IMDB’s External reviews page is conceivably the most complete index of film reviews in the history of computer-literate mankind. It’s almost the most neglected one.
Anyone who’s needed to look up information about a film knows that External Reviews is it, a high-affluence destination where film critics post their point of view about any given film. But I’m guessing that more than a few people would rather run off to Reddit or Rotten Tomatoes for movie feedback than attempt to negotiate IMDB’s rigid and uninviting External Reviews page.
Let’s face it: the External Reviews page needs to express the wealth of information it carries more effectively. This is a crowded section as it is (mainstream films frequently garner two, three and sometimes four-hundred different articles in a multitude of languages). And yet, External Reviews is curiously unorganized and neglected, compared to the rest of the site.
In case you didn’t know, IMDB is ranked among the top five-hundred sites globally, currently listed 27th most-visited site by Alexa. Movie star news, production updates, the film press in review: IMDB (it’s a British invention) is, to put it mildly, the glue that holds it all together. So why should an underperforming page such as External Reviews be allowed to trudge along without getting any love? Are IMDB’s editors suffering from lazyitis? What could be done to break what has apparently become an enduring habit? Let’s look at an example:
I typed “Birdman” in IMDB’s search engine, clicked on External Reviews and found 492 reviews, including four by The Examiner (apparently they really liked that movie – sigh).
Screen Comment, which I founded in 2007, has over 1,100 movie reviews listed with IMDB so I speak from experience when I say that, while IMDB has established a specific set of criteria governing what you can and cannot submit for publication, the overall organization of a given film’s External Reviews page is amateur work, some kind of polite afterthought. There’s barely any rhyme or reason to how reviews are ordered (the list of news sources starts out alphabetically but then goes lexically awry), links are frequently broken and duplicate entries clamor for the reader’s attention (at Screen Comment we’re guilty of having double-submitted in error, at times). So yes, to put it not so mildly, I’ve often wondered about the IMDB classification system’s blatant ineffectualness. Here’s another example:
1978’s “The Deer Hunter” (directed by Michael Cimino) got 130 external reviews listed, among which is one penned by Roger Ebert and the other by Vincent Canby. Since those are the only names I know, I will read these eminent film critics’ reviews of the film. I’m of those people who doesn’t believe that the wedding scene in “Deer” was excessively long. It advances the cause of the film effectively, to the contrary. And I like to read reviews that will both support and refute this. Whose review do I click on next? IMDB gives users no indication of who said what and what they thought of it. I click on the review’s link and keep my fingers crossed that: (a) it works and (b) it leads to an actual review and not just a site’s homepage from where I’m expected to do yet another search. What’s the solution?
Here’s how I would envision the new External Reviews page:
Using a two-column format, each review link would display a score (or be star-rated) and a three-line preview. To make it more interesting, IMDB users could vote on whether they found that review helpful or not, with user options available to sort by usefulness, the date that the review was posted to IMDB, and the reviewer’s rating of the film.
Here’s an example of what the new External Reviews page could look like, using Jeremy Saulnier’s “Blue Ruin” as example:
Screen Comment (Ali Naderzad) SCORE: 6/10 “As with the films of the Taviani brothers and Carlos Saura the hatred that exists between two families for reasons that cannot ever be really known somehow leads to a totally nihilistic kind of violence.” (476 people found this review helpful)
Full review available here https://screencomment.com/2014/04/blue-ruin/
External Reviews is such a powerful tool and IMDB has established an extraordinary following while educating the world at large about cinema. Retooling the External Reviews page to enhance searchability, adding preview and sort criteria would make this amazing source of content more palatable to consumers. It would also do everyone, cinephiles and reviewers alike, a sizable favor – Ali Naderzad
(the author is founder and editor of Screen Comment. Follow him on Twitter here).