Netflix Review – Code 8: Almost the Movie It Should Be

Robbie and Stephen Amell bring us (yet another) movie about superpowered people being oppressed.


Back in the early 1900s, people started to develop superpowers, ranging from super strength to pyrokinesis to telepathy. Naturally, the government required them all to register their abilities. They quickly start advancing humanity rapidly, including building Lincoln City, a high-tech metropolis monitored and policed by robots and drones. Despite that, they’ve been progressively more and more attacked and restricted by the government. It’s now the 1990s and a drug called Psyke, made from the spinal fluid of powered people, is being distributed through the city by a gang called The Trust.

Code8 - 1Robots
Remember, it’s the ’90s and we have robots.

Connor Reed (Robbie Amell) is an extremely powerful electrokinetic whose mother (Kari Matchett) is dying of cancer. Due to the discrimination against Powers, he can’t get regular work and usually does day labor as an electrician (since he can touch wires without gloves). He later gets an offer from local criminal Garrett (Stephen Amell) to help him with a job. Connor accepts, leading to him getting caught up in a city-wide drug conflict. 


Earlier this year, I lauded the movie Freaks for showing some new and creative uses of superpowers and expanding a little bit on the concept of discrimination against different people that has been popular since the X-Men comics. I’m going to decline to laud this film for similar reasons. It doesn’t expand on the concept of people having superpowers being the target of prejudice, nor does it show any particularly creative or original uses of such abilities. Moreover, it doesn’t tell a compelling enough narrative to justify the lack of expansion. 

Code8 - 2DayLabor
I loved that scene in X2 where mutants are just sitting around waiting for work.

That’s not to say this is a bad movie. It isn’t. The performances are good, particularly the Amells, and the fight choreography and special effects are all above average. The interaction between Robbie Amell and Kari Matchett is appropriately touching, with Amell showing that Connor knows that what he’s doing to save her would break her heart. When he and Stephen Amell start to work together, they quickly feel like family (which makes sense, as they’re cousins) and you can see that this is something that Connor has never had before. If the movie were more about the struggles of a discriminated and hunted group surviving together, this would be amazing. Unfortunately, it’s still a movie about a criminal gang and plays up all of the tropes associated with it, which drains a lot of the drama.

Code8 - 3Cast
Nothing says family like an off-brand Denny’s.

What’s interesting is that the film actually started off with a lot of promise. The concept of powered people being valuable in the construction field is something that I think is not explored enough in most media. However, the film doesn’t follow that to the logical conclusion that people with powers would be unbelievably valuable… to the point that other countries would probably be offering massive benefits to them to get them to expatriate. Do you think that there’s not a good opening in some remote areas for a person who can generate massive amounts of electricity? How about someone who can cut metal with their bare hands or survive at zero degrees? Or a soldier with bulletproof skin? The movie tries to indicate that these people can’t afford the license to use their powers, but… yeah, that makes no sense in any kind of capitalist system. 

Code8 - 4Shocking
No way there can be a useful skill derived from this. No way at all. 

Overall, it wasn’t a bad movie, but since it didn’t do anything particularly original or interesting, I wouldn’t suggest moving it to the top of your list. If you want a movie to put on in the background, though, you could do worse. It’s fun, but I expect more from this genre after the last 20 years. 

If you want to check out some more by the Joker on the Sofa, check out the 100 Greatest TV Episodes of All TimeCollection of TV EpisodesCollection of Movie Reviews, or the Joker on the Sofa Reviews.

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