Bohemian Rhapsody’s runaway success confirms it – 2018 is the year of the critic-proof movie

Poorly reviewed movies are becoming box office hits with increasing regularity. Why? Because what matters these days isn’t what the critics think, but how well-established the brand is

Critics get it wrong again! Having given the Queen biopic Bohemian Rhapsody a broadly unfavourable review last week, I’m braced for that accusation, now that the movie has been a huge hit. The film took an estimated $50m (£38m) in the US at the weekend and has already made more than $140m worldwide, despite many negative reviews. It currently gets 49% on Metacritic (which aggregates critics’ reviews) and a barely respectable 60% on Rotten Tomatoes (which measures the proportion of positive reviews). But, according to Rotten Tomatoes’ audience score, 95% of people who saw it liked it.

No critic imagines their words are going to make or break a movie, but perhaps we should question how useful we are. Poorly reviewed movies are becoming box office hits with increasing regularity. Take the Spider-Man spin-off Venom: “Clumsy, monolithic and fantastically boring,” according to the Guardian’s film critic, Peter Bradshaw. On Metacritic, Venom gets 35%, Rotten Tomatoes: 29%. But again, Rotten Tomatoes’ audience score is 87% and it has made more than $500m. Our weapons are useless against them and we know it.

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