By Dave B.
IO (Netflix) takes place in the near future after Earth has become toxic to most lifeforms, including humans. In response, humanity made an exodus to Jupiter’s moon Io and plans to begin colonizing the galaxy. On Earth, Sam (Margaret Qualley) lives a solitary life seeking a means to genetically alter life to Earth’s new hazardous conditions. Her normal routine is broken by a storm that destroys her most important experiment and the arrival of a mysterious stranger, Micah (Anthony Mackie), who is determined to get her onto the last transport ship off of Earth, before the planet is abandoned entirely. Anyone remaining on the homeworld will die.
IO is a quietly beautiful film. Seeing ancient art amid the decaying ruins of a once vibrant civilization is poignant and the movie’s messages of hope and the importance of relationships (of all types) is fitting for our modern world where people often finds themselves balanced between hyper-connectivity and extreme isolation. The performances by Qualley and Mackie are solid and at 93 minutes, IO is long enough to successfully serve its function as a love letter to Mother Earth and pay tribute to human perseverance, but short enough not to feel like a drag.
Not being too long is important because IO is an uneventful film. Nothing much happens. There are no surprises and few interpersonal conflicts of consequence. The plot is completely, utterly predictable, except insofar as it’s surprising that nothing really occurs in the film. There’s talking, philosophizing, some romance, and that’s about it. In and of itself, there’s nothing necessarily wrong with a film that consists primarily of quiet reflection. But IO doesn’t bring any new ideas to the table. At least none that are interesting enough to justify its extremely introspective nature.
I have mixed feelings about IO because, on the one hand, at no point in the movie did I think it was very good or particularly interesting. On the other hand, it didn’t bore me. Despite knowing what would happen, I was engaged in seeing how things would play out and, more importantly, in experiencing the love that Sam felt for a dying world. I’m not going to recommend IO, but I’m not going to actively dissuade people from watching it either. It falls firmly into the category of most of Netflix’s science-fiction movies: middling. If you’ve seen a trailer for this movie, you know exactly what you’re getting. Nothing more, nothing less. If that’s enough for you, go ahead and give it a watch.
I have no clue what I'm doing, but I'll keep doing whatever it is to the best of my ability.