Even With the Drama, HBO Max Is Still the Best Streaming Platform – CBR – Comic Book Resources

A love letter to the often derided streaming service HBO Max, which despite all the drama and headlines, has remained the best streamer for years.
HBO Max was and is nothing short of a miracle. When initially announced back in 2020, there was much confusion surrounding the streaming service. HBO already had a quasi-streaming service with HBO Go, and many saw the Max announcement as confusing and ill-advised at the time. Even once HBO Max launched on May 27, 2020, many were quick to ridicule its sometimes buggy interface or its subsequent day-and-date movie premiere plan throughout the heart of the pandemic.
Now, with the Warner Bros./Discovery merger finalized and the new President/CEO of Warner Bros. Discovery, David Zaslav, cutting costs at every turn, it looks as though HBO Max's days are numbered. The streaming service is destined to be assimilated by Discovery+ in 2023, according to Zaslav's plans, and is already having huge swaths of its catalog wiped out of existence to save the company a few bucks. It is a shame because, despite initial misgivings and its current drama, HBO Max has remained the best streaming service by a very wide margin.
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A few months before HBO Max's launch, when the streaming service announced the lineup of films and television series that would be available to stream on the platform, it was hard to believe. Sporting classic Warner Bros. films, modern-day blockbusters from franchises like the DC Extended Universe, Harry Potter and Lord of the Rings, an animated roster that included Popeye, Looney Tunes and the entirety of Studio Ghibli's work, and an entire section of films from the Criterion Collection curated by Turner Classic Movies, it all seemed too good to be true. But miraculously, on launch day, it was all there. HBO Max had the largest catalog of any streaming service with a vast array of films ranging from the 1920s to the modern day, all streaming in startlingly pristine high-definition.
The strengths of HBO Max become even more starkly evident when comparing it to its competition. Netflix is the most popular streaming service in the world, yet its catalog feels like an arbitrary algorithmically-dictated selection of whatever films and TV series it currently has the streaming rights to. Nothing feels curated or carefully selected; it's a jumbled mess of works without the slightest hint of any internal coherency beyond funneling the viewer back to watching Netflix Original content in the name of profit.
HBO Max, on the other hand, breaks its library up into central 'hubs,' allowing viewers to more easily access titles without engaging in an unending scrolling through peripheral materials. Even within these hubs, HBO Max categorizes its library even further, often curating works based on its creators. For instance, HBO Max currently has collections featuring entire filmographies by directors like Orson Welles, Charlie Chaplin and Georges Méliès, organized by release date.
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While other streaming platforms such as Netflix and Hulu rarely feature a film from before the '70s, HBO Max has entire swaths of its catalog made up of classic films from earlier decades. While those other streaming platforms often actively hide details such as the year of release or director/writer credits, making viewers click through multiple interfaces to find them, HBO Max proudly wears such details on its sleeve. For all the flack HBO Max received for the day-and-date movie premiere plan from directors such as Christopher Nolan, it is far and away the most creator-driven streaming service.
Heck, it even has creators quite literally come on the streaming service and curate entire collections of films. For the season finale of Barry, HBO Max had Bill Hader come in and select some of his favorite films that influenced his work on Barry (such as Clockwork Orange and The Last Detail) and film an intro explaining what each movie meant to him. This is absolutely wonderful stuff that not only gives audiences access to classic films but curates them in such a fashion that they feel accessible to them.
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This is especially crucial given that so many of the classic films on HBO Max were not easily available before the platform's launch. Many films from the Criterion Collection are often not easy finds elsewhere in good condition (thus why they have been restored and cataloged by Criterion), and Criterion physical releases, as drop-dead gorgeous as they are, can get a bit pricey. HBO Max offered these films immediately for the price of admission alone in absurdly great quality. For instance, this writer had never been able to find an above-standard definition version of Charlie Chaplin's A Woman of Paris, but there was a high-definition stream readily available on HBO Max at launch.
So not only does HBO Max have the widest variety and largest collection of works on its streaming service, but it's also carefully curated and hand-crafted to feature both premiering blockbusters to get audiences in the door and previously inaccessible classic films right alongside them. In a cutthroat environment where many streaming platforms feel ruthlessly cold and calculated in their decisions, HBO Max felt creatively minded and interested in fostering interest and imagination. This is what makes Zaslav's gutting of it all the more heartbreaking.
For as long as it's still available, despite all the drama and headlines currently surrounding it, HBO Max remains the greatest streaming service in the game. When its time inevitably comes to an end in the near future, hopefully, it will be remembered as it was: a tremendous gift to film lovers everywhere that was indeed too good to last.
The biggest Jingle All the Way fan you know. Came onboard with CBR in 2022, after having previously worked at sites such as WhatCulture and BigShinyRobot.
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