Captain Marvel can take care of the Skrulls. But can Captain Marvel defeat the trolls?
The Brie Larson-fronted Marvel film, which opened Thursday night, has already inspired an out-sized number of negative scores on sites like Rotten Tomatoes and Internet Movie Database (or IMDb). As of Friday afternoon, the Disney-released Marvel movie had more than 10,000 user ratings on Rotten Tomatoes, earning a score of just 34 percent–meaning barely a third of viewers liked it. By comparison, Captain Marvel has a far more favorable 81 percent rating among Rotten Tomatoes’ film critics.
Meanwhile, on IMDb, more than 40,000 votes have already been cast for the film that’s barely been in theaters for 24 hours (by contrast, last weekend’s box office champ How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World has only 25,000 votes). Many of the IMDb voters gave Captain Marvel the lowest score possible, sinking its overall rating to 6.6.
This flood of overwhelmingly negative scores is likely the result of what’s sometimes referred to as “vote-brigading,” a deliberate web-wide attempt to lower (or, in some cases, raise) a film’s rating. Its become far more prevalent in recent years, as the power and reach of sites like Rotten Tomatoes have increased, and as the fanbases for such properties as Star Wars and the Marvel and DC films have grown more passionate.
It’s no surprise that trolls have seized upon Captain Marvel. In certain corners of the internet, the movie has been a point of contention for weeks. In February, Larson noted to Marie Claire that most of the writers and critics covering her films are white males, and described her efforts to ensure “[her] press days were more inclusive.” Not long afterward, Rotten Tomatoes was spammed with negative comments about Captain Marvel, ostensibly submitted by offended users–none of whom had actually seen the movie. In response, the site ended its practice of allowing pre-emptive scores, citing their “non-constructive output.”
But on Friday morning, more than 50,000 user reviews for Captain Marvel flooded the site–an impossible figure for a just-released film. Rotten Tomatoes blamed a glitch and the number of reviews decreased, though the film’s low user score remained mostly unchanged.
Similar efforts had been directed at such films as Star Wars: The Last Jedi and last year’s Black Panther, with some groups even claiming credit for the ratings plunge.
Those films nonetheless wound up becoming box office hits–a trajectory Captain Marvel seems to be sharing. The movie made more than $20 million on Thursday, and is now flying toward a weekend opening of about $150 million. And in the end, those may be the only numbers that matter.