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‘…despite a decent concept and a great cast, the punchline is somewhat muted…’

Netlfix have just announced $17 billion in content spending in 2021; that’s a phenomenal annual outlay for a company which only seems to have one genuine four-quadrant show (Stranger Things) to show for it. Goodness knows where the rest of that money goes, but in terms of creating returnable, popular shows or franchises, there’s little evidence of Netflix gaining a permanent foothold beyond junky crime shows and sexy soaps for virus-trapped audiences. Stowaway is an acquisition from Sony, and typifies the flea-market, shop-worn feel of many of the streamer’s choices; despite a decent concept and a great cast, the punchline is somewhat muted, or rather more directly put, a massive steaming pile of disappointment.

I must have missed the memo that explained that all future space exploration would be vertical; as with Ad Astra, tall, towering gantries seem to be the main innovation over ancient 1950’s space rescue films. Marina Barnett (Toni Collette) leads a small crew on a two-year mission to Mars, with medical officer Zoe (Anna Kendrick) on her team. The real pay-load is acclaimed and respected researcher David Kim (Daniel Dae Kim) who has got big plans for some algae he’s been cultivating, but things are thrown into chaos when an unexpected stow-away is found. Michael Adams (Sharneir Anderson) wasn’t on the manifest, and his presence poses a problem; there’s not enough oxygen for four people, and one of them will have to go unless the gang can put some kind of plan in place.

Older viewers may think back to the Kobayashi Maru test on Star Trek, or even the Titanic’s simple equation ‘too many people and not enough boats’; director Joe Penna’s previous film Arctic also provides a clue where we’re going. There’s no monsters and aliens here, just a predicament that recalls Robert Altman’s Marooned or even 2001, but minus the trippiness. Instead, the crew have to figure out how to save themselves, with lots of airlocks, ladders, tethers and other post-Gravity details to provide a constant stream of obstacles to overcome.

It always seems to be a massive surprise to space-capsule crew that they might actually have to suit up and go outside to fix something; in Stowaway, everything seems to be in a constant state of repair. Why or how the stowaway might have occurred is never explored, and that’s a bummer here; by seeking content that’s simple enough to work in different language and cultures, Netflix have opted for something so bland it doesn’t even qualify as vanilla. Despite a personable cast and some reasonably gripping sequences, Stowaway falls rather flat. 21 billion dollars must buy something more memorable that this proficient but deeply frustrating space-opera.





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  1. It looks good, in terms of costumes, sets. Kubrick would be proud. But I am burnt on space flicks at this point.

    • Tell me about it; saw this as a double header with Mighnight Sky and never want to see another explosive bolted hatch again…

      • Especially when there’s a sound effect. Drives me nuts. You’re in a vacuum – no sound!

  2. I’ve seen this on Netflix a couple of times and might give it a try this bank holiday weekend. I just wish modern s I-fi shows would go back to the old formula of one exciting mission an episode. Great read

    • Flaws aside, I still gave it three stars because there are gripping scenes. For me it didn’t add up, but the story is quite old-school for sure…lowered expectation leads to enjoyment!

  3. Sounds too disappointing to even bother despite the sterling cast. I do find Netflix studio heads to be amazingly bland in their choice of product. Had they been judged by box office they would be dead and buried by now.

  4. I agree with Alex. How many outer space films are they going to make? Just a bit dull at this point.

    This looks bad. For all the glamour around Netflix, they can be ever so disappointing. Amazon Prime looks like the place to be.

    • I think Netflix are overstuffed with rubbish; when the licences stuff is withdrawn ie films, I’m not sure of the value of what’s left. Would be concerned about agreeing with Alex, a slippery slope follows…

  5. I will give this a Nope. That’s a no story really kind of movie by the sounds of it, and could have ended 10 minutes in when they chucked the stowaway out. Job done.

  6. This very thing was written about by Asimov in one of his short stories. In that one, the girl who was the stowaway, goes out the airlock and nobody feels sad for her. she brought it on herself.

    I’m kind of surprised they didn’t do 4 alternate endings, one for each person getting the punt…

    • That is miles better than what they actually came up with. But it seemed bizarre here that there is no fixed protocol for dealing with stowaways. Or giant eyebrows.

        • We see them all take off with oxygen masks on, so having a guy asleep in the glove compartment make zero sense.

          • I wonder who streaming services get to write this stuff for them? I mean, most of the amazon prime “originals” have been steaming piles for forgetableness and it sounds like Netflix has the same issue. Do they hire all the writers and directors that hollywood didn’t want?

            • They’re not generating this stuff, they’re buying up dud movies that have zero potential and passing them off as original content. Think Prime have this in Canada. But I can’t see how anyone does well from providing a platform to straight to DVD rubbish…

              • Ahhh, gotcha. That seems worse 🙁
                How many movies that hit the theatres were of that quality already and were just overshadowed by the Blockbusters?

                • There used to be a regular 10+ movies out a week, and usually only one blockbuster. So there was a variety of movies of varying quality. But streaming platforms present them as all the same in terms of prominence. It’s understandable if people lose the thread in terms of movies in these circumstances.

  7. Wasn’t it terrible? If I’d seen it in the cinema, I’d have been looking for the projectionist to ask if he’d forgotten to screen the final reel. Actually, probably I wouldn’t as I’d just have been glad for it to have come to an end.

    In space, no one can hear you yawn.

    • I watched this back to back with Midnight Sky, and never want to see another ladder or airlock again. Can’t imagine how that ending would have played to an audience; even at home, things are flung at the screen when the story fizzles out so lamely. And I didn’t trust the stowaway! How did he survive take off? Why didn’t we see his sister? Absolute cobblers.

  8. How many of these recent near-future space movies have been any good outside of the effects? I thought Gravity was oversold. Interstellar looked great, but that was it. Ad Astra was lousy. I’m not going to bother with this.

    • Wait till you see the ending on this one, it just stops. I don’t even know how it would be possible to stow away on a spacecraft like this, it doesn’t seem likely…

      • I was surprised when I saw a list of just how much content Netflix is putting out now (though you say they didn’t produce this). Most of it looks pretty bad though.

        • Maybe there’s some kind of number crunching going on, but when Netflix becomes synonymous with lockdown boredom, it’ll stand or fall on repeat viewings and returnable shows. And there’s precious few, so investing in duff films won’t help…

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