Netflix Loves a Sequel, Even When No One Asked For It

A promotional image from 'The Kissing Booth 2'. Joey King is the centre front with dark hair an orange striped V-neck top and denim shorts. Behind her two boys, clearly love rivals stand gazing off into the distance. They are similar looking white boys with floppy dakr blonde hair. A motorbike is also behind Joey and a fairground can palm trees can be seen in the distance.
‘The Kissing Booth 2’ (Netflix)

Netflix doesn’t respond well to criticism, this much we all know. And yet another phenomenon that occurs within the heads of the streaming service is the approval of sequels to original films and series’ when those may not have been warranted. 

In the midst of the Kissing Booth 2 madness it’s become increasingly more concerning which of their original films Netflix deems “worthy” of a sequel. With several Netflix sequels being confirmed for the next year, it’s interesting to see what direction the team at Netflix is choosing for the newest additions to their ever-growing franchises. 

As far as the teen romance genre is concerned, Netflix is one of the top distributors of some of the most well-known titles of the last few years. These include To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before and it’s sequel,  P.S. I Still Love You, The Half of It, Sierra Burgess is a Loser and other questionable films starring Noah Centineo that beg the question: how did he get his acting credentials in the first place?! Nevertheless, these teen rom-coms keep being manufactured and often seem to be the most common to earn sequels.

For many of the “ironic” viewers of the first film, after the release of The Kissing Booth 2 it was easy to spot the parallels between Netflix’s other most notable sequel in the romantic comedy genre, To All the Boys’ P.S. I Still Love You. With the plot similarities being at the forefront of most online discussions, it created somewhat of an internal look on what exactly earns a sequel, including some of the same stories and tropes that have been heavily recycled on the streaming service within the past few years aka cheating on your boyfriend only to realise you were in love with him all along!

Besides the romance genre that Netflix has tackled, other upcoming Netflix Originals that have sequels in production include The Babysitter, Birdbox, Princess Switch, and the 2017 adaptation of Death Note. What each of these have in common it seems is how highly advertised each of the films were, only to receive an average of two star ratings on Letterboxd and an even lower general audience reception. With audience scores on Rotten Tomatoes ranging from 60% (The Babysitter), 57% (Bird Box), 49% (The Princess Switch) and 24% (Death Note), it would feel appropriate for Netflix to rethink the decision to get into sequel territory with these titles. Regardless, these films have been confirmed to have follow-ups in the making and we’ll undoubtedly end up watching. 

Screengrab from Letterboxd of a review from user @sree for the film 'Bird Box'. It reads 'Who the fuck wants to live so bad', 2 and a 1/2 stars
Bird Box review from Letterboxd user @sree

It’s interesting how highly promoted these films were compared to some of their critically acclaimed and even award-winning films like Atlantics, which premiered last October with a Rotten Tomatoes critic score of 96% and audience score of 76% only to be shadowed by the advertisement of other films with significantly lower critical and audience reception. Another more recent title to fade into the background of Netflix original content was Spike Lee’s newest film Da Five Bloods which shines a light on the treatment of black and brown soldiers in Vietnam. Da Five Bloods also has a Rotten Tomatoes score of 92% and a Metacritc score of 82%.

However, it’s clear Netflix seems to prioritise its films that can potentially spawn franchises. Plans for The Babysitter sequel include a story two years after the events of the previous film, this time unfortunately without the talents of Miss Samara Weaving (absolutely devastating). Regardless, the film is rumoured to have a release date sometime before the end of 2020. 

A still from 'The Babysitter'. Samara Weaving stands in the front of the image, long blond curly hair wearing a leather jacket and grey t-shirt with a long necklace hanging down her chest. Bella Thorne is dressed in a cheerleader's uniform standing to the left of the image. Bella is pouting. Behind the girls is a shirtless Robbie Amell with a fire poker across his back that he is holding.
‘The Babysitter’ (Netflix)

Birdbox author, Josh Malerman confirmed that a sequel is currently “in development.” which we can only hope is able to redeem the quality of its predecessor that “feels like a film written by algorithm,” as Vulture’s Emily Yoshida described it.

Netflix has also confirmed that production for The Princess Switch: Switched Again has been underway and will this time include three times the doppleganger-y and will include ridiculous shenanigans but will also probably be super adorable. This time around, not only will Vanessa Hudgens play Stacey and Duchess Margaret, but will also appear as a new clone of herself which should ensure some absurd Christmas-themed antics.

But perhaps the most insane, unwarranted sequel to supposedly be in the works is Death Note 2. It seems that after the disregarding reviews and well-deserved backlash to the 2017 film, that Netflix would consider an end to an adaptation that whitewashed the original source material, both the manga and the anime. However, it seems like in the case of many of its films and shows that receive critical backlash for being insensitive, Netflix turns a blind eye and basically says “simply don’t watch if you don’t like it.” 

A black and white promotional graphic for 'Death Note' (2017). Nat Wolff glares angrily at the screen like a tortured teen, the background is all black and graffiti is photoshopped over the image in white.
‘Death Note’ (Netflix)

Probably the most horrific example of this is the way Netflix handled the three years of criticism of 13 Reasons Why from critics, psychologists and everyone in between, only for the series finale to have finally ended the cycle of negative reviews that immediately follow a season premiere. It’s this trend of overlooking real criticism of it’s content as “sensitivity” that causes such a feeling of frustration to many people who just want to see movies and shows that feel well-crafted.

Another infamous phenomenon from the folks at Netflix is their sketchy relationship between viewership and making those numbers available to the public. After the release of Bird Box in 2018, Netflix celebrated that 45 million accounts watched the film in one week, a supposed record-breaking statistic, however this was never confirmed as the company is notorious for not making this type of data public for its films. It could be possible that the selectiveness of viewership stats could be the reason some unwarranted sequels get made, using these numbers as a way to ignore audience reception and make it seem as if a certain amount of views is equivalent to the amount of money traditional films make at the box office. The reality of these statistics is if they release only a selective amount, there’s not much to scale the success of their original content, and thus the sequel-worthy-ness of their films.

We can all only hope that Netflix will start listening to audience concerns of its content before green-lighting sequels and additional seasons, but in the meantime, let’s all plan a huge Zoom watch party for the premiere of The Babysitter 2.

by Danielle Kessler

Danielle (she/her) is a journalism major and cinema studies minor from California. She’s an avid Twitter user (@reserv0irthots) who loves Kristen Stewart, the Scream franchise, coming of age movies, and Community. Some of her favorite films are Almost Famous, 20th Century Women, Thelma and Louise and Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, but she also reviews some guilty pleasure flicks on her letterboxd

1 reply »

  1. movies like Atlantics, Roma, and Da Five Bloods give Netflix credibility in markets like cannes or venice, simply as a way to assert themselves as a threat to the traditional film industry. their original movies


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