Save The Bees, Save The World
I love post-apocalyptic scenarios but unfortunately so do a lot of other people, meaning when it comes to the medium of film we’re spoilt for choice. From Wall-E to Children Of Men through to Mad Max and The Road, Netflix Original IO has it’s work cut out to try to match up to the standards set by those films. A decent character-driven performance from our two lead characters is enough to push the narrative forward but questionable science, a shaky plot and contrived character motives make this an enjoyable but somewhat forgettable film.
The story begins with Earth on the brink of collapse. The world has been abandoned in search of a new home after we’ve polluted our Blue Planet beyond recognition. Intent on finding a way to breathe the polluted air that’s ravaged the planet, one solitary girl, Sam Halden, stays behind to find a cure high up above the toxic clouds clinging to the cities. When a storm ravages her research base, a hot air balloon soon follows, bringing with it a man named Micah who’s trying to find the girl’s father.
From here, the story explores themes around social interaction and isolation. As more and more reasons for Sam to leave come to light, she has to choose whether to stay and finish her Father’s research or join Micah on the final shuttle launch off the planet to join the rest of humanity. It’s at this point where the story takes a somewhat questionable turn, ending on a predictable and somewhat contrived note as we discover what’s happened to Sam in the future.
In terms of story, IO falls somewhere in the middle when it comes to the post apocalyptic spectrum. Its story is familiar enough for anyone who’s dived into this genre before and all the usual tropes are still here but it’s really the characters that keep you watching through to the end. Both Anthony Mackie and Margaret Qualley do a great job with their characters, showing both sides of the argument around Earth’s salvation whilst whipping up some impressive chemistry together in the process.
You do have to defy your belief quite a bit through this film though as the science falls back on all the usual Hollywood tropes. Being able to see Jupiter through a telescope or the questionable decision for the colony to travel to one of the most volcanic Jupiter Moons are some of the more obvious examples of this here. On top of that, as we learn more about the progress and great work the colony are achieving via an old computer terminal, one does wonder why Sam has stuck around, especially given her genuine affection toward old flame Aeon who’s with the colony. Although this is explained somewhat through the character dialogue, it still raises many questions around the shaky foundations in which she finds her argument resting.
Having said that, some of the practical effects and use of props is really good here and coupled with some slick camera work, IO does enough on the technicality front to match up to the decent acting. The score is sombre and somewhat reflective too, making use of Sam’s conflicted feelings toward her mission throughout the film. Unfortunately her character is difficult to empathise with at times given her stubbornness to remain on Earth and it’s not until the midway point where you really start to come around to her.
IO is not a bad film, not is it a particularly memorable or good one either. As a piece of science fiction IO does okay but alongside so many other excellent films in this genre, it’s hard to recommend this over them. Wall-E tackles Earth’s pollution with more finesse, The Road hits that hopelessness perfectly and many other films have explored man’s relationship with the planet in the past with better action or drama. IO is a perfectly serviceable film, held together by the excellent chemistry between its two main characters, held back by wonky science and somewhat contrived character motives make it a mediocre entry at best.