WILL THIS month’s “Black Panther” play out on such sites as Rotten Tomatoes and Facebook like a repeat of another Disney franchise film, “The Last Jedi”?
Because in recent days, it’s beginning to smell like deja vu all over again.
This week has already brought the rise of an encore social media campaign by the Facebook group “Down With Disney’s Treatment of Franchises and its Fanboys.” The group claimed upon last December’s release of Disney/Lucasfilm’s latest Star Wars movie to have triggered a wave of intensely negative “Last Jedi” audience reviews on Rotten Tomatoes.
Now, targeting another Disney film with a notably diverse cast, the group launched the Facebook event “Give Black Panther a Rotten Audience Score on Rotten Tomatoes,” which drew only a few thousand members.
But then the review-aggregation site, perhaps trying to get ahead of criticism this time around, issued a statement, according to the Hollywood Reporter.
“We at Rotten Tomatoes are proud to have become a platform for passionate fans to debate and discuss entertainment and we take that responsibility seriously,” the site said Thursday in a statement. “While we respect our fans’ diverse opinions, we do not condone hate speech. Our team of security, network and social experts continue to closely monitor our platforms and any users who engage in such activities will be blocked from our site and their comments removed as quickly as possible.”
The Facebook group has since been deactivated.
“Last Jedi” garnered a 91 percent “fresh” rating among professional critics but only a 48 percent audience score — an unprecedented disparity for Star Wars films. It’s impossible to know whether the purported attack had an effect. Writer-director Rian Johnson’s “Jedi” did endure critiques about plotting, character arcs and perceived deviations from franchise tradition.
“Black Panther” might simply end up being judged as a better movie. It’s riding an uncommon crest of hope and hype that has only been buoyed by record Fandango advance sales and rapturous praise out of the Hollywood premiere.
The movie’s next true public test should come Tuesday, when the embargo is scheduled to lift on reviews.
“Black Panther,” which opens Feb. 16, is tracking to score a $150 million domestic debut, which would be the highest opening for a Marvel character’s first stand-alone film. Eight of the Marvel Cinematic Universe’s 17 films have opened north of $100 million, led by the 2012 team-up “The Avengers” ($207.4 million).
For box office comparison’s sake within the MCU, last year’s “Guardians of the Galaxy: Vol. 2,” which opened to $146 million domestically, went on to gross $863.7 million worldwide.
On Thursday evening, “Black Panther” director Ryan Coogler weighed in, telling HuffPost: “I’m really looking forward to sharing the film with audiences regardless of what their political views are … that’s kind of where I [stand].”
HuffPost reported in December that the “Down With Disney” moderator was a self-identified alt-right supporter who was critical of “Last Jedi’s” “feminist agenda.”
Given the number of powerful female warriors in “Black Panther,” such groups as “Down With Disney” may cry “feminist agenda” again with the new film.
Lupita Nyong’o, who appeared on Jimmy Kimmel’s Disney-owned late-night show Thursday, played fierce fighters in both “Last Jedi” and “Black Panther.” At a “Black Panther” media event this week, the Oscar-winning actress said: “What I love about the way this film represents women is that each and every one of us is an individual, unique and we all have our own power and sense of agency. We hold our own space without being pitted against each other.”