New action flick, Interceptor, has topped Netflix's global rankings to become the most-watched movie on the platform right now.
Co-produced by Marvel movie star Chris Hemsworth, the film follows a stubborn army officer (played by the Thor actor’s real-life wife, Elsa Pataky) who finds herself stationed as the last line of defense against a soldier-turned-criminal’s villainous plan to take over a remote nuclear missile base.
That might sound like a paint-by-numbers synopsis, but Interceptor’s seemingly unoriginal premise hasn’t deterred audiences – the movie has clocked up over 35 million viewing hours since its release on May 26, which is more than double the amount accrued by the second-most popular movie on Netflix, A Perfect Pairing, during the same period.
The data comes from Netflix itself, which has published weekly performance figures (opens in new tab) for its movies and series since November 2021. Ranking titles based on weekly hours viewed – i.e. the total number of hours subscribers around the world watched each title between Monday and Sunday of the previous week – the streamer regularly shares four separate lists; two for movies (English and Non-English) and two for TV shows (English and Non-English).
Despite its strong numerical showing, though, Interceptor hasn’t fared well with critics or audiences post-viewing. The movie currently sports a lowly 44% critics rating on review aggregator site Rotten Tomatoes (opens in new tab) – making it certified rotten based on 32 official reviews – and an even more dire 25% audience score.
“It's Die Hard in the Pacific Ocean with just about every action-movie cliché you can think of,” wrote Digital Spy’s Ian Sandwell in his two-star review (opens in new tab) of the film, while News.com’s (opens in new tab) Wenlei Ma branded Interceptor a “a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad movie.” Ouch.
The reception hasn’t been all bad, mind. Film School Rejects’ (opens in new tab) Aurora Amidon, for instance, said that “there are some parts of Interceptor that are entertaining to watch, and those looking for a quick, harmless action romp can do far worse.” Similarly, The Guardian’s (opens in new tab) Benjamin Lee picked out “brief nuggets of substance” from the 90-minute flick.
Analysis: an Netflix emerging trend
By the sounds of things, then, Interceptor isn’t going to walk away with any Oscars next year – but its success does corroborate an interesting Netflix trend of late.
Stranger Things and Bridgerton notwithstanding, many of the streamer’s recent wins have come from critically-panned movies and TV shows. Take 365 Days: This Day, for instance, which briefly became the most popular movie on Netflix despite a woeful 0% rating on Rotten Tomatoes. Or Anatomy of a Scandal, which shot to the top of the platform’s most-watched chart irrespective of its largely negative critical reception.
Of course, there’s nothing wrong with middling productions defying their detractors to record impressive viewership numbers – in some cases, audiences have simply enjoyed the movies and TV shows in question more than the critics. But Netflix has picked up a worrying recent habit of calling time on genuinely interesting original projects that have fared far better from a critical standpoint.
Consider The Baby-Sitters Club, a universally-beloved comedy drama that still boasts a 100% critics rating on Rotten Tomatoes (opens in new tab). Despite its popularity, the show was cancelled by Netflix after just two seasons. Then there's sci-fi epic Another Life, Mindy Kaling's scripted comedy Never Have I Ever, trippy psychological thriller Sense8 and the Stranger Things-adjacent The OA – all canned ahead of their time.
Given its struggles to keep hold of subscribers in recent months, Netflix needs short-term success, and productions like Interceptor seem to be delivering moments of relief. But we can't help but feel as if these popcorn flicks are arriving at the expense of more thoughtful movies and TV series.