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High schooler Tom (Bill Milner) is your average invisible boy so to speak, a skinny, nebbish type who hasn’t many friends, a daydreamer in class, and a target for bullies. He has a crush on Lucy (Maisie Williams), a somewhat popular girl that shows some interest and one day invites him over to her house. When he gets there, he finds the place under attack by a group of masked intruders who have beaten Lucy’s brother and about to do worse to her.
When they spot him, he hesitates and then runs, trying to call police, but is shot while doing so. Fortunately, the bullet is deflected by the phone to his ear, but fragments of the mobile’s circuits become lodged and surgically impossible to remove from his cortex. In a coma for ten days, he wakes and goes home, but soon discovers that he can see and hear what’s happening on other people’s phones, and eventually can manipulate other electrical devices.
Doing this allows him to track down who was behind the attack, and so begins to use his power to enact revenge. As his powers increase, he soon has reign over the entire city of London, able to connect to any and all networks, working as a shadowed vigilante superhero-type able to tap into cameras, police feeds, GPS and much more, just by thinking about it. With that, iBoy takes to the streets.
Directed by Adam Randall, iBoy is a Netflix original film that clearly draws on a number of other influences, including Luc Besson‘s Lucy, the Ubisoft Watch Dogs video game series, and the unorthodox superhero trend in general. While the idea of a few broken shards of a cellphone jammed into one’s brain possibly inducing the superhuman feats iBoy possesses is obviously fantastical, it’s a sci-fi fantasy that seems ripe for the times. Unfortunately, there’s not much imagination in the presentation, with Tom “seeing” electronic displays in his mind in ways we’ve seen countless times before, and a plot that settles for a dull crime caper rather than something a little more clever.
That said, there can be no blaming the actors, with Milner especially good as Tom, taking the tropes of the high school loser turned hero to good heights, giving the boy a good sense of tragedy behind the powers. Despite his abilities, he is haunted by what he sees as cowardice in running from Lucy before he got shot. Still, the film is far more adult than the target audience would seem intended with some graphic teen violence, extreme profanity, and some very dark themes that keep it too heavy for younger viewers who might have enjoyed it more.
Williams is also powerfully good, very effective in a challenging role that might have seen her play vulnerable but instead is empowered in her hands. She shows tremendous depth and has the film’s most impressive moments as she fights her way away from being the traditional girl in distress victim. After her poor showing in The Book of Love, it’s good to see that the right role is all it takes. She saves a lot of this movie.
The larger problem with iBoy though is the general lack of momentum, along with its mostly predictable path. There are no surprises, from who the bad guys are to how iBoy deals with them to the final conflict and tidy resolution. And it’s all set to a generic electronic score that does little to keep any interest. iBoy has the potential to be an interesting character (and perhaps a franchise), but the the speed at which he learns and uses his powers, let alone the localized manner in which he applies it, all keep this at B-movie level with some fun moments that feel like a missed opportunity.
Movie description: iBoy is a 2017 sci-fi action movie about a high school boy who develops unique powers after he wakes from a coma with parts of his cellphone embedded in his brain.
Director(s): Adam Randall
Actor(s): Maisie Williams, Rory Kinnear, Miranda Richardson
Genre: Action, Sci-Fi