VERY SMALL SPOILERS FOR IO AHEAD!
This was again another one of those weekends where I had a lack of things I wanted to watch. Or more so, should I say, I wasn’t in the mood to binge a TV show, because I was too lazy to think. Several times on my Netflix feed I had seen IO though, a sci-fi movie that seemed right for what I was in the mood for. Taking the plunge, I decided to give it a chance. As per usual, my review for it is simply my opinion. If you felt differently, that’s awesome and you continue doing you. Anyway, let’s get into it.
IO follows the story of Sam, a young woman who is one of the last humans trying to make a home on a dying Earth. After the arrival of Micah, who is looking for her famous scientist father, and learning the last ship heading for the colony IO will be departing in four days, Sam must decide whether she too should abandon Earth or stay to try to make a home.
- Sam’s internal conflicts and emotional turmoil are very interesting
I feel very few movies these days really emphasize internal conflict. Usually it is about beating some villain or murdering sharks or something external like that. There is nothing wrong with this, but there is often little in terms of a long examination in how a character is dealing with things internally. However, this film is 100% about internal conflict. Should Sam leave for IO despite wanting to believe in Earth? What about her father? What about Earth that has no one left to believe in it? What about Elon, her long distance love who is already living on IO? Every moment is dedicated to Sam’s internal struggle about what to do with her life, and this sort of struggle is very compelling. The movie makes sure to emphasize through other characters as well the gravity and impact the choice will have on her life, and this in turn helps create a strong connection with the character. All around, it was a refreshing look into a character’s soul, and in this aspect the movie truly excelled at.
- The plot is not really all that compelling due to a lack of pacing, goals, and urgency
For as much as the internal conflicts in the movie are fantastic, they also result in a rather large problem for the film: there really isn’t much of a plot. Rather, the movie feels more like an unfinished character study. Part of the plot problem comes from the pacing itself. A typical narrative structure has rising action and a climax that is supposed to provide stakes and tension. However, instead of a slowly rising mountain like it’s supposed to be, the story is more like a flat road with a few speed bumps. There is never really any tension in terms of the characters achieving their goals, connecting, or solving their conflicts. The movie feels more like a Sunday drive as opposed to a reflection of the life changing choice that is about to be made. Further, this is compounded by the sheer fact that the goals of the characters are either non-existent for much of the movie or handled with such a lack of urgency it’s laughable. While Micah does show some concern about missing the ship to IO, neither he nor Sam really do much about it except sit around and complain since the movie wants to focus on them connecting. All around, they are both passive characters when it comes to achieving their goals, and this in turn makes for a boring narrative that doesn’t really inspire you to care about what decisions they make regarding their lives and each other. This is never a good sign, nor is it the makings of a good movie.
- The twist is extremely predictable
Obviously, for the sake of keeping this review mostly spoiler free, I’m not going to reveal what the twist is. However, there is a bit of a mini twist involving Sam’s “living situation.” The way the movie plays it off, it’s pretty clear it assumes you’re going to be surprised and invested in the subsequent drama that should happen between Micah and Sam. It also has implications for Sam’s internal struggles as well, which you think would make it compelling since this is the movie’s highlight. First off, believe me when I say this twist is easily seen within the first few minutes the movie introduces you to Sam’s home and everyday life. There is no element of surprise and Sam’s attitude to certain questions makes it rather obvious. Second, even if you are surprised, the drama is barely there. Rather, Micah thanks her for her honesty and that’s it. Once revealed the twist has little to no bearing on the plot and the payoff is paltry at best. It has zero implications for their connection, zero implications for Sam’s internal struggles after that point, and so forth. While not the film’s hugest detriment, it is cringe worthy the movie even tries.
- I can’t even with the science
I am by no means claiming to be a scientific expert. However, I do like science and understand basic foundational material regarding it. This movie…this movie does not. This movie has such a poor understanding of how evolution and adaptation work that I can’t even. The issues within the movie’s science are so obvious you don’t need anything past a basic understanding to see where they might be wrong. It is so bad no amount of suspension of disbelief will save you from noticing the issues. Unfortunately, the movie’s end is heavily tied into this awful science. So when the end does come, it feels very much like a slap in the face and then a hit over the head with the pro-environment message it wanted to push. This one aspect alone had me raging throughout the entire movie and made me ashamed this was in the sci-fi genre.
Do not watch this awful movie. Internal struggles are great, but not when they’re put into the context of a plot weak story that uses awful science to push an agenda. There is no subtlety in the movie’s pro-environment message, nor any subtlety in the movie’s other messages about the importance of human connection. Frankly, any positivity this movie could have brought is lost with an overly blunt execution that fails to deliver a worthwhile story to make viewers care. I cannot recommend this movie on any grounds, so do yourself a favor and skip it like your life depends on it.