'Captain Marvel' Review-Bombing Campaign Shows How Crowdsourcing Went Wrong

Oh yikes. This just strengthens my resolve to skip it when it comes out. Thanks for the info!


It’s less about “this will make 18-year-olds sign up for the Air Force” and more about the fact that superheroes are supposed to be role models, and a key aspect of this role model’s backstory is her involvement in the Air Force. How many little kids have dreamed of being Batman or Superman or Wonder Woman? I’m sure there’ll be plenty of young girls idolizing Captain Marvel the same way, and while they can’t be Captain Marvel, they can be the next “best” thing: an Air Force pilot.


Which part of the audience? Do you agree with the 34% of the audience who didn’t like First Man (and are obviously wrong in their believe) or the 66% of the audience who liked it? Can you agree with the 66% of the audience who liked it, while disagreeing with the 94% of critics who liked it (that seems a neat trick)? Is it possible that you’re misinterpreting what the rottentomatoes.* score represents?


The difference between games and movies is investment. A hour and a half of watching some dumbasses make a ford mustang drift has a lot less effort for me than trying to make a mustang drift in a game. Seriously though, watching a movie takes a lot less effort and time on my end. With this smaller investment, I’m a little, probably a lot, more forgiving of it’s faults. Games are a medium I have to feel. I have to work at it and sink a lot more time into it. I have to live with a game. I guess what I’m saying is that, when looking at an aggregate like rotten tomatoes for movies, I’m just looking to see what the consensus is. When I’m looking at games, I go to reviews of people I like, trust, or agree with most of the time on that type of game.

As for football, I’m somewhat interested in the politics of it but don’t really care about the sport itself. I’m just interested in the treatment of players and the wasting of public money on new stadiums. I am also a little intrigued as to how, known piece of trash, Vince McMahon will make the sport worse.

I’m almost definitely going to see Captain Marvel, I’ll probably enjoy it, and it’s warm relationship with the airforce will probably be problematic af. I’ve made peace with the tension that exists there. Marvel movies are just an opportunity for me to shut off the more critical parts of my brain and enjoy a big, shiny spectacle for two hours. The bigger issue, I think, is the way all these anodyne depictions of the military bleed together and seep into public consciousness. I doubt anyone’s going to walk out of Captain Marvel and immediately sign up for the airforce, but the military absolutely does rely on the sanitized version of itself that Hollywood presents to make its recruiting pitch that much easier.

As for the review-bombing angle, I find audience ratings on Rotten Tomatoes about as helpful as user ratings on Metacritic. Which is to say I don’t. The majority of the time they’re just a kneejerk reaction to the critical reception (which is skewed in its own way, but that’s another discussion) and the pool of people leaving these ratings aren’t representative of general audiences. I’m much more likely to pay attention individuals and outlets that I’ve become familiar with over a long period of time, and whose tastes I know are in line with my own. For example, Vampyr is a game I probably wouldn’t play based on its critical reception, but I’ve seen enough discussion of it, here and elsewhere, to know that I’d probably enjoy it.

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Hell fucking yes they do. The US Navy had something like 50,000 extra people walk in wanting to become Naval Aviators in the year after Top Gun came out. Air Force had a big jump too.

Rotten Tomatoes scores are useless and audience scores are doubly useless. Maybe I’m just a movie snob but I generally prefer to decide whether or not I like a movie myself, by watching it. If I’m not sure, I have some critics that I read where I have developed an understanding of the relationship between my tastes and theirs. A statistical average is meaningless, especially when it’s transparently wrong as hell.


And not to put too fine a point on it, Captain Marvel seems to be gesturing hard at Top Gun. I mean, they changed the cat’s name to Goose from Chewbacca!

Don’t get me wrong, I’m looking forward to the movie as well. And I do think the Top Gun references are fun nods to an iconic movie. But let’s not kid ourselves that this type of thing does not contribute to the mythologizing of the American military machine.

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I’ve always wondered how much, like, Stargate SG-1 might’ve affected recruitment. I absolutely loved that show growing up - I’ve watched it all the way through… probably three times :grimacing: - but it can’t really be denied that it paints the US Air Force in a flattering light, the occasional corrupt colonel aside.

