The most important statistical category, Fletcher said, is “completion,” or the number of viewers who watch a movie from start to finish. Apparently, Ghosted achieved “very high numbers” in this category, so Apple Studios considered it a triumph. But did the data improve the film in other ways? A one-star review in The Guardian condemned it as “algorithm-driven content at its absolute worst, disgraceful to the industry, so carelessly and lifelessly cobbled together that we’re inclined to believe it’s the first film entirely created by AI”. And this criticism was not unusual. On Rotten Tomatoes, the website that tallies positive and negative reviews, Ghosted earned 28%, a figure that seems all the more pitiful considering Fletcher’s previous four films – Rocketman, Eddie the Eagle, Sunshine on Leith and Wild Bill – all scored between 81 and 100%. Live movies may keep us on the couch and away from the remote control, but that doesn’t mean they’re good.
What that really means is that they’re the screen equivalent of junk food: easy to eat after a hard day’s work, but not exactly filling. In addition to Ghosted, some notorious examples of such eyeball food are Shotgun Wedding, a Prime Video romantic comedy starring Jennifer Lopez and Josh Duhamel, and several violent Netflix capers, including Red Notice starring Dwayne Johnson, Ryan Reynolds and Gal Gadot, and Murder Mystery and Murder Mystery 2 with Adam Sandler and Jennifer Aniston. In each case, the filmmakers followed the same recipe: take two or three attractive stars who may or may not have chemistry, place them in a few sunny, scenic locations, whether or not those locations make sense in terms of plot, sprinkle it with stunts and explosions, keep it light and fun, and top it all off with a simple, catchy title.
None of that vapid, sub-Bond antics would have had audiences flocking to the cinema, but as Fletcher suggests, viewers have different demands when they click home on a Tuesday night. Ghosted and its fellow direct-streaming movies offer a sweet, undemanding escape the whole family can sit down to. As terribly reviewed as they are, they have enough allure to make us wonder, “How bad can that be?”
Two hours later, we might well answer that question with the words: “Very bad indeed.” But that doesn’t matter. By then, we’ll have reached “completion,” and in the world of streaming, it’s all data that matters.
Ghosted is available to stream now on Apple TV+.
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