Website review: Rottentomatoes.com


21 Jul 2007

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If there’s one thing the internet is not short of, it’s film sites. Movie news, fan fiction, fan blogs, amateur sites, professional ones, the list is endless. Of course, as with anything else (including cinema itself), proliferation alone does not guarantee quality.

Rottentomatoes.com, celebrating its tenth birthday next year, is a slick film and game news and reviews site. Its main selling point is its database of reviews, from which it determines whether something is ‘fresh’ or ‘rotten’ based on critical consensus.

For example, Die Hard 4.0 is certified ‘fresh’ with 79pc of critics giving their approval. In other words, of 164 reviews, 134 are favourable. The site’s administrator even summarise the overall consensus, gleamed from reviews across America; “preposterous, but it’s an efficient, action-packed summer popcorn flick with thrilling stunts and a commanding performance by Bruce Willis”.

As one American journalist said, why put your precious Saturday night in the hands of one reviewer? I’ve consulted rottentomatoes.com countless times before going to the cinema to get a general idea of how a film has been received.

The ‘Tomatometer’ is nice idea, but not a unique one. Metacritic.com uses the ‘critical mass’ formula and is a convenient source of music, film, TV and game reviews. As such, it works fine, but it lacks news and personality.

The news content on Rottentomatoes is easy to navigate, professional and nicely written- informed, but breezy. They have plenty of links to related stories and always name the source and acknowlege the veracity of the scoop- an important quality in an industry riddled with rumours and false reports.

The site’s games section is a relatively new endevour. While not as comprehensive as its cinema counterpart, it’s still user-friendly and informative, and importantly, uses the trademark ‘Tomatometer’ for games reviews.

Again, this is indescribably handy when purchasing an astronomically-priced game. Like film posters, game packages are often stuffed with review quotes, but you often don’t know the critic, or even the publication recommending it, rendering the endorsement suspect at best.

Rottentomatoes.com seems at pains to appeal to the casual movie-goer and the film-geek alike, and while it sometimes succumbs to fanboy frenzy, navigation is simple and the writing is accessible.

Granted, the American film times and release dates will be of little use to an Irish user, but its internal search engine is accurate and efficient and it links to dozens of other movie sites – from the mainstream to the stubbornly specialist. Rottentomatoes.com is as convenient and informative a film site as you could ask for.

PROS: summary of reviews works well, good search engine and database

CONS: homepage could be tidier

By Joe Griffin