TL;DR – This is a film that has the appearance of wanting to say something profound, but never actually gets around to saying much of anything.
Score – 2.5 out of 5 stars
Post-Credit Scene – There is no post-credit scene
In some respects, Netflix has been the saviour of the small concept science fiction film in recent years as cinemas abandon anything but the next tent pole franchise blockbuster. However, for all the wonders of Annihilation (see review) and films like that, there has been a slew of mediocre dull affairs. Today we look at a film that at first look feels like it should be the first, but unfortunately, it ended up being the latter.
So to set the scene, there were many attempts to forestall the coming abyss including making a satellite to harvest geothermal energy from other planets. However, it was all in vain because before they could intact their plan, the atmosphere on Earth turned bad becoming toxic at most lower altitudes. Most people that could leave the Earth did so in a great exodus for the space station IO around Jupiter’s moon Io. There are few people left on the planet but Sam Walden (Margaret Qualley) is one of them, trying to find a way to fix the planet rather than flee it. Well, on IO they have finally stored enough energy to send people off on interstellar colonisation missions, so they are stopping the evacuations of Earth. Sam has one choice, give up her father’s research and get on the last ship out of a dying planet, or be left behind.
There are many things your film can be, but the one
thing you don’t want it to be is dull and unfortunately,
this is where we are with IO. In many
respects, this felt less like a film and more like the walk-em-ups from video
games, except at least in them you can control the walking. It keeps
pontificating about issues but it was lacking any real focus. It was so empty
that I had to struggle not to fall asleep towards the end when the inevitable
plot points worked themselves out.
Now I am not sure if this was the script or the direction or something else, but the two leads Margaret Qualley and Anthony Mackie felt like they were going through the motions, and not in the film. Having a film with a very small cast can make it feel intimate, like every action has weight, not so here. If your actors are not engaged, when you only have a couple of them, there is no escaping it.
One area where the film does set itself apart is in the design and implementation of the post-apocalyptic elements. Both the reclaimed city and the outpost above the clouds had an interesting design and implementation. I do wish they had focused on this are a little more as it was a highlight, but alas.
In the end, do we recommend IO? No, we don’t. There is a kernel of a good idea here, and it is not that anything stands out as completely bad. It is just that there is nothing to this film, It starts, people meander around, and then it tries to have something profound to say at the end but meh.
By Brian MacNamara: You can follow Brian on Twitter Here, when he’s not chatting about Movies and TV, he’ll be talking about International Relations, or the Solar System.
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Credits – All images were created by the cast, crew, and production companies of IO
Directed by – Jonathan Helpert
Written by – Clay Jeter, Charles Spano & Will Basanta
Music by – Alex Belcher
Cinematography by – André Chemetoff
Edited by – Mike Fromentin
Starring – Margaret Qualley, Anthony Mackie, Danny Huston & Tom Payne