Why ‘The Island’ on Netflix Shows the Streaming Platform Is a Powerhouse with Sci-Fi Films

I love Netflix. Its original sci-fi films like What Happened to Monday (2017) and I Am Mother (2019) are among my all-time sci-fi favourites. Considering Netflix has only been creating original films since 2015 with Beasts of No Nation, it has established itself as a solid player in making successful sci-fi films. The recent 2021 release of Space Sweepers, a South Korean space western with a ragtag band of rogues reminiscent of Firefly, has an audience score of 78% on Rotten Tomatoes, which is higher than the audience score of 77% for Guillermo del Toro’s Pacific Rim. OK, it’s only 1% higher, but still. For a Netflix original film, that’s solid. 

Netflix excels not only with its original films, but also in its licensing of already existing sci-fi films like the cult classic Cube (1997) and films that are blockbuster staples of the genre, like The Matrix (1999), Transformers (2007) and Aliens (1986). I eagerly await the new releases on Netflix and get excited when I see not only an original sci-fi film — which immediately goes onto my to-watch list — but also a sci-fi film that perhaps I haven’t noticed, for some reason or another, and that’s been brought to my attention by being on the home page of Netflix. 

Michael Bay’s The Island (2005) is one such film. Added to Netflix UK on August 1, 2021, it follows two members of a futuristic colony, Lincoln Six Echo (Ewan McGregor) and Jordan Two Delta (Scarlett Johansson), who make a shattering discovery about their existence, leading them to stage a desperate escape. It’s undoubtedly sci-fi, showcasing futuristic technological and biological advancements, but, as can be expected from director Michael Bay, blurred into an action thriller that includes a decent amount of car chases, helicopter explosions and cinematically loud gunshots.

With a runtime of 2 hours, 16 minutes, it feels like binge-watching a blockbuster trilogy in one sitting, because there are so many plots. Each seemingly end of story climax ebbs into the start of the next part of the journey — think the opposite of The Hobbit, which stretched one book into 3 epic length films — ultimately creating one heck of a blockbuster of a film. 

Ewan McGregor and Scarlett Johansson put on highly believable performances, with Johansson showcasing some of the fighting moves that presumably helped land her role as Black Widow in the first Avengers film seven years later in 2012. There are stellar side performances from Steve Buscemi and Sean Bean, and — without giving anything away — some pure comedy and evil genius vibes, but would you expect anything less from these two actors, really? 

Even sixteen years after its release, there’s still plenty of life in The Island. Though it’s set in the ‘future’ and that future is two years ago in 2019, it honestly holds up pretty well. The references to contactless payment are on point, while the prediction of flying cars in so many films that happen in the early 21st century (Blade Runner anyone?), is yet to be seen. 

Although it might seem like The Island is one behemoth of a film, with Michael Bay at the helm and being produced by DreamWorks Pictures and Warner Bros. Pictures, it actually turned a modest profit of around $36 million at the Box Office on an original budget of $126 million, never quite achieving success like The Matrix, a film that more than quadrupled its initial budget of $63 million at the Box Office. 

Bringing us titles like The Island is where Netflix solidifies its status as a powerhouse with sci-fi films: showing us the films we never knew we wanted, but we needed. It breathes new life into this slightly overlooked, but stellar, sci-fi film for new and old audiences alike. Not only are its original films a huge success, by creating a second wave for these older sci-fi films and giving them a prominent spot on their homepage, it garners a level of buzz that feels like a cinematic release all over again. We get excited about the new content on Netflix, particularly when it’s sci-fi, and about watching something we might have missed before. 

And it appears that we, the viewers watching these titles, positively influence the platforms’ continued efforts to bring more sci-fi content to us. Netflix uses viewer analytics to decide what to keep and what to bring on board, so if we love it, and we watch it, they’ll bring more of it. You could say that the destiny of Netflix remaining a powerhouse with sci-fi films is in our hands, or rather the remote control to that destiny is in our hands.

Any excuse to binge the entire sci-fi catalogue on Netflix. Matrix watch along anyone?

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