The executive producer of Netflix's forthcoming animated "Castlevania" adaptation, and past films including "Lone Survivor" and "Dredd," talked to TooFab about the summer of box office bombs that is plaguing the movie industry and the studio's shifting the blame on Rotten Tomatoes.
"When people say it’s for the fans, I literally want to bitch slap them, because I’m like, 'What are you talking about, dude?’ This critic is not another species. He’s a fan, too. Like, you think critics go into a movie going, 'I want to hate this,'" Shankar told TooFab.
Shankar doesn't buy the commonly used excuse from entertainers, filmmakers and studios that a movie is supposed to be "for the fans" when majority of critics pan it.
“‘For the fans’ is such a condescending thing," Shankar said. "It’s like, dude the fans have rejected it, too. I love him, but I had to unfollow Dwayne, because you’re like, 'Dude, what you’re putting out there is fake news.' Like Dwayne’s feed is made up. It’s just made-up shit. He went from being this badass counter-culture figure to becoming Ronald McDonald. In my McDonald’s analogy, he’s just Ronald McDonald. He’s the dude being out there like, ‘Hey kids, buy the burger.’ And you’re like, ‘Ronald, would you eat this burger?’”
In wake of box office disappointments "Baywatch" and "Pirates of the Caribbean 5" (domestically, at least), Deadline reported studio insiders blaming the review aggregation site, which rates movies as "fresh" or "rotten" based on the number of reviews the site deems positive or negative.
"Insiders close to both films blame Rotten Tomatoes, with 'Pirates 5' and 'Baywatch' respectively earning 32 percent and 19 percent Rotten. The critic aggregation site increasingly is slowing down the potential business of popcorn movies," Deadline wrote. "'Pirates 5' and 'Baywatch' aren’t built for critics but rather general audiences."
The Rock took to Twitter on May 25, the day of the raunchy R-rated comedy's release, to wrestle with the influx of bad reviews by retweeting positive reactions from viewers to illustrate what he called the "disconnect" between fans and movie critics, stressing that the former's opinion matters more and the movie is supposed to be "FUN" -- as if critics don't like to have fun at the movies.
Officially opening TODAY is our lil' rated R beach movie #Baywatch🔥! Extremely high scores from the fans which is always the best part! 🙏🏾🤙🏾— Dwayne Johnson (@TheRock) May 25, 2017
When asked why he thinks big-budget 2017 theatrical releases "Baywatch," "The Mummy," "The Great Wall" and "King Arthur" -- which are types of movies that used to be considered "critic-proof" -- are failing to sell as many tickets as studios would like, Shankar cited a cultural rejection of major brands, in general.
"Really what you’re talking about is an epidemic that is going around globally with big brands in general. Macy’s is failing, Sears is failing, right? I don’t mean to disrespect the studio system by comparing them to Macy’s and Sears, but that’s how my generation looks at that whole system,” Shankar told TooFab. “It’s McDonalds. It’s that Happy Meal model. I think globally that is failing, right? Because the internet has created options for people."
Many, many options. A record 455 different scripted television series aired on TV in 2016, plus YouTube, BuzzFeed and even Snapchat are pushing out original content, not to mention the thousands of older movies and TV shows that are at consumers finger tips thanks to streaming services like Netflix and Amazon. Then there's YouTube's offerings of indie web series and short films, which Shankar developed a reputation for making with his "Bootleg Universe" One-Shot Short Film Series. So far, he's made unauthorized short films about popular characters including The Punisher, Power Rangers, Venom, Judge Dredd and even James Bond.
After working with studios to produce theatrical releases including Liam Neeson survival flick "The Grey" and Mark Wahlberg-Russell Crowe thriller "Broken City," Shankar is now working completely outside what he described as a once-thriving eco system that has been "corrupted."
“I think they should be realizing that they’re like the Titanic,” Shankar told TooFab when asked what studios can be learning from the string of disappointing releases. "At a certain point when you’re on the Titanic, you can’t be like let’s make the best of it. The iceberg kind of hit. There’s good people in the machine, and I’m not blaming one person ... What has happened is the corporatization of art has created a system that is killing itself."
"It’s just like the housing market," he said. "There’s this boom and bust culture here, and every bust happens because of stuff like this. It's just a machine becomes a monster and there's no way to really course correct it."
Shankar personally loves Rotten Tomatoes -- which hasn't always been kind to his movies ("Broken City" has been declared "rotten" with a 28 percent approval rating, Gerard Butler action drama "Machine Gun Preacher" only has a 29 percent approval rating) -- and argued that studios inadvertently created the platform, which he thinks is a "reaction to consumerism," so there's no use fighting it. Much like a law that requires fast food joints like McDonald's to display the calorie count of their food, Rotten Tomatoes exists to inform consumers about the movies they can spend their money on.
"As somebody who makes stuff to, I get it. I worked for 2 years on this project and I don’t want it to be reduced to go through some algorithm to have some kind of a numerical score attached to it," Shankar told TooFab. "The solution is more in-depth analysis per movie."
Another solution for studios, Shankar said, is to consider releasing fewer movies a year. "Make it scarce again. Scarcity creates interest," he said.
“The people that are railing against Rotten Tomatoes … really what they’re saying is my marketing machine isn't working, which is another way of saying, ‘I can’t trick consumers.’ That’s what I’m hearing," Shankar said. "It goes back to McDonald’s being pissed that nutritional facts have decemated their business model. It’s like, ‘No I don’t want that f-cking drink if it’s got 2,000 calories in it.’”
Despite his criticism of The Rock's reaction to, well, criticism, Shankar praised the actor for "killing it" in the "corporate game."
"I can sit here and be a cynic and call him Ronald McDonald all day, but at the same time, you go down Sunset [Blvd.] and you’re like, ‘Look Rock has an HBO show, Rock has a movie, Rock has an energy drink, Rock for president,'" Shankar said. ""I mean, he’s killing it, but at a certain point you’re like, ‘Dude, you’re killing it, but Ronald McDonald is killing it, too.’ I see Ronald McDonald everywhere as well."
So does that mean Shankar thinks The Rock can ride this wave of success to the White House, which is something Johnson told GQ is "a real possibility."
"F-ck yeah I’d vote for The Rock for president."