Hopefully Reeves is as good a producer of sci-fi movies as he is a director.
Between aliens, child vampires, apes, and even a David Schwimmer/Gwyneth Paltrow rom-com, Matt Reeves has had a pretty exciting career. Bar that last thing, Reeves has settled into a fabulous niche in the sci-fi genre, excelling in directing fun, engaging, and thoughtful films. But as news of his first Netflix production breaks, what can we expect from him as a producer?
Over the weekend, Deadline announced that Reeves and his company 6th & Idaho will bring Matthew Baker’s short story “Life Sentence” to the small screen. This is part of Reeves’s first-look production deal with Netflix. The project was a ludicrously hot property before they scooped it up, as other huge companies such as Amazon Studios, Apple, Warner Bros., and Universal were among those waiting to get their hands on Baker’s story.
Fitting right into the trend in sci-fi films that discuss themes of personhood and autonomy, Life Sentence will be about a futuristic program that punishes criminals by wiping their memories. The film’s protagonist has to attempt to reconcile a terrible past with what he believes his present self to be. This brings to mind Netflix’s own new series Altered Carbon, as well as recently films such as Blade Runner 2049 that also tackle similar conundrums of humanity.
It’s not shocking that Life Sentence was such a coveted adaptation. Hollywood likes milking things until we’re sick of them, and Netflix has a penchant for making so much new content until we’re blue in the face trying to keep up. Still, many wouldn’t mind diving back into familiar territory with a good creative team. Plus, Baker himself is a commodity in a way; this will be the third story of his to make it to the screen alongside “The Transition” (which is being adapted by Amazon) and “The Appearance” (which will be made by Makeready).
At this point, the real draw of Life Sentence happens to be Reeves himself, but it’s a real shame that, according to Deadline, he won’t be directing the film nor part of the primary creative team at all. As far as producing goes, The Batman would be Reeves’s first proper foray — the Cloverfield sequels bear Reeves’s name only as an executive producer. But given that we haven’t seen the fruits of his labor as a producer on that movie either, Life Sentence is still a giant question mark with regards to what we can expect.
Knowing Netflix’s track record with original movies could still give potential viewers pause, regardless of how big a fan of Reeves you are. The company can be notoriously hit or miss, and amidst the clamor of new acquisitions and releases, how many of these films become truly movie greats? At the moment, there are still more duds than outright hits on the platform. Yet I guess finding the diamond in the rough of bad or even just mediocre movies is kind of business-as-usual when it comes to the overly saturated filmmaking industry of today.
Reeves’s resume proves that, as a director, he has managed to turn genre projects into unexpectedly fresh viewing experiences. For example, his Planet of the Apes sequels fantastically built on Rupert Wyatt’s origin story for the long-running franchise. They present complex allegories that revolve around conflict and prejudice while simultaneously being technical feats in special effects and motion capture performance. Reeves also wrote and directed Let Me In, the American take on the Swedish vampire novel “Let the Right One In,” which managed to hit a fabulous balance between the insidious horror of the vampire genre and the tumultuous sweetness of the coming-of-age narrative. The Batman could be the perfect next step Reeves needs in his creative journey as director, writer and producer — whenever it sees the light of day.
In the meantime, we’ll watch out for Life Sentence and where Reeves takes it. Translating smart, empathetic scripts from page to screen is Reeves’s forte, but we literally can only hope that same instinct spearheads Life Sentence effectively should it head towards production sooner rather than later.