Is Something Rotten at Rotten Tomatoes? Investigating Batman V Superman’s Rotten Rating

After the dust settles, Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice might wind up being the most divisive [...]


After the dust settles, Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice might wind up being the most divisive superhero movie ever made. While many professional reviewers panned Batman V Superman, the movie opened to one of the largest box offices of all time, breaking several records along the way. Box office analysts are still arguing whether Batman V Superman will go down as a box office success or failure, with some pointing to the movie's historic Friday-Sunday drop, while others point to Monday's record setting box office as an indicator of future performance.

And that's not even counting the intense arguments between fans and detractors of the movie. Several prominent comics creators, including Amazing Spider-Man writer Dan Slott, have spent days arguing about the merits of Batman V Superman with fans and whether the movie captures the "spirit" of the comic book characters. Some fans of the movie have even claimed Batman V Superman has suffered from a "critics' conspiracy", in which movie critics deliberately panned the film because they were on Disney's payroll.

Those who dislike Batman V Superman have often pointed to the movie's poor Rotten Tomato score as proof that the movie stinks. Rotten Tomato aggregates professional movie reviews on their website and assigns them a "Fresh" or "Rotten" score based on whether the critic gave a good or bad review. Currently, Batman V. Superman sits at a 28%, lower than critically panned movies like Daredevil , Spider-Man 3, and Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer. (The movie remains higher than last year's Fantastic Four movie, as well as Elektra and Catwoman.) However, one reader tipped that Batman V Superman's Rotten Tomato Score might be getting unfairly deflated and that some reviews were being labeled "rotten" despite giving the movie mixed or even largely positive reviews. So, being a crack investigative journalist, I decided to do a deep dive and see if this tip had any merit.

Our anonymous tipster's argument centered around 30 or so reviews that had "middling" scores ranging from a "C+" to a "3 out of 5 stars". While these reviews had plenty of criticism for Batman V Superman, they didn't claim the movie was an abomination against God and man either. For instance, David Edwards calls the movie's central fight "great fun to watch", while criticizing the movie's ungainly storyline. Stephanie Zacherk of Time Magazine called Batman V Superman a grand superhero spectacle, albeit one without much fun. Nathanael Hood of The Young Folks even admitted he "rather liked" Batman V Superman, even while giving the film a "6/10 score".

So should Batman V Superman's Rotten Tomato score be higher? Well…no. These mediocrely scored reviews were marked "rotten", just as they would be for any other movie. For instance, Jurassic World (rated 72% fresh on Rotten Tomatoes) had 18 comparable reviews similarly listed as "rotten", even though several of the reviews praised the movie's effects, pull on nostalgia or overall spectacle of dinosaurs eating humans and each other. Iron Man 2 (also rated 72% fresh on Rotten Tomatoes) similarly had 17 rotten reviews that called the film "entertaining" and "fun" while still scoring the movie at a B- or below. While some critics might have given Batman V Superman some faint (or even strong) praise, Rotten Tomatoes has a pretty established history of giving "C" or "3 out of 5 stars" reviews a rotten rating unless the review contained overwhelming praise or ultimately recommended going to see the movie.

It should also be noted that Batman V Superman had over 20 "3 out of 5" reviews listed as "fresh" and that these reviews ultimately encouraged readers to see the film and were much more positive in tone. Even though the scores were the same, these "fresh" reviews had a totally different tone than the "rotten" reviews. Similarly, Jurassic World and Iron Man 2 also had a large amount of "3 out of 5" fresh reviews, which ultimately recommended seeing the movies and dished out far more praise than comparable "rotten" reviews. But, for argument's sake, even if Rotten Tomatoes' standards were just a wee bit lower (and I'm not arguing they should be) and every mediocre review were listed as fresh as opposed to rotten, Batman V Superman's score would jump up all the way to….39%, a grade still low enough to justify the site's overall "Rotten" rating.

While there's no conspiracy to artificially lower Batman V Superman's Rotten Tomatoes score, fans can take comfort in knowing that 72% of Rotten Tomatoes users liked the film. Among 175,000 user ratings, Batman V Superman's average rating is a 3.8/5 stars, a score high enough to justify a "fresh" rating on the site. So chin up, Batman V Superman fans! Critics might not have liked the movie, but over 126,000 people on the Internet did. And judging from the box office numbers, there's at least a few other fans who didn't hate Batman V Superman either.