Underwhelming Netflix Sci-fi Double Bill: We’ve been here before, but better

It’s been widely discussed that Netflix is fast-becoming a graveyard for genre films. It seems like whenever a major studio has doubts about a project in development (particularly horror or sci-fi), or one which is approaching release with too much competition, it gets dumped on Netflix. MUTE and THE CLOVERFIELD PARADOX seemingly was just the first sign of the floodgates opening. Here’s my take on just two of the latest disappointments in streaming…

TAU It’s just fine. Netflix have advanced from backing and exhibiting pretty dire sci-fi films to ones that are just OK. Maika Monroe is a good actor given the right material, almost every aspect of this story has been done before, and  been done better. Her unconventional blossoming relationship with the title character is what elevates Tau to the status of a curiosity rather than a snooze-fest. It doesn’t have the intellectual chops to match conceptually similar AI chamber pieces like EX MACHINA, and it’s not visually distinctive enough to be considered style over substance either. You know the drill: morally dubious scientist creates AI because hubris, human/AI debates whether they are so very different, AI is scared of dying because HAL’s death scene was so touching in 2001. Most of it is depressingly derivative, but at least there’s a certain joy to be had in Monroe’s Julia being excitedly questioned on the world’s bigness by a disembodied five-year-old who sounds like Gary Oldman.

EXTINCTION This starts as a another bad SKYLINE or BATTLE: LOS ANGELES-alike invasion movie, falling-down-the-stairs-style editing and spotlights-as-special effects included, and it doesn’t get a whole lot better as things progress. The middle stretch is a bit more interesting and changes genres entirely because of a pretty big twist, which might have been telegraphed better had the first act been more coherent. You didn’t get one over on me, Extinction, you just didn’t explain the rules your world operates on! I think this one’s more frustrating than Tau because there’s a gem of an interesting idea in here somewhere, and with a more fleshed-out world or characters, more invention, this could have been a standout sci-fi. Michael Peña needs to have words with his agent if he wants a chance at more interesting leading man roles (which he definitely has the charisma for). Maybe we should keep on wishing for that Luis from ANT-MAN spinoff movie instead. SSP

About Sam Sewell-Peterson

I'm not paid to write about film - I do it because I love it. Favourites include Sam Mendes, Guillermo del Toro, Bong Joon-ho, Steven Spielberg, Danny Boyle, Edgar Wright, Taika Waititi and the Coen Brothers. All reviews and articles are original works owned by me. They represent one man's opinion, and I'm more than happy to engage in civilised debate if you disagree.
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