Movie review aggregation

by Mr. Nobel

Most people who review movies kind of despise Rotten Tomatoes for its gross oversimplification and overquantification of, ostensibly, highly subjective and highly complicated movie reviews. I find that Rotten Tomatoes is often useful for a binary measure of whether or not a movie is good, i.e. Fresh/Rotten is more important than the actual percentages. It’s easy to the see why – Rotten Tomatoes quantifies reviews solely by assigning a positive or negative value to each.

This is a decent general indicator of quality, but it loses nuance in the finer details. The assumption here is that the more number of positive reviews indicates the higher overall quality of the film. However, the key failure of this approach is to recognize that homogeneity of opinion doesn’t necessarily equate with quality of a work.

If you compare the highest scoring Rotten Tomatoes new releases with their respective Metacritic score, you’ll often find a surprising discrepancy. Metacritic, when compared to Rotten Tomatoes scores, is very good at showing moments where homogeneity of opinion beat out the perceived quality of a film. For instance, The Hunger Games scored an 85% on Rotten Tomatoes but managed a much lower 67% on Metacritic.

Of course, my earlier explanation isn’t the only reason for these discrepancies. Metacritic also pulls reviews from a much more elite group of critics than Rotten Tomatoes. These reviewers tend to have differing tastes than the ranks of the writers listed on Rotten Tomatoes. It’s also here where I feel that Metacritic is at a disadvantage. Whereas the quantification process on Rotten Tomatoes is agreeably broad (it should be extremely evident whether or not a review leans positive or negative), Metacritic often assigns or polls for specific scores (all scaled to percentages). These scores, while potentially useful in communication a reviewer’s feelings about a movie, tend to be arbitrary, especially in the top critics. So, there’s a degree of arbitrariness in the scores determined by Metacritic.

My favorite aggregator? Movie Review Intelligence. The site keeps track of an embarrassing amount of stats, delineating reviews based on categories such as geography and prestige. They even have graphs. Damn, son.

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