One of the reasons the military is featured predominantly in American films is definitely propaganda, but also…

Producers are happy to feature positive representations of the American armed forces, because the Pentagon gives them a FANTASTIC discount on equipment and extras.

The decision of which film to sponsor and provide support to, and which to avoid, is made in a small two person entertainment office within the Pentagon. It’s in this office that scripts are read, comments are offered, suggestions are made, and revised scripts are re-read. Films that portray the military in a positive light are often given a green light, while films that are critical of the military or the wars it fights, are, unsurprisingly, not given a green light.

I need a documentary on these two dudes, “Hey, is this scene where Jake Gyllenhaal is threatening a fellow marine with a loaded rifle while screaming like a mad man REPRESENT US in a positive light?”

This part is hilarious to me:

Sometimes, the decision of whether or not to support a film isn’t so clear cut … Independence Day did not. What distinguished the latter two films as being not worthy of Pentagon support? In Independence Day, it was that Will Smith’s Navy pilot character was dating a stripper, which was considered inconsistent with military ethics.


I think the most extreme example of this may still be Apocalypse Now which was denied support not because the main antagonist was an insane colonel but because the explicit goal of Martin Sheen’w character was to “terminate, with extreme prejudice”.

Coppola refused to change that aspect of the script, so he had to rely on the Philippine’s armed forces, which kept getting pulled away from shooting because the country was in the middle of a civil war.

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What’s funny is that Will Smith wasn’t in the Navy, he was a Marine aviator, from VMFA-314 out of the old El Toro airbase, and being a Marine who is marrying a stripper is extremely on-brand. Even if he’s an aviator, an officer, and an aspiring astronaut. Still a Marine.

Michael Bay, on the commentary track for the first Transformers movie, talks at length about how he has a great relationship with the Pentagon public affairs/movie propaganda division because “he makes them look really cool.”

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Other than Roma, I’m with the critics here. …Which shouldn’t be too much of a surprise since I’ve worked as a critic before. So I’ll just hide in my itty bitty ivory tower.

Also Cinemascore is pretty useless.

Advertising isn’t so much about planting a new idea as it is reinforcing an existing idea to an audience that’s already predisposed to it.

As Lindsay Ellis said in her video on the topic, Stanley Tucci’s evil scientist showing off a Beats Pill in Transformers is meant to reinforce the audience association of the product with elite business class types.

The point of having excessive imagery depicting military heroism is not to suddenly change someone’s mind on American interventionism, it’s to push people who were already on board with everything the military stands for into getting excited enough to enlist (or otherwise more loudly support the military).


I think Duncan mostly dunks on everyone involved- despite his obvious interest in lafyette the person, he is depicted as the ultimate ‘centrist’ in the french revolution… and also as a complete doofus. he’s arrogant, short sighted, too easy to place his trust in obvious bad actors and condescending to everyone around him. In the french revolution podcast, the conservatives are a bunch of out of touch jerks who got what was coming to them, the ‘classic liberals’ are naive middle class folk who ignore the actual facts around them, condescend to the lower classes while also thinking they somehow represent them and secretly probably want to become the former conservative ruling class and the radicals end up being so paranoid and quick to turn on each other that they ultimately ruin the entire thing by creating an environment where napolean can leverage his way into the chaos.

but i also think a lot of his ire is reserved for the middle/upper middle class classic liberal who enacts a violent revolution to overthrow the 1%, rallies the vast underclass to assist with promises of equality and justice and then turns around and throws those people under the bus as soon as they are no longer useful and then acts shocked when the entire revolution goes to hell. which i generally agree with- a lot of these revolutions involve very well off people leveraging the destitute to overthrow the extremely well off people and then thanking the destitute for making them the replacement 1% with a pat on the head and an ‘oh by the way, lock the gate on your way out of what is now my palace.’

also Brady was considered too skinny and immobile for the NFL, which was probably true. he never figured out mobility and his bulking up and improvements in his throwing form came while he was training as the backup.


Never said they were.

