This upcoming Chris Hemsworth film has the potential to redeem Netflix’s action film track record, which has been marred by poor reviews for Red Notice. A forthcoming action film starring Chris Hemsworth has the potential to redeem Netflix’s poorly received Red Notice in time for its sequels. Red Notice follows FBI Special Agent John Hartley (Dwayne Johnson) as he investigates the theft of Cleopatra’s jewel-encrusted eggs. Nolan Booth (Ryan Reynolds) and his rival, Sarah “The Bishop” Black, are the suspects (Gal Gadot). Interpol is on their trail as the three eventually assemble to locate the third egg. The audience score on Rotten Tomatoes at the time of writing was 92 percent, indicating that it was very well received by viewers. However, critics panned Red Notice, with Roger Ebert awarding it 1 1/2 stars and Rotten Tomatoes and Metacritic awarding it 36 percent and 37 percent, respectively, for critic approval.
Despite its poor critical reception, Red Notice at least sets up its sequel well and gives the franchise some promise. Red Notice, with a budget of $200 million, was the most expensive action film produced by Netflix. Netflix’s desire to capitalize on its investment with sequels, despite low critical ratings, is therefore understandable. Red Notice, however, supports the claim that Netflix has low standards when it comes to producing action films, focusing more on big-name actors and high production budgets than on quality filmmaking. Even if Red Notice 2 is an improvement over the original, it is unlikely to be the film that disproves this notion.
Instead, Netflix’s reputation may benefit from the upcoming Spiderhead. Based on George Saunders’ 2010 New Yorker short story “Escape from Spiderhead,” Spiderhead is expected to premiere on Netflix in the summer of 2022. Chris Hemsworth, Miles Teller, and Jurnee Smollett star in the film (Birds of Prey, Lovecraft Country). What makes Spiderhead particularly redeeming for Netflix is that its A-list cast will be used to support an already enticing premise, as opposed to merely serving as a crutch to attract viewers to a story that is otherwise subpar. Spiderhead is set in a dystopian society where prison inmates can shorten their sentences by participating in experiments for mind-altering drugs at a special facility supervised by the character of Steve Abnesti, portrayed by Chris Hemsworth. Two prisoners named Jeff and Rachel, portrayed by Teller and Smollett, form a relationship at this facility.
Spiderhead’s premise transcends formula and predictability, which Red Notice cannot claim. Multiple factors, including Netflix’s ineffective marketing strategy and the proliferation of streaming services, have contributed to its dramatic subscriber decline. After the pandemic hampered their production, shows like Bridgerton, Russian Doll, and Stranger Things were finally able to release new episodes in 2022, resulting in sporadic increases in viewership. Still, especially after Apple TV+’s major Oscar wins for CODA, Netflix’s original films must meet a higher standard of originality and quality to remain competitive as a streaming service.
If Spiderhead is well received, Netflix and the Red Notice sequels could benefit. Spiderhead could increase Netflix’s standard for mediocre content, which could then be applied to the Red Notice series. Even for critical flops like Red Notice, Ryan Reynolds’s Netflix films perform well largely due to his marketing appeal. However, if Spiderhead has any influence, future Red Notice sequels will hopefully not be expected to rely too heavily on star power. Spiderhead could also mitigate any ire directed at the Red Notice franchise, demonstrating to audiences and critics that Netflix’s A-list action films are actually well-made. Red Notice is currently regarded as Netflix’s definitive celebrity action film. It has the highest-caliber cast and highest production value of all Netflix originals. If Spiderhead can take its place and actually perform well with both critics and audiences, then Red Notice’s sequels may be relieved of some pressure. Spiderhead cannot save Netflix’s all-star action movie reputation on its own, but it can help redeem it from the critical failure of Red Notice.