Martin Scorsese has expressed a strong dislike for Rotten Tomatoes, saying that the movie review aggregator site is hostile to filmmakers and fails to qualify as proper film criticism. Despite the fact that some films’ Rotten Tomatoes scores are way off the mark, the site has grown massively in prominence recently. Studies have even proven that the site succeeds in influencing moviegoers.
Due to this rise in the website's status, Rotten Tomatoes has become a regular talking point in the online film fan community. The site’s aggregated ratings have become a fixture in the news cycle: recently, news of Blade Runner 2049 being “certified fresh” was warmly received, while Flatliners became something of a laughing stock for garnering a 0% rating on the site.
Scorsese was moved to comment on Rotten Tomatoes, as well as the research firm CinemaScore, after both services gave Darren Aronofsky’s mother! a drubbing. Rotten Tomatoes called the film “too unwieldy for mainstream audiences”, while CinemaScore gave it an F – the worst rating possible. Scorsese, in a guest column for The Hollywood Reporter, has revealed his thoughts on the matter:
“These firms and aggregators have set a tone that is hostile to serious filmmakers—even the actual name Rotten Tomatoes is insulting. And as film criticism written by passionately engaged people with actual knowledge of film history has gradually faded from the scene, it seems like there are more and more voices out there engaged in pure judgmentalism, people who seem to take pleasure in seeing films and filmmakers rejected, dismissed and in some cases ripped to shreds. Not unlike the increasingly desperate and bloodthirsty crowd near the end of Darren Aronofsky’s mother!”
Scorsese was “disturbed by all of the severe judgements” of the film, feeling that, “Many people seemed to want to define the film, box it in, find it wanting and condemn it.” Scorsese then went to see mother! himself, which only heightened his intense feelings of dislike towards Rotten Tomatoes and CinemaScore:
“After I had a chance to see mother!, I was even more disturbed by this rush to judgment, and that’s why I wanted to share my thoughts. People seemed to be out for blood, simply because the film couldn’t be easily defined or interpreted or reduced to a two-word description.”
Summing up his points earlier on in the article, Scorsese expressed his belief that Rotten Tomatoes and other such review aggregator sites “have absolutely nothing to do with real film criticism. They rate a picture the way you’d rate a horse at the racetrack, a restaurant in a Zagat’s guide, or a household appliance in Consumer Reports. They have everything to do with the movie business and absolutely nothing to do with either the creation or the intelligent viewing of film. The filmmaker is reduced to a content manufacturer and the viewer to an unadventurous consumer.”
It’s hard not to be worried by Scorsese’s statements. He’s one of the masters of modern cinema, and if he’s got a problem with the state of the discourse around film, there’s every chance that he’s right. But given how popular Rotten Tomatoes has become, it’s hard to foresee how anything will change.