Netflix is very well known full shadow dropping various original movie releases with no promotion whatsoever. Inexplicably some releases may end up in the daily top 10 despite potential viewers never having heard of them beforehand. Eventually, these mid/low budget efforts will rotate out for the next cycle of productions that will have the same fate. Stowaway is a prime example of this. The second feature from YouTube turned filmmaker Joe Penna it’s a sci-fi four-hander with Anna Kendrick, Toni Collette, Daniel Dee Kim and Shamier Anderson. Having taken off on a 3-year mission three central astronauts discover that the stowaway of the title has been hidden away on their ship. They now have to partake in several moral and ethical debates thanks to his unexpected presence.
Pena’s first feature Arctic with Mads Mikkelsen was a nicely gritty and effective survival movie. Nothing spectacular but certainly on the better end of what to expect from an Internet content creator turned film-maker. Once this critic was aware of who directed Stowaway he became solidly more interested. This was to the extent that he decided to give the film a chance.
Unfortunately, Stowaway is easily the most disappointing movie of the year thus far. Trading in all the promise the director showed with his debut for an unbelievably generic slice of low budget sci-fi. Viewers will have seen this exact narrative beats a million times before. Pena has been able to assemble a solid cast for this variety of limited character drama but the material is so generic they have nothing to sink their teeth into. A potential film saving story mechanic is introduced at around the halfway mark. The rest of the narrative then proceeds to do nothing of interest with this development. Pair this relative lack of ambition with the vaguely cheap-looking aesthetic of low budget sci-fi when not done well. You have an endlessly frustrating experience.
This critic would probably still put Joe Panna on the very brief list of YouTube content creators transitioning into film making capable of more with some work. That said Stowaway was a huge disappointment Jettisoning away most of the potential the director showed with Arctic. It’s the definition of a Netflix original with some star power that’s primed to keep their algorithm afloat as they continue to pump out new content. When looking at this piece specifically there is nothing worth investing in.