Code 8 (2019) Review

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A generic but somewhat decent take on a superpower story. Code 8 stars the Amell brothers, both Robbie and Stephen. If you’re not sure who they are by name then just think about Arrow and the Arrow universe. Stephen plays the Green Arrow and his brother played Firestorm for a short period of time. Now neither one of them are by any means Academy level actors at this point, but they are a real delight in the few things that I’ve seen them in. In this case they don’t play brothers, Stephen is a bad guy to an extent and Robbie is our hero. It’s just always a nice thing to see two guys who are brothers play opposite of each other, especially two guys who aren’t as well known yet despite having some decent acting chops. 

Now I remember hearing about this movie being released and I vaguely remember seeing the trailer for it. I was instantly intrigued, but could tell that it was a bit of a generic story, so the real draw for me was that these two guys were playing our main characters. Over the year I ended up forgetting about it only to realize that it was a direct to on demand and never got a theatrical release. I finally rediscovered it, forgetting most of what it was about and going into it with a blank slate and open mind. 

As I said in the beginning, this movie is very generic and brings nothing new to the superhero/superpower genre. It’s a tough task to reinvent a genre that is at its height right now, so instead they opt for trying to make a good movie doing familiar things. I won’t say that what they did was bad, but for the most part, this movie is just ok. What it tries to do it does well enough, but it will easily become a forgettable movie by not taking much risk. 

When I first started watching it and they brought in the robots that help enforce the law against super powered individuals, I thought for a second “wait…is this a Blomkamp movie?” For some reason the style of the robots and the R rating really felt similar in some ways to Neil Blomkamp’s style, but then you realize that he would have likely reinvented this movie more. 

One cool concept that I don’t think has been used in these types of movies before is the drug they introduce. It’s some mixture of the spinal fluid from super powered individuals that gives a high. It’s an interesting concept but isn’t explored much further than that. That is a good point for the film overall though and it’s world building. 

They spend plenty of time explaining and setting up this world while also not going much further than the surface stuff. It makes you want to know more about this world, but doesn’t give you enough of a plot to really make up for the generic feel of it. With that in mind, I do remember reading recently about how the movie is now being turned into a TV series so I suppose we’ll finally get to see more of the world and have more time to explore it. That’s more of a knock on the movie though and their inability to tell a compelling story. 

Don’t get me wrong though, there’s a lot about this movie to be excited about. Not including the lore and world building which I’ve already covered, there’s some really cool moments that include the superpowers. I like how there’s a level of rarity to some powers. For the most part it seems that there  are a lot of people with strength, electricity, or fire and on top of that there are certain levels of that superpower that just depend on the person. In this case, our hero is a level 5 electric user which means he’s so much more powerful than most others. Some powers are less frequent to come across like reading minds or being able to heal. This in itself adds an interesting layer given that a lot of people have super powers, not everyone is equal. 

They also take a lot of time to dive into the ramifications of using powers. For the majority of superhero movies, the hero has powers with no worry about using them. In this case they show how a tumor in the brain can cause the powers to actually harm you, or how a healer can heal but what they’re healing is actually affecting them instead. It gives the powers themselves some more weight. It’s a small detail but something I wish was explored more in our bigger superhero movies. 

Another good point about the powers is that even though this very much feels like a low budget movie, the effects are actually quite impressive. Now compared to a big budget superhero movie, they aren’t close, but considering how much smaller this is, I was pleasantly surprised with what they were able to do. This goes back to my comparison to Blomkamp for a moment, who is a very capable director of giving great special effects on a tight budget. I applaud them for what they were able to do. 

As for the two brothers that play our two main characters, they do a fine job in their roles. At first it was hard not to see them as their superhero counterparts in the Arrowverse, but after a few minutes, I quickly found myself forgetting about that and seeing them as the characters they’re playing. While they aren’t the best performances, the characters themselves I really enjoyed and felt like I would like to see more explored with them. (Here’s to hoping that happens with the show)

Most of the other characters are forgettable and there are a fair amount of holes in the story or things that are mentioned but never brought back into the story. This can be useful when you feel more confident about a movie, but in this case they shouldn’t have been trying to look forward but rather keep the focus on telling a great one off story with the potential of becoming something more should it turn out to be successful. 

Code 8 is not a memorable movie, it’s not one of the best of the year, and it’s not some diamond in the rough, but it’s a movie that is entertaining enough to be somewhat enjoyable. It has some very good moments and sets up a world that seems interesting enough yet fails to deliver on giving us a great story. It has some interesting characters that would be enough for you to want to see more in this world, but as a stand-alone movie it feels very generic and adds nothing new. If you get a chance to watch this for free or maybe a cheap 99 cent rental then you might have a pretty good time. Other than that though, it’s nothing more than a movie buried by better quality content in the genre. 

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