Netflix and Lies

Lionel Hutz and the Truth
The Simpsons didn't die with Phil Hartman, but it should have been a sign to start winding down

I finally watched Annihilation on Netflix last night and it’s a rather good film.

It’s an old-fashioned sci-fi film with more than a bit of HP Lovecraft sprinkled through it, which is probably why it’s getting caned in the reviews.

Classic sci-fi, as in an Asimov kind of introspection into the human condition, isn’t everyone’s cup of tea. But it is most definitely my Dilmah.

The reason it took me so long to catch Annihilation was because I wasn’t familiar with the source material and I had no idea it was a trippy sci-fi movie. I thought it was something else entirely. Because Netflix...well Netflix didn’t lie to me, but they didn’t give me the full picture either.

Here’s the Netflix blurb for Annihilation:

When her husband vanishes during a secret mission, biologist Lena joins an expedition into a mysterious region sealed off by the US government.

Which is technically correct. That is definitely something that does happen in the film.

But does it mention the alien? No. It doesn’t mention the alien.

You’d think the alien would be something you’d mention. The alien, you might think, would give an indication that this was a science fiction film where weird things can and possibly will happen. Instead you’re led to believe that this is going to be a watered down, Natalie Portman-driven imitation of Saving Private Ryan.

Which brings me to my point. Netflix does this a lot. The show descriptions are what I can best describe as “malicious compliance”. They’re not wrong, they’re certainly accurate, but they paint a very different picture to the actual film. To the point where I’m convinced it isn’t accidental. There is someone at Netflix writing these this way. Someone who hates mankind and is taking their petty revenge. You can't do this by accident.

How about the best film ever, Pacific Rim? Here's the blurb for PacRim:

Can a couple of mavericks battle a horde of alien sea monsters and prevent the apocalypse? Yeah, this could work.

See if I were writing a description of PacRim, somewhere in there I would have mentioned giant robots. Considering it’s a movie predominantly about giant robots. Also, a bit of respect, one doesn't prevent an apocalypse. One cancels an apocalypse. Come on.

But maybe this is a sci-fi thing? What about something more mainstream. Let’s try critically acclaimed classic No Country For Old Men:

With the flip of a coin the man with the weird haircut decides your fate. It seems luck is not on Llewelyn Moss’s side.

If you haven’t seen it, NCFOM is the tale of a drug deal gone sour, a man who finds a fortune and is hunted for it, an assassin sent to retrieve it and the overarching tale of Tommy Lee Jones’s character as an ageing sheriff who feels that the world is becoming too chaotic and evil for him to deal with.

Did you get any of that from the blurb?

Here’s The Dark Knight:

A city swarms with fear. And a twisted, cackling madman will shatter the very notion of a hero. Why so serious?

This barely works if you’ve seen the film. If you had no idea what you were about to watch then this description sounds like something a hobo would scream at you as he tried to break into your car.

All of these descriptions are accurate. These things absolutely do occur in the films. But they deliberately lead the potential viewer astray. Someone at Netflix is being naughty.

Or maybe that's just how Netflix wants it to be.

In that case I could use a steady income, so Netflix I’ve decided that I’ll send you some of my own blurb work. Consider it an audition piece, see if I can get the Netflix vibe right and join that Netflix family of yours:

Jurassic Park

An underpaid and underappreciated programmer commits industrial espionage at an advanced amusement park.

Gone With The Wind

A complex set of circumstances culminates and a core disagreement over slavery force the previously “United” States into a bloody civil war.

One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest

A shy and reserved Native American learns to enjoy friendship after an impromptu fishing trip.

The Shawshank Redemption

Under adverse circumstances a diverse group of ruffians learn the beauty of classical music.

2001: A Space Odyssey

Unable to contact tech support, a man struggles to get his computer to do what it’s told.

The Godfather

A WW2 veteran returns to America after the war and attempts to reconcile with his family.

Fight Club

A frustrated office worker breaks free of his corporate shackles with his own independent startup business.


A spoiled socialite cheats on her fiancee before stealing priceless jewelry, committing murder and living under an assumed name.

Star Wars

After a botched military strike an impressionable young farmer is radicalised by a religious extremist and joins a terrorist organisation.

Contact details are at the top of the page Netflix, slide into my DM’s.

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