Vault Movie Review: “Code 8”
Power enabled people are integrated within society. Some people are born with abilities, but this has caused tension between power enabled people and ordinary members of the population. People without powers are threatened by the existence of people who can do extraordinary things. They believe that powered people are dangerous and need to be registered. This tension has led to discrimination toward power enabled people, with ordinary people controlling jobs, law enforcement, and government in general. Connor Reed (Robbie Amell) is a power enabled person, but he is struggling to make his way in the world.
Connor has been unable to get a decent job, as no one will hire a power enabled person such as himself. However, his mother Mary (Kari Matchett) is very sick, and they have no way of paying for her treatment. Connor thinks all hope is lost, but he is recruited by a man named Garrett (Stephen Amell), who leads a team of power enabled people who use their abilities to perform various heists. They have been looking for someone with Connor's unique ability and class, and while the jobs involve high-risk crimes, the pay would be enough to get his mother the treatment she needs. However, the police have an arsenal of robots and drones with the sole purpose of hunting, arresting, and at times even eliminating power enabled criminals just like Garrett and his team, which now includes Connor.
The Pros & Cons
Connor & Mary Reed (+5pts)
Predictable & Shallow (-5pts)
Stephen Amell & The Team (+5pts)
Park & Davis (-2pts)
The Action & The World (+6pts)
Pro: Connor & Mary Reed (+5pts)
This storyline was not anything you have not seen before, but I thought it was effective enough for this movie. Connor's mother raised him to be a good person, so that he did not become like his father. However she became very sick, and they were struggling financially, so he broke bad in order to pay for her treatment. You could probably guess how the rest of this story went, and you would probably be right.
There were not any curve-balls in this story, but it served its purpose. Connor's story was one of someone who was willing to do bad things in order to save someone he loved. Anyone can understand why he chose to do what he did, and it was easy to sympathize with his story. He wanted to be the good person that his mother wanted, but he felt that doing so would mean letting her die. Again, it was a simple story, but sometimes simple stories are the most effective. Anyone can relate to the character for this reason, and anyone can understand the severity of his situation.
Con: Predictable & Shallow (-5pts)
One significant thing working against this movie was how predictable the main plot was. From the Connor and Mary storyline to the storlyine surrounding Connor and the team that recruited him, then from the jobs that the team was taking and the whole storyline surrounding the cops, this movie was predictable. It was predictable, or typical, on all accounts which meant there were not very many surprises. There was one surprising moment, but the characters involved were all underdeveloped and expendable (as far as their connection to Connor was concerned), so the moment was not very impactful.
On top of that, the movie had the opportunity of being truly compelling, as the filmmakers raised a number of interesting issues regarding the world these characters lived in. Some examples were the discrimination that power enabled people faced, the struggle that those people had to deal with, and the moral question surrounding the drug taken from powered people and how it was obtained. There were these and various other moral issues introduced in this movie, but the filmmakers never dove deep into any of them. They just kind of dipped their toes in the water, moved on to another pool, dipped their toes in that water, moved on to another pool, and so on. Rather than picking any one or two of these issues and diving into them in a compelling way, the filmmakers chose to introduce these ideas and then never bring them up again, which I thought was a pretty big missed opportunity.
Pro: Stephen Amell & The Team (+5pts)
Before Stephen Amell and his team showed up, this felt like the kind of movie that would have gone straight to DVD back in the early-to-mid 2000s—you know the type of movie that I am talking about. These movies had, at best, a mostly unknown cast, bland action, a typical plot, “eh” performances, and only moderately interesting characters. At worst, these movies were horrible, and perhaps unintentionally funny because of how bad they were. Before Stephen Amell and his team showed up, this movie felt like one of the better straight-to-DVD movies. Then Stephen Amell and his team showed up, and raised this movie to another level.
To be honest, Stephen Amell did most of the heavy lifting here, but the other two members of the team had their moments. Stephen Amell made his character interesting. He had a really strong screen presence, and I left the movie wanting to know a lot more about the character he played. Stephen Amell played the main character on Arrow, and while I thought Robbie Amell did a decent job in this movie, Stephen Amell’s experience definitely helped this movie. I understand that Stephen Amell probably wanted to take the backseat in order to let his brother take the lead role of the movie, but I thought Stephen Amell‘s performance was better and I thought his character’s story was far more interesting than Connor’s. I would have liked to have seen a whole movie about Garrett—from when Marcus Sutcliffe (Greg Byrk) recruited him, right up through the events of this story—but that is not what we got. What we got was a story about Connor, in which I thought Stephen Amell as Garrett was one of the highlights.
Con: Park & Davis (-2pts)
All I will say about these two is that they were the cops trying to catch Garrett and his crew. Davis (Aaron Abrams) was your stereotypical judgmental character who was unwilling to accept power enabled people because they were different, and he was afraid of the threat that they posed to ordinary people. Park (Sung Kang) was more understanding and open-minded—he had his reasons for being that way. One character was typical and therefore uninteresting. The other had what could have been an interesting story, but the filmmakers never developed it—staying in line with the rest of this shallow story. The result was two characters who took up far too much screen-time with respect to what they contributed to this story.
Pro: The Action & The World (+6pts)
The action in this movie was nothing crazy, but it was enough to keep the movie exciting. There was also enough of it that I never really felt bored or disinterested in what was happening. In other words, the action was nothing crazy, but it was entertaining and it served its purpose. Then there was the world that the filmmakers setup, which was basically what the mutant world of X-Men would be like if there were no X-Men running around saving the day. The filmmakers went with the idea that power enabled people would be treated like rejects of society, and that they would be oppressed and discriminated against. It made this world feel lived in, and it made it easy to root for the power enabled people that this story followed. Overall, neither the action, nor the world will feel "new", but I thought both served their purpose and were a couple of this movie's more notable strengths.
Con: Nia (-2pts)
This was another character whose story could have been interesting if the filmmakers dove deeper into it, and the moral dilemma caused by her using her powers. However, that did not happen, and hers was also a storyline that I found very predictable. As soon as she revealed what her power was, I immediately knew the cost that would come with it. However, the filmmakers spent the rest of the movie keeping that cost a secret, before finally “revealing” it at the end of the movie. I think the reveal was supposed to be impactful, as far as what the implications meant for Connor, but since I knew what the cost was so early in the movie, the reveal ended up having no impact for me. At the end of the day, this character’s power and the cost that came with it could have been interesting if the filmmakers properly developed the character. Unfortunately, they did not.
Grade: B- (82pts)
Code 8 had a premise that I was definitely interested in. It was basically the mutant world of X-Men if the X-Men did not exist. In other words, it was a world in which power enabled people (mutants) were feared and discriminated against by ordinary people. This story was about one such power enabled person, Connor, who was struggling to make ends meet, and broke bad in order to pay his mother’s medical bills.
The world was interesting, and the main character’s story was simple. The story also got a lot more interesting with the introduction of Stephen Amell’s character and his team, a lot of this being due to experience and the strong screen presence that Stephen Amell brought to the table. Unfortunately, this movie suffered a bit from the filmmakers‘ inability to flesh out any of the compelling things that they introduced, and the overall story ended up being pretty predictable. At the end of the day, this was a decent movie set in an interesting world with a few interesting characters and it had action that was entertaining enough. It was not anything special, and I had some problems with it, but I thought it was a decent movie.