A Knight’s Tale 2 | Netflix algorithm turns down the sequel

A Knight's Tale
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The Netflix computer turned down the idea of making A Knight’s Tale 2, according to director Brian Helgeland.

Well, we haven’t quite reached the future dystopian hellscape promised by 1991’s Terminator 2: Judgment Day yet. However, when we do – and the human race is fighting for its life against sentient AIs hellbent on our destruction – this day may seem like a key step in that direction.

According to Brian Helgeland, the director of 2001’s A Knight’s Tale, Netflix passed on making a sequel to his movie because its algorithm told executives that the film wouldn’t be a success.

Oh dear. Assuming this story is true, it marks another depressing step in the surrendering of our creative powers on the altar of technology.

We’ve known that such practices have been in play for years now – Warner Bros confirmed back in 2020 that it was using AI to make decisions about films – although the studio was clear (at the time) that humans and good old gut instinct would still make up the bulk of the decision-making process.

Given that Netflix is really a tech company that makes movies and TV shows (rather than a traditional studio), though, why do we get the feeling that the role of humans in its decision-making processes might be far less prominent?

Speaking to Inverse, Helgeland had this to say: “I pitched it to Sony because they own the rights, and it seemed like they were interested in making it with Netflix, releasing it as a Netflix movie. My understanding is that Netflix tested this sequel idea through their algorithms, which indicated that it would not be successful. A Knight’s Tale seems to get more popular with every passing year; it’s the strangest thing.”

As for the sequel itself, Helgeland offered a few details as to what to expect given that the original film’s star, Heath Ledger died in 2008. “William [who died during war] has a teenage daughter who wants to joust … but she’s not allowed to because she’s a woman. She tracks down the gang and they agree to teach her how to joust, but she has to hide who she is. They cut her hair short and she speaks with a deep voice, et cetera.”

Dan Lin is now in charge of Netflix’s film division and according to reports, he’s been twiddling with the algorithm’s settings to produce films that are better quality than the streaming giant’s output over the past few years. Time will tell how he gets on but let’s hope that he and other human beings still get a say when it comes to making decisions in league with Netflix’s mighty number cruncher.

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