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Netflix’s ultimate crowd pleaser, The gray mancost $200 million, a price similar to that of Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness. A spy and action thriller starring Ryan Gosling, Ana de Armas and Chris Evans. The gray man is directed by Joe and Anthony Russo, the brothers behind some of the biggest hits in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, including Avengers: Endgame. In other words, it was designed to succeed, and it succeeded. The film was almost immediately the service’s top film in 92 countries. Surely, this is the kind of thing Ted Sarandos dreams of.
Naturally, Netflix wants more.
On Tuesday, less than a week after the film premiered on Netflix, the streamer announced that a sequel to The Gray Man was already in the works, as was a spin-off film. Those efforts, the company said, were part of what Netflix hoped would become “a great spy franchise” — a cinematic universe The Verge cheekily called “50 Shades of Gray Men.”
Look, there’s never a good reason to complain about having more Ryan Gosling shoved into your living room, but this is ridiculous. The gray man it’s fine, but at best it’s the kind of movie you’re glad you downloaded to your iPad before a six-hour flight. Also, you’ve probably seen it before; it just had the words “Mission” “Impossible” or “Bourne” in the title. There can never be too many fun spy thrillers, but they don’t all have to be part of a franchise. And if they do, we might prioritize the sequels The Old Guard i Atomic Blonde? Or at least have Charlize Theron and Gosling fight in some crossover event?
But in the end, it’s not really about the quality of the franchise, it’s about Netflix having a franchise. Now that the streamer is losing (or has lost) access to established cinematic universes like Marvel, DC or Lucasfilm, it needs more. Netflix is shedding subscribers, and if it really wants to compete with Disney+ and HBO Max in the long run, it’s going to have to have the kind of properties that those services have. “We want to have our own version of Star Wars or our own version of Harry Potter,” Netflix vice president Matthew Thunell recently told Reuters, “and we’re working very hard to build that.” Hence the Brooding Gosling cinematic universe.
It’s not just Dog, of course. There is also a reality series inspired by Squid Gameand this series of Knives out films that Rian Johnson is making. game of thrones Showrunners David Benioff and DB Weiss are adapting The three-body problem, the first book in Liu Cixin’s science fiction trilogy. The list goes on and on. Will this all go from bad to mediocre? No. Some are likely to be very good. But building a franchise with a following of fans so devoted they’ll keep paying $15 a month just to have access to it. years. That’s what my colleague Brian Barrett was talking about when he called Disney+ a “geugernaut” the day it launched. Netflix might have it someday, but it also needs customers now if it hopes to be around long enough to build it.
Netflix isn’t the only one playing this game, of course. This strategy is also why Amazon is making one lord of the rings show And there are hints of that in the Apple TV+ adaptation of Isaac Asimov Foundation or have Steven Spielberg do Incredible stories. The difference is that streaming video isn’t Amazon’s or Apple’s only business. They sure would love to have a cinematic universe of their own, but maybe they don’t need it to stay afloat. Netflix does.