Netflix has been hard at work trying to build new sci-fi franchises since it started producing its own content several years ago. While they have certainly branched out into other genres like drama, romance and comedy, the focus on bringing sci-fi stories to the small screen has only resulted in a few gems to emerge from that genre pile so far. So, where does Code 8 land in that broad spectrum of spectacular to mediocre? Right smack-dab in the middle.
Code 8 has been quite popular since it released over the weekend and based on its concept, I am not at all surprised The story takes place in a not too distant future where a small percentage of humans develop certain “powers”, in much the same way that mutants do in Marvel X-Men comics. Also, much like the Marvel inspiration, these powers are feared by the government and heavily regulated, as any display of these abilities is met with serious consequences.
However, this prejudice towards people with special powers also has a knock-on effect that results in an inability to land a normal job, leading many of these gifted individuals to pursue menial employment or living a life of crime to try and make ends meet. This is where we find the Code 8’s main protagonist Connor Reed (Robbie Amell), an “electric” with a kind heart and good intentions but not too much wisdom. His mother is dying of cancer and unable to afford the medical treatment that she needs, this leaves Reed to pursue a life of crime to try and earn more money. This puts him in the unenviable position of needing to work with a host of bad guys and drug lords -Psycke being the fictional drug of choice that drives the storyline here – that doesn’t exactly fit in with his kind-hearted ways and leads him to have many internal conflicts along the way.
Now, just reading the above description of the plot is possibly enough to make your eyes roll at how unoriginal the film is. And that is perhaps the biggest problem with Code 8. It may have an intriguing idea and some really well-developed and interesting characters, but ultimately there is very little in this film that you haven’t watched or seen elsewhere. Even the core of its story focusing on tough economic circumstances that lead to a life of crime, is one that’s been done hundreds of times and filled with the same cliched characters we get in many other movies.
Through the predictability of it all though, Code 8 at least does a decent job with the execution of its message. Robbie along with his brother Garett (played by Stephen Amell) are very likeable characters with equal doses of good and bad to keep you questioning their intentions, with the more grounded nature of its story making it very relatable and different from other big superhero movies we get these days. The actors do a stellar job in providing depth and realism to their characters and at times you feel like you are watching a gripping drama rather than a sci-fi/crime movie. I would’ve actually loved to have seen the story focused more on Garrett who feels significantly underdeveloped here with the only other character getting any sort of decent motivation being Kyla Kane’s Nia. The film also stars Sung Kang, Aaron Abrams and Chad Donella
Code 8, for all if of its cliché’s and predictability, is an enjoyable film that is certainly worthwhile if you’re willing to ignore some of its faults. Perhaps even more so when you consider that the story was actually fleshed out from a short film by director Jeff Chan – which Robbie and Stephen Amell were both involved in too. That short film showcased his capable directing skills and co-writer Chris Pare took the responsibility of fleshing the story out into a proper movie, sadly with less originality. This movie kind of only further shows that Chan is a director on the rise with a good ability for story-driven films and action set pieces, though perhaps in need of something a little more original to work with.
There was also enough world-building provided that I would love to see more of Code 8’s themes explored further, though I think to make a success out of this franchise it’ll need to step outside of the cliched crime and drug storylines and perhaps tap more into the political aspects that were probably even more interesting and underutilised in the final product.
In Code 8, Netflix has a sci-fi franchise that they can definitely build on in future. Whether this film is good enough to draw in enough viewers and warrant further expansion though, is another matter entirely.
Last Updated: April 15, 2020