Greg Skinner (email@example.com) is the director of Mina, a market intelligence company specializing in the youth market. He also admits to having an unhealthy obsession with the World Wide Web. KidScreen asked him to do some browsing on our behalf and report on some of the interesting kids sites raising a ruckus in cyberspace.
* * *
Batman & Robin and Men in Black: Both movies involve people who fight evil. Both have people wearing black. Both have kickin’ Web sites supporting blockbuster summer movies. . . . At least one d’es.
-Batman & Robin
Holy cow, batman.com-the site dedicated to the movie’s hero-is blasé! It’s all very confusing because Batman equals excitement, just like Ferrari. Man, this site needs a boost.
With great anticipation, you barrel down a bat cave straight into the action, captivated by the interesting set of controls and switches at your fingertips. Clicking them lets you check out features such as Batman’s suits, a Batman fighting game (amusing for a quick sec), and a vast array of Bat gadgets.
But wait, something’s wrong. There’s no chaos, and there’s a weird tit-for-tat, good/bad thing happening at each link.
Take the sweet, sweet sounds of the RealAudio download. That’s right, samples of the movie soundtrack available on-line! But it’s oh so glitchy, and not fully thought out, because with each song, an index page pops up and boots you off the page you were looking at-15 times!
Or check out the cool-looking Batman poster, sitting there, just waiting for you to snatch it up and make like a bandit. The site literally tells you to ‘steal’ (download) it! And then it tells you that stealing is wrong. Ohhh, my head hurts! How dull and confusing all at once.
And then, there’s the truckload of mundane movie shots and photo stills. Not bad, but they’re too small; even fully expanded, they’re still too small. That’s partly because those funky navigation tools that were so compelling at first end up taking much-coveted screen space. Bummer.
Even the Microsoft and Columbia House banner ads don’t fit with the dark mood of the whole Batman Web-cruising experience.
The bottom line is that visitors are really only coming here for a couple of reasons: to discover facts, figures and unknown details about the Caped Crusader, or more likely, to relive the movie. In other words, the site should offer more of the same.
If this all sounds kind of horrible, it isn’t. The site just d’esn’t come at you full force the way you’d expect. It’s campy, but not in the same sort of fun way as the original Batman TV series.
We’re a ’90s movie-watching crowd, which means we expect high tech and megahype for this sort of flick. This site should eat other sites for brekky and then freeze ‘em. Alas, it’s barely frosty. Maybe next time.
Overall rating: too bad, so sad (6 out of 10)
-Men in Black
Men, black, aliens, the threat of world destruction. . . . How very exciting! And so is the Web site! At the bottom of the opening page, a clock counts down the amount of time left until the movie arrives. . . 684,927.4 seconds (I’m not kidding). Gosh, it feels like Christmas.
The MiB site has three distinct components: Men in Black Magazine, a mature but intriguing piece of journalism à la X-Files; a sweepstakes to win watches, books, toys and sunglasses (with links to Galoob and Ray-Ban Web sites, among others); and finally, the movie-the reason for our visit.
Inside the movie area, head straight to the MiB Training Center, and with one click, you’re captivated, locked to your seat, pie-eyed, as the MiB mandate flashes across the screen. It’s brilliant, just like watching TV, and this section only gets better. In the MiB Weapons Overview, each implement has the coolest, sleekest images, nicely intertwined with jocularity, and each weapon description weaves a history jussssst real enough to seem more like fact than fiction.
And so, off you go to check out Resident Alien Tracking, which serves up quirky character descriptions for extraterrestrials like Neeble & Gleeble and Redgick Jr., who is ‘often disguised as roadkill.’ This section is sure to cement characters as future faves.
If you’ve ever wanted to use a Spectral Analyzer, now is your chance, because in Non-Lethal MiB Devices, the site gets groovy and incorporates full interactivity to let visitors see the gadgets in action. Totally funky, as you play and explore and play some more.
As for the rest of the site, it’s pretty standard, with audio and video clips in abundance, behind-the-scenes details, screensavers and the like. One cool feature-which is quickly becoming standard on sites across the Net-is QuickTime VR (QTVR), which gives you a 3-D perspective of a room or scene. Awesome stuff.
What needs to be canned? Nothing really, but, to get technical (which seems appropriate), the RealVideo download in Movie Clips is too static (and hence quite boring; ditto for the QTVR scenes) and the Non-Lethal MiB Devices section, although very good, could use more variety in speaking to visitors, the same way Talking Barbie says something new each time!
The bottom line is that the site is wicked. It has juicy details, otherworldly humor that keeps a grin on your face and on-site audio that sends the whole thing stratospheric. The MiB site has created one funky mythology, with nary a hitch nor glitch.
Overall rating: supernova (9 out of 10)