Under Paris Proves Netflix Can Offer What Movie Theaters Abandoned

By Chris Snellgrove | Updated

Recently, I watched Under Paris on Netflix, and I was a bit surprised to see how much audiences (perhaps sensing blood in the online waters) savaged this film. It had an interesting premise, atmospheric scenes, and a bonkers ending, all of which made it feel much more original than just another schlocky shark movie. This film is proof that Netflix can potentially provide what movie theaters abandoned over two decades ago: original action films not based on existing IPs.

A Refreshingly Original Movie

At this point, some skeptics may think I’m shilling for Under Paris, Netflix, or maybe both. However, I’m not here to tell you that this is a perfect movie and I’m certainly not here to tell you Netflix is a perfect streamer. However, Netflix went out of its way to produce, promote, and platform an original action blockbuster movie, and that got me thinking about how we haven’t had a reliable flow of original action films in theaters since the ‘90s.

What does “original” mean in this case? Simple: major blockbusters that aren’t sequels, prequels, or reboots and aren’t based on comic books or video games. It’s a common lament among movie audiences that modern studios are afraid to bankroll original film concepts. This hesitation really kicked in around the new millennium, making the ‘90s the last real hurrah for original action blockbusters.

Throwback To 90s Movies

Before you can understand my larger point about Under Paris and Netflix, you must appreciate what an embarrassment of riches movie theaters in the ‘90s offered us. This was the decade that gave us wildly original sci-fi action epics like Independence Day, The Fifth Element, and The Matrix. Meanwhile, this was also the decade of auteur directors, with John Woo going full gonzo in Face/Off and James Cameron arguably perfecting the action comedy in True Lies.

A High-Concept Breath Of Fresh Air

To its credit, the 90’s was also a decade that redefined what an action blockbuster could be: Speed, for example, sounds insanely boring on paper but was nail-bitingly tense on the big screen. Meanwhile, Twister sounded like it would be a film only future weathermen could love, but it became a mainstream “man versus nature” blockbuster of the highest order. Additionally, Enemy of the State took our post-X-Files paranoia about the government and turned it into an early action blockbuster for Will Smith.

What does all this ‘90s nostalgia have to do with Under Paris and Netflix? The movie itself isn’t amazing…on my informal movie scale, I dubbed it “good, but not great.” But beyond the solid performances and competent direction, what made this movie so memorable is that it was original.

Stands Apart From Other Shark Movies

Under Paris doesn’t feel like it’s cribbing from the countless other shark attack movies out there, thanks largely to its insane premise about a shark getting loose in the Seine and turning the city of love into the city of lunch. Without giving it away, the film also has a crazy ending that, whether you love it or hate it, is completely unexpected. As the credits rolled, I realized why I had such a big grin on my face: this was what it felt like to once again watch a major action blockbuster that didn’t feel like a lame retread of an old idea.

Audiences Aren’t Flocking To Theaters

Right now, theaters are struggling with movies based on existing IPs that have completely flopped. The Mad Max: Fury Road prequel Furiosa, for example, is already barreling towards a digital release after bombing in theaters and getting yanked from nearly 900 theaters. Similarly, The Fall Guy–the big-budget blockbuster staring Ryan Gosling and Emily Blunt and based on the old ’80s TV show–has bombed, and Universal is on its way to losing at least $50 million on what should have been a surefire hit. 

The equation seems simple: audiences are avoiding movie theaters, partly because of bad experiences (which the Red Letter Media boys can tell you all about) and partly because every big film recycles older ideas, usually for the worse.

New Netflix Record

under paris

With Under Paris, Netflix revealed that it is willing to produce and distribute the original blockbusters that theaters once showed back in the ‘90s. The move has been a major success for the streamer: Under Paris received 41 million views in its first five days on Netflix, making it the platform’s best premiere for a non-English film.

Netflix Might Be The One to Save Movies

After Under Paris proved itself in such a big way, we can likely expect Netflix to produce and distribute even more original action blockbusters. That’s good news for audiences: when movie theaters can only offer blockbusters based on existing IPs, moviegoers who want something more original will need to find a new source of entertainment.

Right now, that source seems to be Netflix, which is bittersweet for customers…after all, if the service is going to keep hiking rates and cracking down on password sharing, it’s good that we’re at least getting a steady stream of action blockbusters out of the deal.