'Captain Marvel' Review Bombing: It's Happening Again, This Time on IMDb
It was a few short weeks ago when the new Marvel superhero movie Captain Marvel was inundated with negative “review bombs” on Rotten Tomatoes. The site’s long-planned revamp of its review system came a few days later, and not a moment too soon. As the movie heads into theaters with favorable reviews from critics who’ve actually seen it, Captain Marvel is once again being review bombed, this time on IMDb.
On IMDb.com, one of the internet’s oldest information resources for movies — founded in 1990! — Captain Marvel has an “average” user review score of 6.1 out of 10.0, as of this writing.
That’s not enough to raise concerns on its own, but IMDb’s comprehensive breakdown of its scoring system reveals a major discrepancy. As illustrated in a graphic on the company’s website, the majority of user reviews for Captain Marvel are either a “10” or a “1.” This gap is not present in any other Marvel movie listed on IMDb; it’s a rare sight for any movie.
Beyond the numbers, there are written user reviews. And just like in the case of Rotten Tomatoes, the film’s most negative reviews contain phrases like “SJW,” “feminist agenda,” and “politically correct.”
Comparing Captain Marvel to previous Marvel movies, below is the IMDb score for 2018’s Avengers: Infinity War:
Below, 2017’s Thor: Ragnarok:
Below, 2016’s Captain America: Civil War:
And below, Black Panther, which was nominated for Best Picture at this year’s Oscar ceremony:
In cold, hard numbers, there are more one-star reviews for movies like Captain America: Civil War (8,969) and Thor: Ragnarok (5,001) than there are for Captain Marvel (4,943). However, the amount of one-star reviews for Captain Marvel will likely to go up as more people see the film after this weekend.
What’s telling at this moment is how even the ten and one-star reviews for Captain Marvel are. While Black Panther, perhaps due to its predominant black cast in an Afrofuturistic story and setting, also received a significant amount of one-star reviews by IMDb users (16,615), the distribution is nowhere near as severe as it is for Captain Marvel.
Rotten Tomatoes or IMDb?
The timing and illustration of Captain Marvel’s negative reviews by IMDb users means a few things. First, it seems IMDb has become a substitute platform in place of Rotten Tomatoes, now that the movie review site has prevented its users from reviewing movies before the theatrical release dates.
While RT users will be free to review bomb Captain Marvel after this weekend, if they so wish, they were not allowed in the short time between the removal of RT’s audience-focused “Want to See” metric and the film’s release this weekend.
Second, unlike the case of Rotten Tomatoes where users were “reviewing” the film before seeing it, many IMDb users have actually seen the film; the earliest IMDb’s reviews for Captain Marvel date back to is March 6, 2019, when midnight Wednesday screenings took place in select theaters. While it’s impossible to vet whether or not these early reviewers still actually saw the film, it stands to reason IMDb’s reviewers are actually seeing the movie. And many of the written reviews seem to confirm this theory.
Even though negative reviews are lambasting Captain Marvel for having a “feminist agenda,”, these reviewers are still likely buying a ticket to see the movie.
Third, IMDb actually breaks down its user scores by a strict gender binary. While a rather odd metric, this is helpful in the case of movies like Captain Marvel. While there are women who rated Captain Marvel negatively (about 128 individuals gave it a “1,” as of this writing), the negative ratings are very high when looking at them from men.
Below, “Female” scores for Captain Marvel.
Why This Matters
While IMDb is not as prominent as a resource for reviewing movies as Rotten Tomatoes, which has its “Tomatometer” ratings printed as stickers on new Blu-rays and can be found in digital services such as Vudu, IMDb is still a major forum for movies, and has been for almost three decades.
Commercially, these negative reviews may not make a dent. Captain Marvel is predicted to make $350 million globally, with a $125 million domestically in the U.S., if box office analysts are remotely accurate. Negative Nancies on the internet are just shouting at air, hoping to be heard.
What could be become a concern is if otherwise harmless movies continue to become proxy for the broader clash between conservatism and progressivism. As the first female solo movie from Marvel Studios (2005’s Elektra, starring Jennifer Garner, was not from the Disney-owned studio), Captain Marvel has become a magnet for angry men online, in the same way 2017’s Star Wars: The Last Jedi and the newest season of Doctor Who starring Jodie Whitaker.
Movies are just movies, TV shows are just TV shows. But if movie and TV show “reviews” continue to appropriate language also found in online hate movements such as GamerGate and Comicsgate, suddenly movie reviews aren’t just reviews anymore.
When we reached out for comment, IMDb referred Inverse to an FAQ page.
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Captain Marvel is in theaters now.