War for the Planet of the Apes director Matt Reeves will be producing the sci-fi film Life Sentence for Netflix. Reeves was previously set up at Fox before signing a first-look deal with Netflix in January 2018. Netflix has recently prioritized acquiring original sci-fi projects, though the results have been decidedly mixed.
Hot writer Matthew Baker penned the original short story that serves as the basis for Life Sentence. The story concerns a man living in a future world where criminals, instead of being imprisoned, undergo memory erasure. The man attempts to reconcile with his past before having the procedure. Baker previously sold his story Transition to Amazon, for Noah Hawley (Legion) to produce, and Baker's second story The Appearance sold to Makeready - but this one is going to streaming giant Netflix.
Deadline reports that Baker's Life Sentence has now sold to Netflix for Matt Reeves to produce through his 6th and Idaho banner. This marks the first major project announced for Reeves since he moved to Netflix from Fox. Bidding grew heavy on Baker's story, with multiple studios involved, such as Amazon, Warner Bros., and Universal Pictures. Apple wanted to develop it as a series, but, ultimately, Baker chose Netflix in part because he wants the story done as a movie.
Hollywood clearly has high hopes for Matthew Baker's story as a potentially successful, non-franchise sci-fi film. Such sci-fi movies, not based on hot IPs, are unfortunately few and far between. Netflix lately has sunk a lot of money into acquiring these off-brand sci-fi flicks recently, but their dollars have yet to buy them a critical success. Their $90 million gamble on Bright resulted in brutal reviews, but audiences apparently liked it enough that Netflix will invest in a sequel. Another non-franchise sci-fi movie for Netflix is Duncan Jones' Mute, which has continued the pattern of high expectations leading to poor results. Netflix also tried getting in on the franchise game, in a sense, by taking The Cloverfield Paradox off Paramount's hands for $50 million. Again, reviews were harsh. However, Netflix did score a marketing coup with their surprise release of the film right after the Super Bowl.
Perhaps Netflix can finally get it right with Life Sentence. It's great that the platform wants to be the home of original sci-fi movies, but for them to truly establish a reputation in the genre, they need better movies. Having Matt Reeves on-board to develop projects like Life Sentence certainly helps. Reeves, of course, delivered a pair of successful and critically praised Planet of the Apes movies at Fox. And before that, he directed the original Cloverfield, which became a resounding success. We'll just have to wait and see what happens.