In 2008 The Dark Knight was released to almost universal acclaim after months of building hype with a superb marketing campaign. The film did the impossible, combining enough action to satisfy those wanting a blockbuster, and smarts to satisfy those who wanted a complex drama. But as with almost all movies, there were some who didn’t like it. And if that makes you angry, then you probably shouldn’t read the rest of this.
Four years later the final film in Christopher Nolan’s Batman trilogy was screened for critics across the globe. Anxious fans waited to hear how the film turned out. The first fifteen reviews published to Rotten Tomatoes were positive, and this pleased the commenting gods. But Marshall Fine was unlucky number sixteen, and his negative review sparked an uproar that is still going. Furious fanboys flocked to their computers and blasted Fine as fast as their Cheeto-stained fingers could type, leaving as of now 866 comments on his review blurb.
This is a problem. Fans were angry that Fine didn’t like a movie they hadn’t seen and thought he should be punished for it. One commenter, Jake B, said he would like to beat Fine ”with a thick rubber hose into a coma.” The commenting gods eventually became unsatisfied with voicing their anger at a negative review and soon began criticizing positive reviews that weren’t positive enough. Amy Nicholson wrote a positive 3.5/5 review, but also acknowledged she didn’t think it was as good as its predecessor. That didn’t please Henry H, who said Nicholson should go back to the kitchen. When asked why he was complaining about a positive review, Henry H said ”I’m complaining because a legitimate website, boxoffice.com, has a ridiculously inadequate film critic… probably only there to “be a female voice” instead of be a “voice that knows what they’re talking about.”
Once again, this is a problem. Marshall Fine was sent death threats and his website was temporarily crushed under a massive amount of traffic. Fans began eviscerating any reviewer who dared to not like the movie, saying things that would make even Joe Pesci blush. Eric D. Snider, a writer for Film.com and EricDSnider.com, tried to show just how bad the problem was by publishing a short blurb on Rotten Tomatoes and linking to his full review at Film.com. The blurb said that The Dark Knight Rises was the worst Batman film yet, even worse than Batman & Robin. But when one clicked on the full review, they saw this:
“The Dark Knight Rises” is easily the most disappointing Batman film so far — and I’m including Schumacher’s “Batman & Robin” in that statement. Nolan has finally lost his touch.
Just kidding! I haven’t seen “The Dark Knight Rises” yet. It’s probably very good! I just wanted to post a negative quote on Rotten Tomatoes and see how many idiots would type angry words at me without actually clicking the link to read the whole review. Given that Rotten Tomatoes commenters are the worst human beings on the planet, I suspect the number will be large.
Also: It doesn’t matter if a movie you love doesn’t get a 100% RT score. It affects you and the movie in no way whatsoever. “You ruined this movie’s RT score!” is the dumbest complaint a person can possibly make.
Also: If you get angry about a review of a movie that you haven’t even seen yet, the terrorists win.
Real review to come!
And then the internet exploded. Snider, who had been a “Top Critic” on Rotten Tomatoes for a long time, was banned from posting any more reviews to the site. But the prank did draw more attention to the problem, and the comment section for The Dark Knight Rises was shut down. Eric D. Snider became our Batman. He helped put a temporary end to the angry commenting gods and took the fall for it. He didn’t do anything wrong. He’s the critic the Internet deserves, but not the one it needs right now.
But sadly, this isn’t a problem that’s likely to be fixed anytime soon. There will always be tentpole films whose quality will be determined long before its release, and there will always be a demand for conformity. We can shut down comment boards, but the bile will find another way to reach the surface. If only someone could put on a mask and cape and fight the evils of comment boards…
I’ll go get my hockey pads.