“It’s like we were doomed to destroy our planet … I call it human nature.”
IO, which is now streaming on Netflix, never really takes off. Set in a future where pollution has rendered Earth uninhabitable, it just so happens that one woman has stayed behind with her father to try to save it. Sam (Margaret Qualley) narrates most of the prologue to get us up to date regarding the future history of apocalypse Earth. She introduces us to her hideaway; her history; her experiments with bees, which would apparently serve as a bellwether for a renewed atmosphere. The titular IO is a spaceship manned by the remnants of humanity, rocketing away from our solar system to an alternatively habitable planet. We learn quickly the last ships from Earth to the IO leave in four days. Sam has to decide whether to join them.
And then Micah (Anthony Mackie) shows up, a mysterious man in a makeshift balloon who knows about the history of Sam’s father, Henry (Danny Huston).
The “lone survivor who meets a mysterious second survivor” is a trope played out through all of science-fiction, and IO doesn’t really bring anything new to it. In fact, IO brings nothing new in any way. It’s hard to fault the actors for this; they do fine for the material. But Netflix has few must-see features and many that aren’t worth bothering with, and this is among the latter. Several attempts at thematic resonance fall flat because very little happens to develop the characters. It’s glorified white noise.
Oddly, for a movie about the future, what IO most brought to mind were the teen YA dystopian novels from the mid-2010s. The setup is just so standard. Sam’s father issues, when they reared their head, just made me groan with recognition. Because of course. And the ending — on a beach, with a little nameless child running into the future. Spoilers? You know that’s exactly where this is going. The movie never explains what makes Earth more rationally favorable to the IO’s longshot trip of species survival. It boils down to what makes it special for Sam, but that doesn’t mean she learns anything in the process.
It’s just inert, sadly. There’s a need for mid-budget science-fiction, and occasionally Netflix provides. But not this time.