Since the beginning of lockdown, movie studios have made up for the shuttering of theaters and cinemas in a number of ways. Many movies doomed to low grosses at the box office landed quickly on video on demand, or on streaming services. Some films meant for the big screen bypassed that entirely, like the Tom Hardy flick Capone.
As tentative steps are made to reopen theaters around the world, what would normally be the tail end of the summer blockbuster season is instead a waiting period before we're bombarded with one big theatrical movie after another (starting with Christopher Nolan's Tenet on July 17).
This week, though, might be the biggest of the summer for both Netflix and Disney Plus, even if their new releases couldn't be more different. For Netflix, it will release its highest-profile original movie of the summer, Da 5 Bloods, from director Spike Lee. For Disney Plus, it releases its first movie that was planned for theaters but is now only coming to the streaming service, the kids' book adaptation Artemis Fowl.
Both are significant releases in this unusual year of movies, and say a lot about what each streaming service's goals are right now. We'll explain what the deal is with both movies below, and when you can watch them. We'll also highlight one new movie coming to Amazon Prime Video this week that you should definitely check out.
Da 5 Bloods (Netflix)
Netflix has kept up a fairly good schedule of original film releases over the past few months, highlighted by the Chris Hemsworth action movie Extraction. Da 5 Bloods, though, is an even bigger deal. Coming from director Spike Lee, it represents the latest coup by Netflix in releasing a movie from a big-name director (though Lee previously worked with the streaming service on the She's Gotta Have It series).
Da 5 Bloods is about a group of African American Vietnam War veterans who return to the country to retrieve the remains of their squad captain (played in flashback by Chadwick Boseman), not to mention some treasure they concealed years before. The cast features Delroy Lindo, Isiah Whitlock Jr, Clarke Peters and Norm Lewis. According to a Vanity Fair (opens in new tab) reveal on Da 5 Bloods, it's part war film, with a few visual references to Apocalypse Now, part horror and part comedy about these old soldiers coming together again at an advanced age. In the intervening years, each has changed in their own way.
Based on a pre-existing script, Lee and BlacKkKlansman co-writer Kevin Willmott decided to make the movie about African American Vietnam vets. The movie apparently addresses the lack of Vietnam movies about black soldiers, and the long-lasting effects of the war on its participants.
The entire lockdown period has reinforced how much of a place there is for Netflix's original movies. While arguably only a few have become true blockbusters (Bright, for example, or 6 Underground with Ryan Reynolds), the streaming service has instead focused more on the types of movies that exist between those films and independent cinema. They're more like mid-sized films, which have been harder to make in the last decade of Marvel movie dominance.
For Da 5 Bloods specifically, Netflix's backing of another acclaimed director gives the service further credibility, following its past collaborations with Martin Scorsese, Ava DuVernay, Alfonso Cuarón and Noah Baumbach.
Da 5 Bloods is streaming on Netflix from Friday 12 June
Artemis Fowl (Disney Plus)
Artemis Fowl represents a big moment for Disney Plus. Though a result of the current circumstances more than anything else, Artemis Fowl is a reported $125 million film adaptation of the popular book series that was once intended for theaters. Directed by Kenneth Branagh, nothing about it looks low-budget, especially the ensemble cast, which features Colin Farrell and Judi Dench, among others.
To be honest, our first reaction to the trailer above is that it looks pretty bad. The YouTube comments are rife with fans of the books by Eoin Colfer pointing out the ways in which they feel the film misrepresents the source material.
Still, just the act of putting this on Disney Plus is huge, and it's the first blockbuster of the year to only be available on a streaming service first, without a run on VOD.
Disney is the most successful studio at the worldwide box office by miles, and it has no intention of moving the more expensive likes of Black Widow to Disney Plus, preferring instead to wait until they can find the theater audiences they'll likely attract deeper in the year.
The closest parallel to Artemis Fowl's situation is probably Netflix's The Cloverfield Paradox, which was acquired by the streaming service, taken off the theatrical release schedule, then made available to watch immediately after its Super Bowl reveal in 2018.
Good or bad, it's something a lot of kids will end up watching this weekend.
Artemis Fowl is available to stream on Disney Plus from June 12
Knives Out (Amazon Prime)
If you're in the US, you can stream Knives Out exclusively on Amazon Prime Video this week. Okay, this murder mystery movie had a theatrical run, unlike the two movies above, but if you haven't seen Rian Johnson's Whodunnit, it's an absolute treat.
Streaming on Amazon Prime Video from June 12