Outside the Wire (2021)

Netflix has a something of a persistent problem with its ‘Netflix Originals’: its clear that they have lots of money to throw around at projects offered up to them and a really desperate need for new content on its platform. It must be a great time to be a creative in Hollywood right now.

Well, it was until Covid came along and rather derailed things, but what I’m getting at (Hollywood studios making hugely expensive blockbusters that it has no cinemas for notwithstanding), is that with Apple TV, Amazon Prime, Netflix, Disney+ and countless other streaming platforms financing all sorts of productions (series and movies), it must be a good time to be a creative in Hollywood or anywhere else, for that matter. All sorts of productions that wouldn’t ordinarily have ever seen the light of day suddenly get greenlit as if by sheer desperation for content. Money is getting thrown around these days like there is some kind of goldrush. Content is everything in the streaming wars, but the real trick is, not just any content, it has to be GOOD content. There’s not much point spending millions on something rubbish that nobody watches or that is killed after the first weekend by word of mouth: you don’t want your streaming service to be considered the Happy Dumping Ground for stuff no other streamer wants and nobody watches.

But maybe Netflix didn’t get that memo. Or maybe they have so much money they don’t really care (Katee Sackhoff’s Another Life got a second season, for fracks sake). Its fairly obvious that Netflix has more than its fair share of material that is leaning on the ‘average to absolute rubbish’ scale. It needs to put more quality content up, and unfortunately Outside the Wire is absolutely not it.  It opens with an intriguing premise but slides into absurdity within very little time at all, in that manner that is beginning to seem peculiar to so many Netflix Originals. Like The Midnight Sky, another Netflix Original that I watched just a few weeks ago, there is something fundamentally wrong at the screenplay stage with Outside the Wire. Its a mess. It doesn’t work. It doesn’t make sense. But it went into production anyway: gotta fill that January 2021 slot.

Sure, its executed efficiently enough- I mean, it looks pretty good with decent production values and fairly well-staged action sequences, but that’s really just about it. The cast are much better than the material: in fact, there is more than just a suggestion that this is a case of guns-for-hire just doing their job, and a really poor b-movie project being elevated by the money Netflix is throwing around and the cast and crew that money attracts. Its the kind of project that as a low-budget b-movie in the 1980s might have been fun and worthwhile- elevated to a ‘big’ movie with its high production values, it just made the thing seem worse than it possibly might have.  If you’re going to hire Anthony Mackie, give him something to do. If you’re going to make him a cyborg/robot, have some point to it, some reason for that, other than to have him looking cool in numerous video-game-like action sequences doing superhuman stuff. As it was, I was much more interested in the “Gumps” that were being used as frontline mechanical warriors, and how ‘remote’ and ‘acceptable’ they made combat seem in just the same way as military Drones do. Why not have some commentary about that? Why not do something like what  THX 1138 did decades ago? Have a military operation and run a cost evaluation against it that goes up with every bullet fired and Gump lost and collateral damage amassed, and once the op exceeds its budget the top brass back home pulls the plug. You know, throw some social commentary in; surely that didn’t go out of fashion with Robocop

This, unfortunately, is some other totally different movie/nonsense that pretends to raise big subjects and themes but, er, doesn’t, really. It conjures up some future civil war in Eastern Europe if only so it can shoot the thing in Hungary and thus benefit from increased production efficiencies, because its setting narratively doesn’t really add anything or even make any sense, necessarily. Why would the US go into Ukraine in the future when it never has up to now, even when civilian aircraft are shot out of the sky? Why would Russia allow that and why don’t we see any Russian presence or dramatic tensions or threat from its border? It eventually posits a nuclear threat from hidden silos but by this point the film is laughably implausible and its hard to feel any real threat. And if out hero has worked out thermal rounds/grenades do the business against our renegade robot, how come the bad guys never managed to work it out?

