“Bright” was supposed to be a huge step for Netflix and the costs of this huge misfire might be painful for the company.
Just before viewing “The Last Jedi“, I have witnessed history in the making. A trailer of a blockbuster “Bright” has been presented, which concluded with a bold statement “want to see the film? Go to Netflix“. Why was it so monumental?
It’s the first time that a straight-to-vod film got such a treatment. If you think about it, it’s Netflix grabbing a piece of a pie it never aimed for before. Video on demand has never been a competition to cinemas. As I’ve heard during a press conference of Cineworld (the 2nd biggest chain of cinemas in Europe), streaming platforms are not in line with cinemas.
The reason for it is not a mind-boggling puzzle – streaming is the in-house entertainment. In this case, Netflix competes with your buddies, who bring a sixpack or a board game night. Respectively, once you decided to go to the cinema, it’s a different story.
But what the VOD giant aimed at with pulling off “Bright” is an interesting strategy. You may think of it as a reverse “Pokemon Go” effect. It’s turning us – the viewers – back to sitting at home. And not only by offering many titles in one place, simplifying the access to an absolute minimum. It’s offering a film – which quality is discussed in the latter of this article – destined for a summer blockbuster season solely via streaming.
Netflix is prepping for changes.
Earlier this year, the company acquired a period drama “Mudbound” for astonishing $12.5 million. The film met with raving reviews from Sundance Film Festival, but unfortunately, Netflix failed to run an award-converting campaign. As a result, a great indie film has been submerged by expectations from its purchaser.
But “Bright” is the boldest and most unexpected move so far. They hired David Ayer – a once-noticeable director, who flushed himself down the toilet by a stroke of miserable half-products and failures (he’s the evil mind behind “Suicide Squad”). However, they got on board Will Smith and Joel Edgerton – a well-known names that could easily attract cinemagoers. It might have been a recipe for gaining traffic.
On paper only, because “Bright” is a less-than-average film, the exact kind of stuff that you’d rather watch at home, without paying for it too much. Even though that’s exactly the case – since Netflix didn’t require any additional payment for viewing the film – the idea was kind of different. It was supposed to prove the company’s ambitions to steal customers from a complementary market. The point was to prove to the customer, that you don’t have to go to cinema to experience something awe-inspiring – Netflix has it up their sleeve exclusively.
However, the problem that is very clearly under the spotlight is that Netflix is full of torpedoes, but the gunpoint is off kilter. “Bright” often feels rushed, as if the time pressure didn’t allow to think twice about the content. It’s badly edited and poorly scripted and if this is Reed Hastings’ strategy to expand, then it might bring a totally reverse outcome.
All things considered, the future still looks “bright” though.
Notwithstanding the fact that this first only-to-vod blockbuster disenchanted both critics and viewers, it still marks an important step for Netflix. It means that Netflix might be – in the distant future – looking for a cinematic partner. A few titles produced by Netflix – “Beasts Of No Nation” and “First They Killed My Father” – could easily stand a chance at the box office. It would be sweet to be given an opportunity to watch such Netflix Originals on the big screen.
“Bright” may not have been the milestone Netflix dreamed of. It’s a mediocre-at-best effort from a B-class director. However, rough beginnings may become fruitful in the future. Whether we – as viewers – like it or not, Netflix is really changing the game. They are sloppy for now, but once “they get the high ground”, others will be left with nothing but to follow.