Ok, maybe it's unfair to say they all suck. Some of them are okay I guess. But really, the best case scenario for a Netflix Original film is that it's watchable; you can actually sit through the whole thing without getting frustrated or bored and turning it off before it's done. I have a particular friend with whom I have watched at least three or four Netflix Originals, and I think we made it through one, and even that one, we still thought it kinda sucked after it was done. Usually she'll look at me and go "Are you invested in this?" And I'll say, "Not particularly." And she'll say, "Good. Can we watch something else now?" And I say, "Yes please." And then we watch something that is NOT a Netflix Original Film.
Now let me be clear. I am talking exclusively about Netfilx FILMS. Movies. I'm not talking about Netflix Original TV Series, or comedy specials. A lot of those are fine, even, one might say, pretty dang good. And I'm not talking about documentary films either. Some of those I've seen are also pretty dang good. (Check out for example, Jim and Andy: The Great Beyond). I'm talking about movie movies. You know. Fictional stories with like scripts and actors and directors and all that stuff. Is there a good one in existence? I'm open to being proven wrong. Feel free to recommend to me the Netflix film you think is going to be the next great Oscar contender, or hell, the Netfilx film that is just pretty good, and I will correct myself in the comments below. But thus far, all I have watched personally are films that are mediocre at best.
And yet I keep watching them. It's like I just want to be proven wrong. I WANT a Netflix film to be more than watchable. I want it to be good. My latest attempt: "How It Ends" staring Forest Whitaker. This one, at least for me, did fall into the "watchable" category. I did make it through to the end. But my overall feeling of it after I was done was- "Meh."
The film has an interesting premise. It is about some sort of undefined disaster that hits the United States, causing everyone across the entire country to lose electricity, cell reception, internet, even GPS. The disaster is at first described as an earthquake that hits the west coast. "But wait a minute", Forest Whitaker says, "if there was an earthquake out west, then why is there no power or cell reception in Chicago? And why are there all these military jets flying around everywhere all the sudden?"
But the point of the film, at least as it appears to me, is not to dwell too deeply on what the disaster is, but rather, how the characters respond to it. Sounds an awful lot like the premise of one of my favorite TV shows, but keep that in the back of your mind; I'll get back to that. The problem with this premise, in this particular film at least, is that the way that the characters react to the disaster is....well.....kind of boring actually.
The way the people respond to this disaster is that everyone in the entire country, apparently, except of course our main characters, suddenly turn into highway robbers and militants with guns. And this is not taking place years, months, or even weeks after the disaster. The entire film takes place within a week of the disaster, and a great chunk of it is within the first two or three days (we know this because of the subtitles that tell us DAY 1, DAY 2, etc.). I mean, seriously, the power goes out and then all the sudden the entire country turn into characters from a Mad Max film.
The highway robbers kept using the ol' "Damsel in Distress" trick too. You know, when there's a woman on the side of the road waving her arms shouting "Help me! I'm in trouble! Please save me!" And our main characters kept falling for it every time! After just the second time this occurred, I was practically shouting at the screen: "DON'T STOP FOR HER! IT'S A TRICK! THERE ARE DUDES WITH GUNS HIDING AROUND THE CORNER WAITING TO ROB YOU!!!" But for some weird reason, our main characters would not listen to me. I guess the film needed to create tension...or something.
Contrast that with the aforementioned TV show, HBO's The Leftovers, which was has a mysterious disaster that takes place (in that case the sudden disappearance of 2% of the world's population), and also wants the audience to focus less on how or why the disaster occurred and more how the characters reacted to it. But in this case, the characters' reaction was interesting. One example: a female character who hired hookers to shoot her with a gun while she wore a bullet proof vest just to see if she could still feel something. Now that's interesting.
But this movie could have been good. If it tried. It could have been good. They were able to get Forest Whitaker at least. A lot of these Netflix films get pretty well known and seasoned actors to star in them. Not that Forest Whitaker is necessarily an A-List actor anymore, but hey, he's still relevant. He was in a Star Wars movie for Christ's sake. He's also still a very good actor. In fact, it was his performance primarily that made this film watchable.
Here's the conclusion I've come to. Some of these movies could be good if they tried, but they're not trying. Why bother going through that extra effort to make a quality film when Netflix will still sell plenty of subscriptions, and make plenty of money, based off some of their TV series alone, if not some of the other previously established films that are readily available? I might argue then, why bother making any films at all then, but hey, maybe they just need to make it look good. I don't know.
I still have faith, just like Forest Whitaker and that other guy, the not -Forest -Whitaker-dude who was in this film. Just like those main characters continuing to stop for the damsel in distress, because they hope that maybe, just maybe, there aren't dudes with guns waiting around the corner to rob them this time- I still have hope. One day I might watch a Netflix film that is... pretty decent? I guess?