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Do Any of Netflix’s 2023 Movies Know When a Movie Feels Like a Movie?

A still from Girl Meets World or something. Photo: Netflix

Why do Netflix movies … look like that?

I ask myself this as I watch the sizzle reel for the world’s biggest streaming service’s 2023 film slate. We bemoan franchise overload in theaters — the way that action movies can seemingly only exist within the framework of megafranchises. Netflix’s film slate, like the one the year before it, is full of original action. And romantic comedies. I should welcome these, but they all feel even more generic somehow, like the Kirkland-label versions of movies (this comparison is actually not fair to Kirkland, but you get what I’m saying).

None of this makes any sense. It’s not like these movies are operating on microbudgets, but their digital effects look like cheap green screen and their lighting is giving “Dan Schneider–era Nickelodeon sitcom.” They have major movie stars in them. Filmmakers broker massive deals to sign on with Netflix all the time. And yet the clips in its “2023 Films Preview” always look off when they’re all thrown at you back-to-back. Vulture writer Jackson McHenry tells me it has something to do with the cameras; apparently, Netflix filmmakers generally have to work with digital cameras from a pre-approved list, optimized for clarity and compression rather than, you know, looking good. Nevertheless, these movies will be released over the course of 2023, and Netflix will publish statistics about how 1 million-trillion people watched them, and you’re the weirdo for not being able to name a single character in The Gray Man. So here are some of the original movies Netflix is promoting for 2023.

You People (January 27)

Kenya Barris’s feature-film directorial debut is sort of a Meet the Fockers concept: Jonah Hill’s “semi-woke” parents, David Duchovny and Julia Louis-Dreyfus (the Fockers of this scenario), and Lauren London’s parents, Eddie Murphy and Nia Long, interfere in their interfaith relationship. The clip shows Murphy giving Hill a hard time in a restaurant.

Is it a real movie?
The Eddie Murphy of it all makes this one kind of seem like a movie, even if Jonah Hill looks too indistinguishably like himself to buy him as a character.

Your Place or Mine (February 10)

An actual star-driven rom-com? Released in time for Valentine’s Day? Starring Ashton Kutcher and Reese Witherspoon? I guess Y2K really is back.

Is it a real movie?
We’ve been burned before by too many eerily made-for-TV-seeming Netflix rom-coms for the teaser’s When Harry Met Sally rip-off split-screen moment to register as a real movie.

Luther: The Fallen Sun (March 10)

Luther (Idris Elba) is back, baby, and this time, he’s breaking out of jail to capture a “cyber psychopath,” which could definitely be a season-one Buffy plot line.

Is it a real movie?
Luther was a British television series, which means its episodes were already basically movie-length anyway. In fact, the one-hour episodes were meant to be broadcast as two-hour episodes before getting broken up. By that measure, Luther: The Fallen Sun is not so much a movie as a series finale made extra-long because it’s a Very Special Episode.

Murder Mystery 2 (March 31)

“Struggling as full-time detectives, Nick & Audrey Spitz —” I will stop you right there because I don’t know what this means. They have to save “their friend the Maharaja,” and the teaser clip tells me that their reputations precede them. For this to be true, you have to have seen the first Murder Mystery, I guess.

Is it a real movie?
The answer to this question is relative, and it’s based on whether you think Adam Sandler movies in tropical climes are “movies” or “lightly scripted vacations.”

The Mother (May 12)

“A female assassin comes out of hiding to protect the daughter she gave up years before. The men after her are dangerous, but she is even more deadly.” —ChatGPT, presumably

Is it a real movie?
The Mother had me at “Jennifer Lopez is THE MOTHER.” I doubt this is really a movie, but it can be whatever it wants to be.

Extraction 2 (June 16)

Chris Hemsworth is one of those in-house Netflix stars, like Ryan Reynolds or Noah Centineo, who makes you go, We’re in the second Golden Age of Hollywood but just the “stars signing their lives over to the studio system” part! I can tell just from the teaser clip that this movie will make zero use of Hemsworth’s second-biggest strength: his humor. (His biggest strength is his physical strength.)

Is it a real movie?
No. The tell? The main character’s name is “Tyler Rake.” Fake-movie-ass name.

They Cloned Tyrone (July 21)

The new Netflix clip frames They Cloned Tyrone as “a timely and mind-bending conspiracy thriller,” but the vibes seem a lot more funny and original than that with a science-fiction element rooted in some real dark, buried 20th-century American history.

Is it a real movie?
Teyonah Parris and Jamie Foxx in full comedic-charisma mode? Actual grain and texture to the film? This movie is a movie!

Heart of Stone (August 11)

Explosions. Jamie Dornan. Gal Gadot starring as “the only one standing between world peace and global destruction,” which is so “imagine all the people” of her.

Is it a real movie?
It’s called Heart of Stone because the character’s name is Rachel Stone. Not a real movie.

Lift (August 25)

An ensemble heist movie starring Kevin Hart. I feel like Netflix does too many ensemble heist movies? Not that I can name another one, but I feel like it’s true?

Is it a real movie?
Everything about this is the definition of a Netflix original movie.

Damsel (October 13)

Millie Bobby Brown, another staple of the Netflix talent stable, is a damsel who doesn’t need a man to be saved. This is a shocking and radical twist on an old formula and has never ever been done before.

Is it a real movie?
The production looks so bad on this one that it creeps up to the border of seeming like a stylistic choice before snapping you back to reality with bad wigs. Not convinced it’s a movie despite its unique and groundbreaking concept.

Pain Hustlers (October 27)

The cast has both A-listers (Emily Blunt, Chris Evans) and beloved character actors (Andy Garcia, Brian d’Arcy James, Catherine O’Hara), and the plot is about a shady pharmaceutical start-up. This could be good or it could go the way of The Laundromat.

Is it a real movie?
Something about the slick lighting and bright simple colors made me assume this was a comedy, but apparently it’s a “conspiracy drama” based on investigative reporting? Real movie status unclear.

The Killer (November 10)

Slipping a David Fincher clip into this reel is like getting jamon iberico in your lunchables.

Is it a real movie?
Yes, now bring back Mindhunter.

A Family Affair (November 17)

Netflix continues to harvest Nicole Kidman’s zazz like brain juice from a tulkun.

Is it a real movie?
This looks like a Will & Grace screen grab.

Leo (November 22)

Adam Sandler is a talking (and possibly singing) lizard in a tween girl’s bedroom.

Is it a real movie?
I never doubt the essential movie-ness of Netflix animated features. Looks adorable.

Leave the World Behind (December 8)

A Sam Esmail thriller with an absolutely stacked main cast. Some cool-looking shots.

Is it a real movie?
This one looks like when a movie feels like a movie.

Rebel Moon (December 22)

Zack Snyder is launching an “epic new universe” in this one, which looks like “What if Dune was Assassin’s Creed?” It will be the most-watched movie of all time.

Is it a real movie?
I don’t know anymore, man. Is anything?

Are Netflix’s 2023 Movies Even Movies?