand that.
Take a look at the early breakdown for Terminator: Dark Fate. And keep in mind this is very, very early. They just started posting reviews 10/22/2019:
You might wonder who all these film critics are? Rotten Tomatoes has wonderful transparency, they list A-Z every approved film critic in their database.
How To Become A Rotten Tomatoes Approved Film Critic
Would you like to be a film critic?
Rotten Tomatoes also shares the application and eligibility requirements for a film critic to be approved. A movie reviewer like me at a single website could be approved after “consistent output” for at least two years, but only after meeting their single website, self-published review requirements:
I didn’t start writing and sharing reviews until August 2019, so will not be eligible for application consideration until at least August 2021, assuming my heart is still beating, the reviews continue to consistently flow in and the desire to apply is there at this future date. They accept applications only twice per year (March and September).
Since Rotten Tomatoes is considered to be the #1 source for quality, I do see value in having my voice added to their collective someday, maybe, possibly, should I meet the critera. I don’t consider myself to be a professional film critic at this young stage in my development, rather a very passionate moviegoer sharing his opinion (sometimes with my wife too, which makes up the “us” in the domain name), but it is possible I’ll learn to improve and refine the craft enough to be a viable candidate in the process.
Review Volume Volatility
The fewer the number of reviews, the more volatile the tomatometer score will be. The screenshots prove this out, in that a single review early on moved 2% from certified fresh (61%) to rotten (59%). One film critic review, one critic’s opinion very early in the overall volume of reviews.
In fact, the review score can appear on Rotten Tomatoes with only *6* film critics. That is the threshold before the site can start publishing the overall score.
It is not uncommon for the numbers to show fluctuating different numbers between the critics and audience reviews. I don’t keep track of how often we’ve disagreed with the aggregate, but if I had to guess, I’d say it’s somewhere between 25-50% of the time. It would be interesting to start tracking this someday.
The interesting thing to also compare is critic reviews vs. audience reviews. There are way, way more audience reviews for films generating a % based off the assigned star rating. You would think that the more audience numbers that come in, the % of audience reviews would be more similar to film critics, but that appears frequently not to be the case.
It might be more useful if Rotten Tomatoes waited to post their score until they’ve reached at least 100 film critics reviews. Or at least provide some sort of disclaimer that indicates the number of critics is less than 100 (the information is there, however, if you click around and study the criteria).
To start with the very first score having only 28 film critics, is a rounding error at best, when determining whether or not a film is truly representative of good (“fresh”) or bad “rotten” but I realize it is in their website’s interest to have these advance reviews appear in advance and there might not be 100 reviewers in their system that have submitted reviews before the movie opens.
For the average moviegoer (which admittedly, I’m not), this score is providing an initial level of interest in seeing a film that is skewed in favor of advance critics opinions. It’s a metric that can positively or negatively impact how many moviegoers attend a given movie.