I’m having trouble seeing how you got where you did based on what I wrote… I use this subjective score in my own subjective manner, with the example of First Man, I’d guess that this one would be a coin toss on feeling like it’s worth my time on a given day, unless the specific topic is something I feel like consuming more of that day. So yeah, I’m guessing that there’s a 50% chance that you believe I’m obviously wrong.

It’s worth considering the individual contexts of a film’s reception over just the raw numbers. Rob alluded to the flaws inherent to aggregation systems like Rotten Tomatoes, where a critic will come out of a movie feeling unimpressed and turn out a review saying “I loathe a lot about this movie, but it’s fine enough genre filler” and RT will consider that a positive take.

There is always some level of bias in the medium, but the Film Critics Always Like This and Never That perspective is a reductive way to look at it.


Well, obviously I misunderstood what you meant. I guess I could have also said all that in a less confrontational manner.

I’d like to pick up on some comments about the Revolutions podcast.

One of the things that I had reiterated to me while studying undergrad history was to never approach a topic chronologically in an essay. While often the most intuitive way to approach a topic, it is an approach which has its downsides – it can get muddy when discussing complex issues, obfuscate important events through mixing your lead-ups, and prize the immediate over the long-term.

I think Revolutions is, in some ways, the best it can be in being what it is. It doesn’t stick to a strictly chronological approach and Duncan breaks things down to a fairly digestible fashion without cutting all of the important and interesting parts.

On the other hand, it is the deep end of the pool as fair as introductions go. I think there’s some potential for improvement (why not give a brief recap/highlight events before we get started so we know which names/events are important?), I think Duncan is trying to lay out, as Zacny outlines, the circumstantial nature in which events take place. The Bastille need not have been stormed. I think it’s a tradeoff made which often doesn’t work out in the show’s favour, but some of that comes out of how limited I think a chronological approach can be in history.

I think conversational-style history podcasts (especially without tight editing) are thorny matters, particularly when discussing a sensitive topic. A command of the details and an editor’s instinct are important in history – it is incumbent upon an educator to avoid error, especially when teaching others.

In terms of other topics raised on the podcast, Hardcore History is quite good, although Dan Carlin’s style can be offputting for some. It is very talk show radio and there’s a degree to which Carlin is (even moreso than Duncan) aiming to tell a story rather than present a neutral case. With that said, I think Riendeau is particularly thinking about the episode on the Spanish-American War based on the description, and I think Carlin plays up his love of Teddy Roosevelt for the sake of his meta-narrative or reason for focusing on him.

(Carlin also sticks very closely to his sources – I remember reading some of the books he has cited for the Spanish-American War episode and getting severe deja vu!)


As a person whose taste in films can veer wildly off consensus often enough, I still think a core concept of RottenTomatoes is neat - it doesn’t tell you whether or not you’re going to find a new favorite movie, just how likely you are to like it or not. In years past my favorite movies often had something like a 60%-80% on RT - that’s where you’d find Prometheus, Spring Breakers, and Interstellar. The 100% Tomatometer didn’t tell me a movie was great, it told me it was probably safe. It’s where you’d see the early 2010s Pixar movies and the Avengers, which almost everybody at least likes, but a much lower percentage of people who watch them genuinely love.

That said, both critics and general audiences are getting cooler. They’re getting back into both rooting for stranger populism (Black Panther and MI: Fallout getting love) and the arthouse again. So I do actually find more of my favorite films of the year showing up at awards and with positive Tomatometers. Unfortunately, still so do my least favorite movies of the year, but again, the Meter never showed how much you were going to like something - just whether or not you’d like it at all.

Good episode, gang. A real sampler platter of Waypoints.

I’ve really appreciated the current Revolutions series on the Mexican revolution, which I am embarrassed to say I knew nothing about before, and am now very excited for Russia. I tried to listen to several history podcasts before, but was very put off by all of them. Hardcore History in particular I found almost unlistenable between the sensational tone, the libertarian politics, and the five hour episodes. To Patrick’s point, this is the sort of podcast I can only listen to while waiting for a bus or drinking my morning coffee, though. I missed probably 1/3 of the France series because I was listening to it while watching the Winter Olympics.