Another day, another Netflix Original. This time around, it’s IO, a dystopian film starring Margaret Qualley and Anthony Mackie.
Reminiscent of post-apocalyptic hits like I Am Legend and A Quiet Place, IO follows scientist Sam Walden — the earth’s last living inhabitant — as she struggles to stay alive in a world destroyed by toxic chemicals. Following in her father’s footsteps, she spends her timing researching a way to make Earth inhabitable again. When she makes a call to find other survivors, she unexpectedly meets Micah (Mackie), and the two devise a plan to board the final shuttle to the moon, IO, or risk withering away in the wasteland.
If IO sounds like it was written with an algorithm, it’s because it was — partly. IO is the latest addition to Netflix’s growing crop of post-apocalyptic thrillers, like Bird Box, 3%, The Cloverfield Paradox, Cargo, Extinction, and more. It’s also won’t be the last. The streaming behemoth plans to double its original content this year, so we’re expecting another flood of dystopian goodness. Is Netflix gunning to dominate the sci-fi space? Maybe, but it’s more likely sci-fi is what viewers are demanding. According to Cary Fukunaga, executive producer of Netflix’s Maniac, it’s usually the algorithm that prevails.
“Because Netflix is a data company, they know exactly how their viewers watch things. So they can look at something you’re writing and say, ‘We know based on our data that if you do this, we will lose this many viewers,'” he told GQ. “So it’s a different kind of note-giving. It’s not like, Let’s discuss this and maybe I’m gonna win. The algorithm’s argument is gonna win at the end of the day. So the question is do we want to make a creative decision at the risk of losing people.”
Some of the streamer’s more inventive films, like Bright and Extinction, aren’t exactly acclaimed. Will Smith-billed Bright was panned by critics and casual viewers alike, but it was still given the green light for a sequel, and that decision can be traced back to numbers. In its first three days alone, the movie was streamed over 11 million times, so it’s likely Netflix’s priority is number of views — not how many people gave it a thumbs down on Metacritic.
Netflix isn’t afraid to take risks for the sake of serving content it thinks subscribers want.
“We think it will kind of give consumers and everyone who watches this space a better idea of the kind of things we’re up to in the movie space,” Netflix’s chief content officer, Ted Sarandos, said of Bright. “Which is those movies that you would see in the theaters, but they’re available to you day-in, day-out on Netflix, and that they look and feel like movies of that scale.”
Guess we shouldn’t be surprised if one day, we’re all holed up in our homes glued to the screen and the earth looks just as desolate as it looks on IO.
Stream Netflix’s IO on January 18, 2019.
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