Amazon Prime Video had in hand the most anticipated premiere of the year on streaming platforms: Citadel. After the fiasco that was The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power, a series that has not even stalled a new reboot of J.R.R. Tolkien’s work, the platform has released the second most expensive series in history.
Directed by Anthony and Joe Russo, in charge of Avengers: Infinity War and Endgame, the series seemed to be the big surprise of the year, getting a huge number of viewers to surpass other proposals such as The Last of Us or The Mandalorian. With Richard Madden and Priyanka Chopra as two secret agents in the purest James Bond style, everything seemed to be ready to be a great success.
At the moment, two episodes have been released and a new one will be released every week until the finale on May 26. However, has Amazon Prime Video achieved the success it expected? We anticipate a small spoiler: No, and it may be one of the worst failures in its history.
An ALMOST unprecedented failure
Instead of doing like Netflix and canceling every series at the first change, Amazon Prime Video has the virtue of trusting more in its series and letting them live on despite not being the expected success. This is the case of fictions such as El Cid, Carnival Row or The Rings of Power.
Even so, this does not seem to be the best strategy for the platform, since it is not getting the quality of the HBO Max series and they are not even getting the audience of the Disney Plus series. Citadel is just the latest case of this, and the series has premiered with a 52% rating on Metacritic, a very low score for which no excuse is worth any more.
But what were the main problems with Citadel? The general criticism points to several points that make it very clear that it makes no sense that Amazon Prime Video has spent so much money on this production. And the fact is that, no matter how much it recoups its investment, it will not be able to attract a large new audience, which seemed to be the main objective of the series.
After all, Amazon Prime Video does not yet have a loyal audience that, for example, the audiovisual products coming out of Disney Plus or HBO Max do. And, in its quest to confront a Netflix in which everything seems to be worth everything, it does not seem to be at its best either.
A disastrous script
Beyond the Russo’s direction, the performance of the protagonists or the titanic production design, Citadel has a basic problem that is impossible to fix anywhere: its script. The series wants to be a mix between Kingsman, James Bond and classic spy movies. But not only does it fail to achieve that, it ends up looking like a cheap copy of their plots.
The story of the series is set eight years after the fall of Citadel, a global spy agency that was charged with maintaining the safety and well-being of the entire world. The agency fell because of Manticore, a secret syndicate that manipulates the world from the shadows and has unparalleled power.
Mason Kane and Nadia Sinh, two former Citadel agents who managed to survive Manticore, lost their memory after their memories were erased. Now, they live in hiding under new identities and new lives. But Bernard Orlick, a former colleague of Mason’s, contacts him for a near-suicidal mission: to stop Manticore in its attempt to control the world.
Mason and Nadia are reunited as they try to remember their past lives and stop the big corporation they are fighting against. And, together, they carry out this mission knowing that they are the only ones who can stop this great global threat.
This story might sound interesting, but it has some major plot holes, a rushed plot that doesn’t let you chew on, for example, the fact of the main characters’ amnesia, and a general lack of interest in the story. We still haven’t empathized with the characters by the time they get around to dishing it out… maybe they should learn a little more from John Wick.
A series that does not make up its mind about what it is
Unlike Mrs. Davis, the HBO Max series that has risen to be a real Damon Lindelof folly but works just because it is something unique in the market, Citadel never seems to be clear on what it wants to be.
On the one hand, it seeks to be a modern series The Paper House that takes the action to incredible limits while its plot becomes more and more convoluted. On the other hand, it wants to be a classic James Bond movie that doesn’t work because it lacks the charisma of the protagonist. And, on the other hand, it almost comes off as a superhero movie where the boundary of reality is blurred.
This makes the series take quite opposite directions and it is never quite clear what we are talking about. In addition, there is the factor that many other series, especially those of Disney Plus, suffer from: it wants to be the beginning of a great franchise.
Instead of focusing only on a stand-alone story that runs like clockwork, Citadel is planned from minute one as the start of several spin-offs for countries around the globe. The development of local “Citadels” has already been confirmed in countries such as Italy, Mexico and India. And this causes a very curious phenomenon: if not even the international version works, how do they want the rest to work?
Selling the bear’s skin before it is hunted
As if they had the secret of eternal youth, with Citadel Amazon Prime Video has once again repeated the gaffe of The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power: selling the bear’s skin before the hunt. Instead of telling a small story that could become big and give rise to many others, they have taken the opposite path, and the result is a series that does not stand on its own and that, on top of that, must now support many others.
If there’s one thing the Marvel Cinematic Universe has taught us – even if it has gotten a lot worse in recent years and has become yet another overexploitation phenomenon – it’s that to make a great franchise, the groundwork must first be laid and all the ingredients must work on their own.
In fact, with the Snyderverse just the opposite happened: he wanted to present the supergroup before the stories of each character, and this ended up with his cinematic suicide. This is also what has happened, in part, with The Rings of Power, and it is clear that this is Citadel’s big problem.
If, as Netflix has done with La Casa de Papel, they had focused on a good series that works perfectly and then they could exploit it in spin-offs or local versions, another rooster would have sung. Or even like John Wick, which was just a movie and ended up becoming an incredible universe.
But Amazon Prime Video does not seem to have it clear. It is still looking for its golden goose with an eye on the future, and along the way it is forgetting what is really important: to create good, exciting stories that connect with the audience. So far, the audience has reacted quite negatively to Citadel, so everything seems to indicate that its plans are going to fall apart sooner rather than later.
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