When Will Robots Review Movies?

When contemplating the possibility of computer programs one day penning movie reviews, moviegoers can agree that we all consciously or unconsciously rate films using certain formulaic criteria like cinematography, direction, acting, writing and soundtrack. Personalization algorithms developed by companies like Amazon already apply equations based on similar logic that review and recommend books and movies they think would appeal to a customer’s unique tastes. So a movie review algorithm is well within the realm of possibility -- unless we want reviews calculated by an algorithm with its own opinions and a snarky sense of humor or a wry topical wit. Do we want that?

Send two budding critics to the same film school and the output will be far from the same. Reviewers critique based on their standards, experiences, and likes and dislikes -- just like the average moviegoer. One might heavily weight Jake Gyllenehaal’s hunkiness, or chuck believability to the wind when it comes to romantic comedies that feed their own fairytale longings for love. We're willing to wager we're a long way off from computer programs that could recreate any of these human quirks that other human film fans crave (at least we hope they still do). Although, when we spy the quotes of dubious reviewers publications who seem programmed to laud any piece of cinema as "the best film of the year" for the sake of pimping out a movie poster or trailer we wonder if robot critics already exist.

It all calls to mind the cautionary German documentary Plug and Pray. Perhaps somewhere some team of scientists has a Ebert-bot stuffed away in a lab learning to analyze the flaws and finer points of Hanna and Limitless -- and how to nail a signature sign off. “Thumbs up" "It’s the best movie of the year." "I would see it again and again" (insert robotic monotone).

Next up ... robot directors?