Costly sci-fi films have received poor reviews but the streaming giant still has an eager audience in its vast subscriber base
The future hasn’t been kind to Netflix. In the last two months, it’s launched three science fiction blockbusters – Will Smith’s orc cop adventure Bright, the shock assault The Cloverfield Paradox, and the bizarre Berlin-set Blade Runner-riff Mute – each of which critics reacted to as though a cockroach crawled out of their TV (not one film managed to score over 27% on Rotten Tomatoes). A fourth attempt, Alex Garland’s Annihilation, about five female explorers in a technicolor hellscape, received better reviews but Netflix still couldn’t win. It scooped up the international distribution rights from Paramount, who lost confidence in the Natalie Portman cerebral chiller and decided to release it theatrically only in the United States, Canada and China. Netflix rescued the film for foreign audiences … who grumbled that they’d be forced to squint at Garland’s giant, surrealist visuals at home on Netflix.
Related: Mute review – Duncan Jones’s sci-fi thriller is a Netflix disaster
The Moon director has delivered a catastrophically misjudged riff on Blade Runner with an astoundingly dull performance from Alexander Skårsgard
If one were to relax one’s eyes and stand very far away, the career of Duncan Jones might begin to resemble that of the young Hollywood savior he’s clearly angling to be. Like George Lucas before him, Jones made a name for himself with a blazingly original sci-fi sleeper (2009’s excellent Moon) which he then parlayed into a workmanlike box-office success (2011’s high-concept Source Code). But sometime in the five-year hiatus prior to 2016’s Warcraft, a difficult period marked by his wife’s battle with cancer and his father’s death, he strayed from the path. His adaptation of the popular online fantasy game was to be Jones’ graduation into the uppermost echelon of big-league film-making, but it was savaged by critics and ate dirt at the US box office.
Related: Annihilation review – Natalie Portman thriller leaves a haunting impression