Netflix’s Escape The Undertaker Review: An Underwhelming Undertaking
The latest interactive experience for Netflix sees the New Day taking on the Dead Man.
Netflix has delivered numerous interactive experiences through its streaming service from the You vs. Wild series starring Bear Grylls to Black Mirror’s Bandersnatch. The streaming service is leading the way of letting viewers control the narrative of its programming. The latest offering from the Choose Your Own Adventure-esque special Escape the Undertaker, an adventure featuring numerous high-profile WWE wrestlers.
Escape the Undertaker follows The New Day (Kofi Kingson, Xavier Woods, and Big E) as they travel to the Undertaker’s house in order to steal his urn, which contains supernatural abilities–like being able to hold someone’s arm and walk on the top turnbuckle without the other person fighting back. Big E touches the urn, but in doing so, his soul is slowly taken, so it’s a race against the clock. The New Day wants to “feel the power” of the urn, but in order to get it, they need to investigate various rooms in the haunted abode, as The Undertaker watches them through a various assortment of old school computers and monitors in what is essentially his Saw-like control room. Through the decision-making process held within the hands of the viewer, will the New Day accomplish their mission? The power is yours.
Well, the power is “kinda” yours, as I realized upon running through this movie three different times–four if you count the time I decided to quit at the first choice (more on that later). All the run throughs lasted around 30 minutes. Sometimes, it was a tad longer. And upon playing, there’s one major thing I noticed: in order to “win” the game and “Escape the Undertaker,” everything hinges on one decision about halfway through the film.
Expecting this WWE production to be on the same scale as something like Bandersnatch is unfair. However, with Escape the Undertaker, I was hoping for something a bit more than a single choice deciding whether you win or lose. As previously mentioned, I watched the movie multiple times, and everything hinged on one choice in those playthroughs. That’s a bit of a bummer. And if you end up getting to the end and failing, you can click a button to go back to this moment, which you don’t have to click, but it does spoil the fun a little because it’s the moment you realize none of your choices really matter.
So what do your choices actually do? When you click one of two or three options, it typically means the story will follow someone else in the New Day for a short time. Xavier will find himself facing his fears, or Kofi will wander off by himself. Again, the majority of these choices are just to show the viewer what’s going on in another part of the Undertaker’s house and have no bearing on the story. It makes the whole interactive experience feel not so interactive.
You can opt out of the whole experience right away though. The first choice you can make within the game is telling the Undertaker you’re “too scared” to partake in the quest. Clicking this rolls the credits, in which you learn every aspect of this movie was under Taker’s watch. If you want to back out of the movie quickly and like a little fun joke, go ahead and take this way out.
Escape The Undertaker isn’t aimed at the adult wrestling fan, per say–although I can certainly guarantee that’s the majority of people that will play it. The film is exceptionally lighthearted, and while it deals with the dark elements of The Undertaker, it’s obvious the TV-G rating is hoping to land younger viewers and make the experience friendly for the whole family. It nails that aspect out of the park. This is easily something wrestling fans that parents can watch with their kids, and the whole family will enjoy it. The New Day is wild and zany, cracking jokes–Big E calls Undertaker “Uncle Taker” numerous times, and I could not stop chuckling at that–and the Undertaker is dark and ominous without coming off as too scary. It’s a movie that hopes to bridge the gap between fan bases and generations. More than anything, it’s fun.
What makes this so much fun is The New Day. Their dialogue is silly and feels so natural, and all three of these guys shine on the screen, leading the journey to find an urn. The chemistry you see between these guys on WWE programming is the same in Escape the Undertaker, and frankly, it’s what you want out of something like this: a bunch of friends having a good time in a weird haunted house. The weak link here is The Undertaker. Even with the suspension of belief at 100%, it’s hard to understand why The Undertaker hangs out in his own basement using outdated technology to watch people breaking into his house–or why the Undertaker would have a video package of The New Day handy to play, just in case he forgot who they are.
Netflix’s Escape the Undertaker is a fun idea that doesn’t feel fully realized. It’s rushed and not fleshed out enough to be a must-watch for WWE fans. Yes, The New Day is a lot of fun, but that’s about it. The interactivity is a big disappointment, as it shows viewers what’s going on through the eyes of various characters but ultimately, the viewer doesn’t truly control the story. Escape the Undertaker is fine, but it drops the ball on the execution of the interactivity.
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