Tuesday, 5 December 2017

Movie Review: iBoy (2017)



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The plot: After a visit to a friend goes horribly wrong, meek high school kid Tom (Bill Milner) ends up with chunks of his smartphone lodged in his head. As he recovers from the shooting that resulted in said embedding of phone parts, he discovers that he now has the ability to control electronics with his mind. While his best friend Lucy (Maisie Williams) deals with her own after-effects of that same night, Tom, known in Internet circles as iBoy, sets out to find the people responsible and stop the vicious cycle of crime occurring in his neighbourhood.




Milner is a bit of a blank slate as our lead, only really having his powers and his quest for revenge to separate him from the nearest hunk of drywall. Not exactly the makings of a great superhero. Williams, by extreme contrast, is simply brilliant as Lucy. What so easily could have become a basic Woman In Refrigerator situation with how her being raped is meant to cause Tom to take action ends up actually allowing her to have a character beyond just what happens to her. Hell, when she’s given a chance to be the badass herself, she ends up outclassing our title character. Kind of makes me wish this film was about her getting superpowers. Richardson as Tom’s nan is quite fun, having great rapport with Milner while also getting some pretty cool moments that show her own connections to the criminal underworld revolving around their flat. Charley Palmer Rothwell fits the bill as the leader of the initial group of hoods, Aymen Hamdouchi easily comes across the most authentic in terms of gangster cred, and Rory Kinnear may end up getting a lot of the film’s best quips, all of which he delivers well, his performance is rather undercut by the fact that his character in no way should know as much as he does.

For those who have keeping up with my last few reviews, I’m a bit of a stickler for things making clear sense in films. As much as unnecessary exposition can hold back a film, exposition itself exists for a reason and some stories honestly need some form of explanation on why things are happening as they do. I bring this up because this high-concept idea doesn’t do a whole lot in terms of logistics with its main concept. Bits of smartphone lodged in his brain, now he can control anything electrical; that’s about as much rationalization as we get. And honestly, the lack of explanation kind of works. I mean, the idea itself isn’t that far-fetched; it’s basically the fact that we all carry sophisticated technology around with us everywhere in our phones taken to its logical extreme. I’d call this WatchDogs: The Movie, if it weren’t for the fact that that comparison would make this film sound a lot worse than it actually is. Rather than flat-out explaining things, the film mostly just shows what Tom/iBoy is capable of, in a way that is essentially the polar opposite of Killer App: Stylish but with purpose, and only disorienting when it needs to be.

I mentioned Milner playing a superhero earlier and, the more I think about it, the more apt that seems. With Netflix currently fighting its own part in the War For Comic Book Supremacy through its Marvel Defenders universe of shows, it seems like a good platform for other stories of a similar ilk to spring forth. Between the high school intercut scenes to the ostensible origin story that is the event that creates iBoy’s powers, even down to the final encounter with the big bad villain, this has the trappings of a story fit for the sequential page. However, that is only subtext behind what the film actually is: A revenge thriller, and a pretty by-the-numbers one at that. Having sat through films like Kaabil and The Foreigner this year, I feel like I’ve seen half of this movie already, even considering this film’s own unique selling point. The pacing is near-identical to those other works I mentioned, there’s the same questioning about the morals of the vigilante’s actions, and all of this ends up suffocating the moments directly linked to iBoy’s powers. There’s a small subplot about his presence online and how there is a community of people who react to his actions, for good and for ill. That easily could have been extrapolated into something meatier, but what we ultimately end up getting is the first Kingsman film if Eggsy’s upbringing in a council flat was the entire film.

All in all, as derivative as this ends up feeling, this is still a pretty decent effort. The acting ranges from bland to outright awesome, the visuals tap into some Lucy-esque imagery to have the titular character’s powers make sense to great effect, and while the writing definitely follows the standard revenge thriller formula almost to the letter, it also manages to give a real sense of danger to iBoy’s environment, making his actions morally grey but also arguably necessary. It follows the rulebook both for the clich├ęs and the parts that allow those stories to make some degree of sense. If you’re looking for something to watch on Netflix, it’s worth a gander if for Maisie Williams’ performance alone. It ranks higher than The Dark Tower, as this film may be rehashed but it isn’t nearly as cluttered or as inconsistent as that. However, this still falls short of Kenneth Branagh’s Murder On The Orient Express and that’s mainly for objective reasons. This film looks okay whereas that film looks stunning.

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