‘The Gray Man’ Is a $200 Million Homework Assignment
Movies like “The Gray Man” — trailer here — and the truly awful “Red Notice” make me wonder about the tight spot Netflix finds itself in.
Most of Netflix’s competitors are owned by studios with deep libraries of intellectual property and no incentive to license the most valuable examples. The remainder are a grab-bag: because Apple is reliant on original material, it has been selectively developing programming of a higher calibre; Amazon, meanwhile, bundles its video streaming with free shipping on Amazon purchases, and it is hard to tell how serious it is about its long-term interest. (Update: Alex reminded me that Amazon bought MGM Studios, which I completely forgot about. So, to correct: yes, Amazon is very serious about video.)
Netflix, meanwhile, looks like it is often throwing money at the wall and seeing what sticks. That is not a phenomenon unique to Netflix, for sure, and it has plenty of good shows too. Serial productions like “Stranger Things” and “Sex Education” have been well received, and it has released films like “Tick, Tick, Boom!” and “Uncut Gems”. But these are all over the place. What does a “Netflix movie” look like? Actually, that seems unfair — a lot of stuff on Netflix looks like it has been put through the exact same team of cinematographers, colourists, editors, and visual effects producers. Here is a better version of that question: who is Netflix making movies for?
It seems like many of its highest-profile movie releases are expensive attempts to justify the monthly subscription price. Not necessarily why it is worth paying twenty dollars every month, just something to keep your eyes busy so you do not unsubscribe until the next season of “The Crown” is released. It is all just content at its most empty definition. Much of Netflix’s original library feels like a much more expensive version of 1990s direct-to-video dreck. Maybe the nonstop drumbeat of action movie franchises, including those of comic book characters, have just sapped me of the energy to enjoy yet another hero-endures-explosions plot, but it is wild that many of these wildly expensive movies are so perfunctory.