Ghosted is everything that is wrong with blockbusters right now 1 month ago

Ghosted is everything that is wrong with blockbusters right now

"So carelessly and lifelessly cobbled together that we're inclined to believe it’s the first film created entirely by AI."

Everything was in place for Ghosted to be a big hit. A fun idea headed by two of the biggest, most attractive stars in the world today, it sees overly-needy single guy Cole (Chris Evans) go on a perfect first date with mysterious woman Sadie (Ana de Armas), only for her to suddenly stop replying to his texts.


In an effort to be romantic, after she informed him she'd be working in London for a few weeks, he hops on a flight to surprise her. Instead, he gets kidnapped and is mistaken for being the world's best secret agent... which is actually what Sadie's job really is.

So, yeah, a sorta gender-swapped True Lies, from the writers of the Deadpool and the Tom Holland Spider-Man movies, from the director of Rocketman and Eddie The Eagle, and the producers of the Mission: Impossible movies. A perfect formula for a big hit, right?

Well, yes, as (according to Deadline) it very quickly became the most watched movie debut to date for Apple TV+, with a reported 328,500 viewers in its first 48 hours. But if you've actually watched the movie, chances are you walked away from it a bit confused by its popularity... and how all of that talent resulted in something so incredibly stale? When even the bloopers reel is painfully unfunny, you know you're in for a dud.


However, with a Rotten Tomatoes score of just 28%, it has a good chance of ending up on many Worst Of 2023 lists, with most critics not holding back with their scathing opinions:

The New York Times - "This tedious, unfunny, screamingly unoriginal romantic adventure film is so flimsy and so insubstantial that it’s practically vaporous."

San Francisco Chronicle - "Ghosted is repellent without ever quite being obnoxious and worthless without ever being boring."

Rolling Stone - "What When Harry Met Sally made clear is that the keys to a good romcom are a tight, witty script (RIP Nora Ephron) and likable leads that can make it sing. Ghosted, like so many modern-day romcoms, opts for the everything-but-the-kitchen-sink approach. Sometimes less is more, Hollywood."


The Guardian - "Ghosted is content dictated by algorithm at its absolute, industry-shaming worst, so carelessly and lifelessly cobbled together that we're inclined to believe it’s the first film created entirely by AI."

It is that last review that nods towards the bigger problem at play with Ghosted, and with so many big budget, blockbuster streaming releases. (See also: Red Notice, The Adam Project, Citadel, quite a few other examples.) In a recent conversation with Odeon Cinemas about the movie, Ghosted's director Dexter Fletcher said the following:


"You can't make a film for streaming the same way you make a theatrical. You can't. There's different metrics and there's a different approach. Because, like I said, even for the very reason that people can turn off very quickly. You know, in the beginning, for Ghosted, I had really loved a long opening sequence of Ana de Armas driving a car through the mountains, in which I'm trying to reference a lovely old film that I really love with Goldie Hawn and Chevy Chase called Foul Play.

"And they said you can't, because if it goes on and something doesn't happen in the first 30 seconds, we know the data shows that people just will turn off. And I'm like, okay, well, I don't want that. So I make that adjustment, I make that compromise. And so what is a cinematic experience for me, as the filmmaker, I'm trying to make something cinematic, becomes, okay, I've got to adjust to retain my audience, you know?"

There is so much talk about The Algorithm at play when it comes to what streaming services think audiences want to see; 'X was popular, Y was popular, so we'll create X + Y and the end-result will be the massively popular Z.'

Ironically, it proves to be at least mathematically correct, as most of the movies that feel like they were dictated not so much by artistic vision, but by The Algorithm, end up being some of the most popular releases on those streaming services. And what happens when they are a big hit despite everyone not really liking them that much? We get even more of them.

When movies are treated with the same metrics that are given to 30-second videos on TikTok or Snapchat, then you know something has gone terribly wrong. But The Algorithm is only giving audiences what it thinks we want to watch, and audiences only watch what The Algorithm is suggesting for them to watch. It results in an ouroboros of crappy movies being produced and watched, with less and less consideration actually being given to quality.


Considering that the streaming services only really started producing properly big budget blockbuster fare since about 2021, this could all still be teething problems. Outside of the blockbuster genre, Netflix and Apple TV+ and Prime Video are still delivering some brilliant, Oscar-grabbing productions. We can only hope that they start applying those levels of quality to the more fun releases, too.

Ghosted is available to watch on Apple TV+ right now.

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