In a few of the reviews I’ve read for The Outsider, a movie starring Jared Leto that involves something about the Yakuza, the writer has used words like “forgettable,” “mediocre” and the like. I’ll be honest, I never even got around to watching the trailer before the movie was out so didn’t even have that to go on as I started to see reviews and hot takes crossing my vision.
The attitude of those reviews is similar to how The Cloverfield Paradox and other recent Netflix original movies have been received. “Alright.” “Fine.” “Could have been better…” The general attitude is so lukewarm it resembles the hot dog cart at a high school football field.
I’m pretty sure, based on the trailer, that the reaction to The Titan will be similar. The movie stars Sam Worthington as a soldier in the not-too-distant future who volunteers to train to be among the first to travel to and colonize one of Jupiter’s moons. The world is running out of food and water and so we need to take to the stars, a premise that’s been used in a number of recent sci-fi films.
That “good enough” label is used essentially as a criticism. Netflix has been criticized for flooding the market with “adequate” material, crowding out other options ranging from streaming to theatrical. And the company is seen as being fine with “meh” instead of consistently shooting for greatness, as it sometimes does do.
So…what’s the problem?
Despite the fact that Netflix has produced original features for a number of years now, it’s really just starting out. It began with arthouse fare like Beasts of No Nation and now produces movies like Mute. It’s all over the place because to some extent it’s still finding its way and seeing what works. The company knows that original content is what’s bringing in subscribers – that was a notable finding in a recent Deloitte survey on streaming and other media consumption habits – so it’s putting out a little something for everyone.
It’s no different from what any other major studio does. Sure, Fox Searchlight and Sony Classics go more for quality than quantity, but they don’t have to keep people renewing their memberships every month. The math is very different when you do. And it’s no different from what HBO has traditionally done. Do we need to be reminded how many seasons “Arli$$,” a decidedly mediocre show, was on the air alongside the unquestionably brilliant and sublime “Larry Sanders Show?”
That average content – the lukewarm middle that lies between the clear duds and the wonderful hits – is filling the gap. It’s good enough for someone to choose on a Friday night when they don’t have any other plans and can’t afford to hit the theater for something new. They’ll watch it and kind of enjoy it and it didn’t cost anything extra so it’s fine.
Not everything is a complete turd. Not everything is an Oscar contender. Most movies are alright and that’s the market Netflix is looking to serve.
Chris Thilk is a freelance writer and content strategist who lives in the Chicago suburbs.