Ach. I’ve gone and done it again, devoted too much time and too many words posting about a film that really doesn’t deserve it. You really need to sort out the Quality Control, Netflix. Simply throwing the dice just doesn’t cut it, not anymore- certainly now that Apple and Disney are getting in on the act.

Another Life Saved

ther3Terrifying news has broke that Netflix has ordered a second season of the frankly abominable sci-fi series Another Life. I’m gobsmacked, frankly. I watched the whole thing and it was possibly the worst sci-fi show I have ever had the misfortune to see. It would appear, however, that Netflix perceived my sticking with the full season as a sign I want more. Yikes.

Time I start ditching shows after two episodes then and to hell with giving them the benefit of the doubt, its clearly too dangerous. Two episodes then press the nuke button, its the only way to be sure.

(As an aside, I feel rather affronted by the knowledge that Netflix don’t seem at all concerned about the quality of the show, as long as people are watching it they just don’t care about whether it is any good or not. Numbers are everything then. I shouldn’t be surprised, but Another Life was clearly such a bad show. Nothing worked, it was terrible. But it gets renewed. Mad. The world is mad.)

Ending Another Life

another2Euueew, what’s that smell? Could it possibly be this stinking turd of a series? I think it might. Quick, dig a deep hole and chuck this in, bury it.

The last three episodes of this show. Unbelievable. It may possibly be THE WORST SCI-FI SHOW I HAVE EVER SEEN. I was actually shouting at the television in my dismay/horror/frustration.

I have often written about bad writing, bad scripts. I don’t think I’ve ever seen anything as badly written, badly constructed, or nonsensical, as this. I thought Nightflyers was bad. I’ve written about how poor so much of Star Trek: Discovery was, particularly in the second half of its second season. But neither were anywhere near as bad as this.

I could write about why. I could write a list of my WTF moments during the season. I could highlight the horrible lapses in logic, the stupid character moments/arcs. The soap opera inanity of it. I could write a list of all the better tv shows and movies that this thing kept on ripping off.  I think I’d be wasting my time though. It was a horrible, horrible mess, and it wasn’t even bad-funny that would make watching it passable, it was bad-unfunny and watching it was almost unbearable. I’d love to see the Netflix stats of how many people started episode one and got all the way through to episode ten. Not many of, I guess. We Unhappy Few.

another3According to the credits, Aaron Martin seems to be the lead showrunner/writer/producer of this show. I have marked his name for posterity and shall watch out for his future endeavours with trepidation. Checking on IMDB, he’s the creator of Slasher, a horror anthology series about serial killers whose beautiful something victims try to stay alive, The Best Years, a teen drama about the lives of beautiful somethings at college, and has previously worked on several seasons of Degrassi: The Next Generation, a romantic drama about beautiful somethings at Degrassi Community School dealing with the serious issues that plague beautiful something teenagers. Lots of clues there about how Another Life and its crew of beautiful something non-entities racing off into space turned out (clue: there’s romance and jealousy and stupid mistakes, sex with one guy, sex with two guys, sex with a hologram, rich daddies back on Earth, annoying little kids back on Earth, gay husbands back on Earth- basically all the trendy social concerns ticked). I’m sure Aaron is likely a very nice guy, and is clearly quite successful as a television writer and producer, but equally clearly, he’s not a science fiction writer, and was hopelessly unprepared and/or ill-advised on this show. Did nobody read the scripts, question the stupidity?

Another Life needed a science fiction writer. It needed someone who understood its conventions, its history, the required internal logic. Instead, well, this is mostly likely the most idiotic, absurd and asinine science fiction project I have ever had the misfortune to suffer through. I only hope that, like Nightflyers, it gets very quickly cancelled and put to rest, and that Aaron Martin departs this genre he has so rashly blighted, and goes back to the silly teenage angst dramas about the plights of beautiful somethings that he is so successful at.

And allowed nowhere near any genre show ever again, thank you very much.