Netflix has been stealing from you.

I was watching Taken 2 on Netflix a couple of nights ago, and I was shocked by how garbage-y the film looked. I'd remembered the first film as decent enough, so the huge visual step downwards was something of a shock.

Then I realized that the movie was filling up the entire screen, which shouldn't have been possible - even if the movie only had a 1.85 ratio, that's still thinner than HDTV's 1.77 - so where were the black bars?

Could the film really look this terrible?
Of course it couldn't - Netflix had just chopped the left and right sides of the image off, and then zoomed in on the rest so that it would fit your television. Here's the same scene of the film in its original, 2.35 ratio:

So somebody somewhere along the line, Netflix or the distributor or whoever, decided to lop off something like 15 percent of the picture for no reason I can fathom. Were they seriously worried that people would complain if there were black bars on their HDTVs? Don't people understand the black bars now, since any TV show older than a couple of years has giant ones on the left and right sides of the picture?

This isn't the only movie that's been altered, either - check out The Longest Day in 1.77:

 Now let's see its official ratio, 2.35:

Huge change, right? Now imagine what that would be like in a visually interesting scene?

The weirdest camera angle I came across was  Prometheus, which Netflix presents like this:

And here's the real film:
How weird is that change? This isn't just haphazard cropping like the other two movies - they've chopped off the left side of the screen and then opened up the top and bottom to show more of the picture. Which sounds great, but remember - opening up the top and bottom of the screen is how you wind up seeing boom mikes and jump pads.

Why is Netflix doing this? Why doesn't it warn me that the show has been formatted to fit my television? Is this an option I can turn off somewhere? I know Netflix is a great deal, but I have no intention of paying them to ruin movies for me.

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