Sci-fi expands across streaming
It’s been a big year for sci-fi fans and critics alike. Like galaxies colliding into each other, we’ve seen different sagas and franchises make their debuts in theatre or online, in what is turning out to be the streaming wars for the genre. But there’s something connecting these releases other than the familiarity of lightsabres, laser guns, spaceships, and alien planets. Many of the films or series released this year were either delayed or directly impacted by the global coronavirus pandemic. Was it worth the wait? Turns out, for some of this year’s films or TV series, it’s been decades since the previously attempted productions. And streaming services made bold moves to try to deliver to the core fans.
No doubt, making headlines this week, is Denis Villeneuve’s Dune (2021), available to stream on HBO Max, part of AT&T (NYSE: T), even a day before it was in theatres in North America, on 22 October 2021. COVID-19 has certainly impacted how we consume entertainment, and now it is directly influencing how the entertainment industry structures its releases. A year ago, when it was originally scheduled to be screened in North America, you would not have expected to be able to stream this sci-fi epic around the world before it was available in theatres.
Perhaps equally anticipated is Foundation, released on Apple TV+ (NASDAQ: AAPL), in a weekly episodic format. The production itself was halted since March 2020 during the initial height of the pandemic. Really, a year’s delay was not much longer to wait, since the last time a live-action rendition of Isaac Asimov’s Foundation books was attempted was in 1998. Certainly, Apple TV+ got some new customers, just to see how loyally (or not) would Asimov’s visions be manifested on screen.
Also embarking on a streamed series this year is Disney’s (NYSE: DIS) Star Wars: The Bad Batch, available on Disney+. But, it was opted to be an animated series, as a follow-on story to its 2008 TV series. Interestingly, choosing to release an animated series might have been not only a creative decision but a strategic one. During the time of production, in 2020, animation was one of the few types of film and television production that were able to resume during the COVID-19 pandemic. A good decision at that, in hindsight, as this animated series will be a welcome plug in the content gap for fans until the next expected Star Wars film, which is in 2022.
Hopefully, these latest sci-fi pieces, and the ability of the production teams to push past all the challenges of the past 2 years, are marking a return to normal life, at least as we knew it. The pandemic may have delayed but did not halt the expansion of the sci-fi (and streaming) universe.