“Ready Player One” Reviews Prove That Rotten Tomatoes is Broken

Matthew Loffhagen
Warner Bros
(Photo: Warner Bros)

The first reviews for “Ready Player One” are up on Rotten Tomatoes, and the movie’s tomatometer is a perfect example of what’s wrong with simply glancing at a film’s score and taking it at face value.

Steven Spielberg’s latest film has received a respectable if somewhat mediocre 76% fresh score at the time of writing this article (it’ll probably change a lot over the next few days). According to this number alone, the movie isn’t as terrible as some people assumed it’d be, right?

Except, of course, there’s more going on here than just one aggregate number. Moviemakers and critics have been complaining about Rotten Tomatoes for a while, and the inflated score that “Ready Player One” has achieved is a good example of why the system is far from perfect.

Ready Player One Rotten Tomatoes
Source: Rotten Tomatoes

First off, it’s important to note that this score is currently based on just 21 reviewers. The movie hasn’t been shown far and wide yet, despite a strong presence at the ongoing SXSW convention. To say that 76% of reviewers were positive at this stage means that 16 people liked it, and that 4 people didn’t.

The earliest reviewers are often the most positive, as movie studios can carefully cultivate who they actually show a film to at this initial stage. It’s not too surprising that the movie has such a high score at this point.

Here’s the kicker, though – the tomatometer doesn’t measure a movie’s actual quality, but instead, whether or not reviewers are ultimately positive or negative about a film.

A better indication of quality is a movie’s average rating, which for “Ready Player One” is a fairly dismal 6.1/10.

This means that the majority of movie reviewers think that “Ready Player One” isn’t terrible, but they’re not exactly showering it in praise either. The consensus, based on the small pool of initial reviewers, seems to be that the movie is slightly better than a trainwreck. 6.1/10 isn’t exactly a ringing endorsement.

Of course, there’s another reason why you shouldn’t take the Rotten Tomatoes score at face value: this movie might not necessarily click with critics in the same way that it might with you.

Bright Rotten Tomatoes
Source: Rotten Tomatoes

There have been many instances of critics and wider audiences disagreeing on the quality of movies. Films that professional reviewers like (such as “Star Wars: The Last Jedi”) can end up being more divisive among the general public, while some movies that critics hate (like “Bright”) can be viewed far more favorably by lay viewers.

So don’t take the Rotten Tomatoes score of “Ready Player One” at face value. Instead of reducing everything to a number, you’re better off finding a reviewer that you tend to agree with, and taking their opinion into consideration.

Or, simply watch the movie for yourself, and find out on your own whether “Ready Player One” is worth the effort.