If you wanted to trash a movie you haven't seen because, say, your fragile masculinity couldn't handle the idea of a female superhero with her own film in the Marvel Cinematic Universe®, well, Rotten Tomatoes will no longer help.
Last week, the review aggregator changed its policies, barring users from leaving comments or rating a film until it is released in theaters. Reviews by film critics, which determine if a movie is rated "fresh" or "rotten," are not affected by the change.
Rotten Tomatoes unveiled the changes ahead of the March 8 release of Captain Marvel, which has been on the receiving end of an apparently coordinated "review bombing" by people unhappy with the movie and its star, Brie Larson. This is the first Marvel film starring a female superhero, and campaigns to tank audience ratings have been deployed on other female-centered blockbusters tied to previously male franchises — think 2016's Ghostbusters or Ocean's 8.
Paul Yanover, president of Rotten Tomatoes parent company Fandango, tells CNET these changes aren't "simply a reaction" to any specific movie. But plenty of critical online commentators drew a line between the new policy and Captain Marvel — "YouTube videos with hundreds of thousands of views have called the Rotten Tomatoes decision a 'disgusting' act of 'censorship' aimed at 'protecting' the new film," David Sims says at The Atlantic. Rotten Tomatoes says the changes were due to a general "uptick in non-constructive input, sometimes bordering on trolling, which we believe is a disservice to our general readership."
Rotten Tomatoes' perfectly sensible changes "likely won't quash review-bombing campaigns, which can simply move to other online platforms such as YouTube, Reddit, and Twitter — at least until a movie is released," Sims says. "Then, site users, including those who haven't seen a film, will be able to rate and comment as usual," keeping audience scores hostage to "exploitation by a narrow, outraged corner of the internet."