Netflix Has A Serious Blockbuster Problem

By TeeJay Small | Updated

Gal Gadot in Netflix’s Heart of Stone

Netflix has been trying fruitlessly to make the next big popcorn blockbuster on their streaming service for some time now. Unfortunately, as detailed by a write-up in Forbes, their many attempts continue to fall flat, for a variety of reasons. Their second stab at success with Wonder Woman actress Gal Gadot, Heart of Stone, released last week, to an unpalatable 29 percent Rotten Tomatoes score, and an audience of would-be fans getting up and walking out of their own living rooms to protest the cinematic laziness on display.

Netflix doesn’t share streaming numbers, but based on acillary data, attempts at making a blockbuster film have fallen flat, including twice with Gal Gadot.

Heart of Stone centers around a spy named Rachel Stone because Netflix failed to get the memo that titling your film with a pun based on your main character’s name hasn’t been a hallmark of a major blockbuster since the Clinton administration. Stone is tasked with protecting a mysterious artificial intelligence, colloquially referred to as The Heart, which may in fact have been the very AI to write this film in the first place. Though Netflix currently lists the film as number one on its list of trending English language films, it certainly doesn’t seem to garner the attention the streamer hoped to see.

Ultimately, Heart of Stone seems to be another in a series of false starts for Netflix, as their growing roster of failed blockbusters continues to expand. The film was initially meant to launch a Mission Impossible-style franchise that would rival popcorn action films such as the Fast and Furious series. While it’s obviously too soon to know this for certain, the milquetoast reaction to the film seems to suggest the threat of a sequel is already off the table.

ryan reynolds gal gadot
Dwayne Johnson, Gal Gadot, and Ryna Reynolds in Red Notice

Before Netflix took a stab at Gal Gadot being their sole blockbuster draw, they attempted to utilize her in an ensemble lead alongside Ryan Reynolds and Dwayne Johnson, in 2021’s Red Notice. Like Heart of Stone, Red Notice failed to draw much of any fanfare and certainly failed to inspire the kind of audience support needed to launch a long-standing franchise, also garnering a 37 percent Rotten Tomatoes score.

Netflix action blockbuster movies have failed to connect with audiences in the way Adam Sandler’s comedies have been able to develop a strong following.

Before trotting Gadot out for a second Netflix Blockbuster attempt, the streamer announced the launch of “The Gray Man Cinematic Universe” with the 2022 film The Gray Man, which starred Ryan Gosling, Ana De Armas, and Chris Evans.

Despite its status as a critical failure, the streamer has maintained that a second installment in the aptly titled Grayverse is in the works, ensuring millions of new watch-minute metrics from all the subscribers who will use the film as a means to fall asleep after a long day.

the gray man chris evans
Chris Evans in The Gray Man

All this tells us two things about Netflix as a company. For one thing, the studio is focused on crafting original blockbusters that draw the most watch time, regardless of whether or not the films perform well with critics or get talked about on social media. Additionally, the studio has failed to recognize that the next best thing to a fantastic movie, is a horrible movie.

That’s where Netflix blockbusters seem to fail, as the films are neither good enough to beat Mission Impossible, nor bad enough to be a fun watch.

Audiences will flock to theaters to watch major blockbusters such as Barbie or Oppenheimer, but they will also pack in to catch a showing of Tommy Wiseau’s hit so-bad-it’s-good film The Room over twenty years after its initial release. To a modern moviegoing crowd, enveloped by a world of social media sardonicism and YouTube film criticism, the worst thing a movie could ever be is bland. That’s where Netflix blockbusters seem to fail, as the films are neither good enough to beat Mission Impossible, nor bad enough to be a fun watch.

In the ongoing battle between the studios representing the AMPTP and the WGA and SAG-AFTRA unions, Netflix remains a key holdout. Perhaps, if the strike teaches them nothing else, the executives at Netflix will learn the proper channels necessary to squeeze blockbuster-grade work out of their writers and performers, paving a path toward a more harmonious partnership in the future.