‘Code 8’ Review: “An Unexpected Surprise”

On the surface, Code 8 seems to have a basic premise. Connor (Robbie Amell), our protagonist, joins a group of criminals in order to save his mother (Kari Matchett). But here’s where things get interesting: it takes place in a world unlike our own. In this world, we have powered individuals who must register with the government to distinguish themselves from non-powered folks. They built Lincoln City, helping them become “The City of Tomorrow”.

As machinery became more and more prominent, powered people become second class citizens and the source for a powerful drug called Psyke. By the 1990s, a criminal syndicate called The Trust have started to traffic Psyke. The police department implements the use of drones, facial recognition, and androids called Guardians to prevent power-related crime from happening. Meanwhile, the city’s government debates implementing a powered people ban.

That’s an incredibly high-level overview for what is essentially a low-budget science-fiction indie film. More importantly, Code 8 was raised with money completely off Indiegogo by Robbie and Stephen Amell. Despite this fact, it looks like a top tier budget science fiction movie. The production crew and the special effects crew do an amazing job with merging futuristic technology with a contemporary setting. The Guardians and the drones all look spectacularly realistic. Furthermore, it visualizes people with powers primarily through their eyes, which is a rather unconventional and fun way to execute that. Other visual representations are minimal, except for the fire and electric powers.

By keeping things minimal, it helps with the realism of the movie, without eliminating the representation of the power being used. Director Jeff Chan is relatively unknown, but he does a phenomenal job with the story concept, directing and producing. I hope Code 8 propels him into a trajectory where he can make his passion projects on a large scale.

While the bones of the script are average, screenwriter Chris Pare gives these familiar tropes subtle twists to. This includes a fresh take on superhero powers, one currently beaten into submission thanks to most big-budget superhero shows and movies. Most notably, it showcases powers in people’s everyday lives instead of showing them on a grander scale and having them hide behind a mask to use them. Superhero shows and movies have grown to be so many, they need to stand out to really pull my interest. Code 8 does that.

Code 8 - Connor Reed

The Amells both give great performances, as they take on roles that depart from familiar territory. It worked well for both of them, though I would have liked to see some more chemistry between the two. Robbie gave one of his better performances here, as he portrays Connor’s emotions with a sense of legitimacy. Matchett was also a great addition to this film, and her relationship with Robbie really helped sell the beginning portion of the film.

That said, the world that Code 8 develops is what really makes it special. It has a huge potential to develop into something bigger than just this one film. The ending sets up the potential for more, and there are already plans for a television series on Quibi. The world was clearly not meant to be light-hearted, but hopefully we can see some light spark through in the spin-off. Let us hope that future stories in Code 8‘s world have a strong emotional core like the one between Connor and his mom. – Katie Gilstrap

Rating: 7/10

Code 8 is now available on Blu-ray and Digital HD.

The film stars Robbie Amell, Stephen Amell, Sung Kang, Aaron Abrams, Greg Bryk, and Kari Matchett.

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