‘Us’ Proves That the Tomatometer is Broken [TREEVIEW]
Opinions are subjective and there will never be a definitive ranking for any piece of art. That being said, two movies I saw last week proved that Rotten Tomatoes is no longer a useful method for me to decide whether or not to see a movie.
Last week I got to see two movies in the theater, which has become an incredibly rare feat in the last decade of my life. I grew up seeing 2-4 movies in theaters every weekend, but grown-up responsible parent Tree no longer has that kind of time. Don't let the brochure fool you, kids -- adulting sucks.
The two movies I caught were 'Us' and 'Shazam!' and they were both enjoyable. They also both caught me off guard in different ways, one by being way more fun than expected, and the other by being a pretty big letdown. However, if you tried to guess which was which by looking at Rotten Tomatoes -- you'd probably be wrong. That's becoming an increasingly more frequent trend, but we'll come back to that after discussing the films at hand.
'Us' currently has a 94% on Rotten Tomatoes, while 'Shazam!' sits at an also very solid 91%. 'Us' is ranked so high that it's #9 on their best movies of 2019 list. All of the movies ahead of it are either foreign films or documentaries, none of which have or will have a wide release in America. So technically, 'Us' is the best movie of 2019 according to Rotten Tomatoes. Here's the thing though:
'Us' isn't even the best movie in theaters right now.
Watching 'Us' is a fine way to burn a couple hours, but it's not even close to the lightning in a bottle that Jordan Peele captured with 'Get Out,' even if it is being discussed in that way by critics. Honestly, it seems like 'Us' is receiving some carryover goodwill from its predecessor.
'Us' played more like a movie completely written around an idea someone had while they were high (probably a little too high), that doesn't really make sense when you start thinking about it. The whole premise of the film just didn't work for me, but it was an entertaining and visually striking film with a few great performances.
'Shazam!' on the other hand, was just a really fun comic book movie that doesn't require you to invent a bunch of backstory to fill in the blanks. It was a nice surprise coming from DC, who are now officially on a roll after the also pretty fun, but slightly too long 'Aquaman.' They probably should've tried to start the DCEU by focusing on the one-offs. That strategy is really working, whereas Zack Snyder cramming every character into a couple of dark ass movies at the demands of WB execs was really not.
The real difference between the two movies at hand can be summed up by this -- Hey, do you know about magic and superheroes? Yeah? Okay, you're ready to go have fun watching 'Shazam!'
There's literally no conversation you can have to prepare you for 'Us,' because it's ultimately not a movie that can be understood from what's on screen. It's based on a premise that makes no sense, unless you look at it as some high concept metaphor about society... or control... or government... or loss of innocence? I don't really know.
No metaphor fits this thing exactly, and when you have to try that hard to explain a film, you're usually just making excuses for a movie that's too lazy to figure its own s*** out. It was kind of funny back in the day when 'Star Wars' fans had to do that for decades due to filming mistakes and a severe lack of content, but this isn't 'Star Wars' and it's not the 1980s. This kind of armchair script doctoring is a waste of time in 2019. If they'd thought it through all the way -- it would've been on screen. They didn't. Does that sound like the "best movie of 2019?" It doesn't to me. It didn't look like it either.
I think Jordan Peele is incredibly talented, and I can't wait to see what he brings us next, but this one falls into the sophomore slump category for me. Its high RT score really points out how flawed the platform has become.
The most recent Rotten Tomatoes uproar was over the 'Captain Marvel' rating, which was not as high as Disney would've hoped. Here's the thing about that though -- 'Captain Marvel' is a 78% movie. It was good, but kind of boring and low stakes for a Marvel film. Not their finest hour by any stretch. It deserves that rating.
Whenever a Disney-owned movie isn't highly ranked, every outlet writes about "online trolls tanking the score." The same thing happened with 'The Last Jedi,' another movie I agreed was closer to the audience score than the ridiculously high critical score. You always hear them site the high Cinemascore in these cases, but go look at the Cinemascore for any DC movie that people didn't like according to RT. It's rare that any major movie receives lower than a C+ on that site.
Like I said a long time ago in this article, there will never be a definitive way to rank art. It is subjective and everyone has different tastes. From where I'm sitting, it looks like Rotten Tomatoes has some sort of agenda they're serving. I don't know that agenda is, but seeing 'Us' and then seeing its Tomatometer score proved I can't trust it. I guess it's back to word of mouth movie referrals for me... or maybe just the audience score.
Both 'Us' and 'Shazam!' are in theaters now