‘Mark Zuckerberg is the youngest billionaire in the world.’ Those are the final words of David Fincher’s masterpiece The Social Network, which turns 10 years old this week.
They now look like an understatement as Zuckerberg in 2020 is far more than a tech supremo.
Not only does he preside over more than 2.5 billion Facebook users, but he’s frequently embroiled in the typhoon of geopolitics and has received high-profile Congress grillings, wearing the shamed expression of a schoolboy being scolded by the headteacher for indirectly enabling foreign interference in elections.
Talk often turns to the prospect of a sequel to The Social Network, depicting the ways in which Facebook has become the world’s most significant website since Zuckerberg signed cheques for Eduardo Saverin and the Winklevoss twins. Is there any merit in dragging Jesse Eisenberg back into that hoodie, and forcing him to adopt Zuck’s new haunted LEGO figure haircut?
Those involved with the original project are keen. Writer Aaron Sorkin, who won an Oscar for his screenplay, told AP that producer Scott Rudin has contacted him about a follow-up, adding that ‘a lot of very interesting, dramatic stuff’ has happened around Zuckerberg and Facebook. A few months later, Eisenberg joined the fray in an interview with IndieWire to say he’d happily be involved.
Still, there are certainly big challenges facing any attempt to distil a decade of dominance and controversy into a movie as pacy and entertaining as the one Fincher made. As well as winning three Oscars in one of the strongest years in recent memory – and unforgivably losing three others to the blandly acceptable King’s Speech – the movie was a box office hit, scoring $225m (£174m) worldwide.
But what could The Social Network 2 look like?
Dr Roman Gerodimos, filmmaker and professor of global current affairs at Bournemouth University, says the increasing complexity of Facebook would present a challenge for a filmmaker today.
It’s not just a few students with bloodstreams full of Red Bull and social awkwardness pushing through marathon coding sessions, but a corporate behemoth in which people like COO Sheryl Sandberg and former Lib Dem leader Nick Clegg – now VP for global affairs and communications – loom almost as large as Zuckerberg.
Gerodimos adds to Metro.co.uk: ‘What a sequel would have to do, which was much more straightforward in the original, would be to assign intentionality to specific individuals, which is more complex now because there are more people involved.
‘It can be done and I’m sure there’d be a huge audience for it, but contrary to political biographies about former presidents, it would mean really going into depth about the personalities and flaws of various people.’
There’s certainly no shortage of controversies for a sequel to discuss, though these have already been raked over in various forms, including recent Netflix documentary The Social Dilemma.
Facebook has been blamed for polarising political discourse in a way that has enabled the rise of dangerous, populist world leaders, not to mention the Cambridge Analytica scandal and rise of the QAnon conspiracy movement. It has also been linked to permitting hate speech that helped fuel the brutal persecution and killing of Rohingya Muslims in Myanmar. The site’s influence goes far beyond its origin of ranking female classmates in a Harvard dorm.
Dr Athina Karatzogianni of the University of Leicester believes a depiction of these myriad issues through fiction could help illuminate and analyse Facebook’s influence on culture.
‘Discussing issues openly and critically I think would be constructive as much as this can happen in a film,’ she says.
Crucially, there’s a corporate element to be considered in whether it’s possible to make a movie critiquing Facebook, given its position as a near-omnipotent global entity.
Gerodimos notes that in an increasingly digital world of movie distribution – exacerbated by the Covid-19 pandemic – the risk for a studio choosing to ‘engage in a direct confrontation with Facebook’ could be very high.
He says: ‘I think such a movie, that is both factually accurate and dramatically engaging for a broad audience, could theoretically be made. But in reality, it will be hard to find a pathway to non-Netflix/Prime/Apple release, as the foundations of cinema distribution are imploding for all but a few genres.’
Notably, both Fincher and Sorkin have movies debuting on Netflix this year, in The Trial of the Chicago 7 and Mank.
It may be the case that the pitfalls of a follow-up to The Social Network are too massive. It would certainly be a very different undertaking to the one Sorkin and Fincher faced back in the days when your nan still called it ‘MyFace’.
But given the importance of Facebook today and the sheer level of material on offer – plus the evident audience demand – it might be tough to resist giving it a go.
Apologies in advance to Eisenberg. That haircut won’t be flattering.