There’s a new, major streaming service launching today: QUIBI. Yes, Jeffrey Katzenberg’s short-form content vision — featuring bite-sized episodes of 10-minutes or less — is here!
One of the high-profile drama series that’s part of Quibi’s debut package is “Most Dangerous Game”. It’s a new take on the classic story of man being hunted by man. I remember reading the story in middle school. It shook me up a little bit (and I know I’m not alone in that experience). But can a modern spin on this familiar material stack-up against the original work AND numerous variations of this theme we’ve seen in films and TV series’?
Well, one thing this version has in its favor is two-time Oscar winner Christoph Waltz. He plays Miles Sellers, the mastermind behind a Detroit company designed to help desperate people, struggling financially. Miles offers them the chance to make some quick money — A LOT of quick money. But to do so they must literally run for their lives, while being hunted by “players” trying to kill them. If the prey can stay alive for 24 hours, the reward is $6.5 million.
Waltz is always a go-to actor for playing bad guys. Sometimes they’re misunderstood. In other cases his characters are simply evil. Miles Sellers falls somewhere in between. Waltz is completely on his game, delivering explanatory, meticulous dialogue in a convincing and juicy way.
Liam Hemsworth plays Dodge Maynard. He’s a struggling property developer with a wife and a child on the way. And he’s hundreds of thousands of dollars in debt. Considering all of that, and after receiving a terminal medical diagnosis, Dodge is tempted to take Miles up on his offer to play the game. Hemsworth slowly grows on you, but his performance hasn’t been fully flushed-out in the first four episodes I’ve screened.
Those early episodes total about 35 minutes in length. I watched them back-to-back, something Quibi subscribers won’t be able to do initially, because that’s not how Quibi works. Instead, the service will post one new episode every day (Mon-Fri). There are 15 episodes of “MDG” (totaling 2 to 2 1/2 hours), so the entire “movie” will be available at the end of the third week, Friday April 24th.
The Quibi concept is unique. The key to success is to provide content that will drive people to come back each day to watch the latest installment. Quibi is calling their drama series’ “Movies in Chapters”. “Most Dangerous Game” is feature-film quality in terms of look and star-power. But I have my doubts that true movie fans are going to want to digest the film experience in small bites stretched over long periods of time.
Watching the first four parts of “Most Dangerous Game” was like watching the first act of a movie or the first episode of a one-hour network TV series (CBS TV Studios is behind “MDG”). There are only two or three scenes in each chapter, and they all end in cliffhangers.
Off what I’ve seen so far, if “Most Dangerous Game” was a traditional, two-hour theatrical film I’d recommend it. If it was the pilot for a network drama I’d tune-in for the next episode (fans of these two actors may do the same).
But here’s the critical question: Is it gripping enough to keep subscribers on the edge of their seats, couches, beds and desk chairs every weekday, waiting to watch the next 7-10 minute installment on their phones? That’s a tough ask.
My guess is, when it comes to these “Movies in Chapters” the “game” ends with Quibi subs waiting until all episodes are posted. At that point they can all be binged back-to-back. This will allow viewers to remain engaged in the story, characters and overall experience. But, of course, this is the exact opposite of Quibi’s overall mission.
I wish Mr. Katzenberg and everyone behind Quibi much success. Launching during a time when people aren’t riding subways and busses, or standing in long lines looking for something to watch on their phones is simply a case of bad luck. But that will change. And I look forward to watching more Quibi programs. Some strengths that could quickly emerge from their lineup include daily content from comedians, news organizations, instructional experts — and genres that should thrive in this format include sitcoms, animation, reality programs and docu-series. Basically, everything without a continuous narrative.