‘Code 8 Part II’ Review: Jeff Chan Continues To Show His Love For ‘X-Men’ In A Sincere But Muddled Sequel


Back in 2019, during the height of the MCU and the lowest point for the X-Men franchise, Jeff Chan released Code 8, starring cousin brothers Robbie Amell and Stephen Amell in the lead. I am sure a decent amount of people have watched it, but I wasn’t aware of it until now because the landscape was so stuffed with superhero movies that it got buried. And, I have to say, it was one of the best entries in the subgenre. It certainly will go on to age better than its contemporaries due to its succinct political commentary and earnest presentation. To put it crudely, it was an amalgamation of X-Men and Michael Mann’s Heat, and, weirdly enough, it worked. Five years have passed since then, and the superhero landscape has changed quite a lot. Has Jeff Chan’s world of powered individuals and fascist cops evolved accordingly for Code 8 Part II? Let’s find out.

Jeff Chan’s Code 8 Part II, which he has co-written with Chris Paré, Sherren Lee, and Jesse LaVercombe, opens with Connor walking out of the jail, thereby confirming that he did surrender himself to the authorities after his crime spree with Garrett to save his mother. Garrett is the one who comes to give Connor a ride to Lincoln City because that’s the least he can do for the man who took the fall for everyone. But Connor makes it clear that he doesn’t want to associate himself with Garrett anymore. The narrative moves forward by 3 months. Connor is doing odd jobs at the community center and has an amicable relationship with its admin, Mina. Garrett has become a full-on gangster who is “ethically” producing and distributing Psyke (the drug made of the spinal fluid of those with superpowers). The ban on using superpowers hasn’t been entirely enforced. The Guardian program (the killer police bots) has been pulled back, and the LCPD is pushing for robotic K9 units, which are led by Sgt. Kingston, Officer Stillman, and Officer Cirelli. Amidst all this, there is a girl called Pavani whose brother, Tarak, has been killed, and she somehow ends up at the doorstep of the community center. Garrett and Kingston want to capture her, while Connor wants to protect her, and that is what forms the crux of the story.

The writing in Code 8 Part II is really messy. Yes, the first movie had a lot of moving parts, but its stakes, goals, and journey were pretty easy to understand. Connor wanted to save his mother, but he didn’t have any money. So he partnered up with Garrett and took up a life of crime. If he succeeded, he’d lose himself but save his mother. If he failed, he’d lose himself and his mother. Like I said, simple. In the sequel, the writers double down on the themes established by its predecessor and talk about police brutality, extrajudicial punishment, corruption within law enforcement authorities, drug peddling, racial passing, classism, and more. In this process, though, the dynamic between the central characters becomes hollow. The actions of the characters are integral to the plot, which is quite directionless at times, but that doesn’t necessarily translate to emotional depth or any form of relatability. It’s never clear what will happen if the heroes succeed or fail. Allegiances keep changing without much thought. And then it all ends in such a haphazard manner. I’ve no doubt that Chan and his team are trying to pay homage to Logan and Black Mirror’s Metalhead, but instead of committing to its road trip or  race for survival framework, it ends up going in circles.

When it comes to the visual storytelling of Code 8 Part II, it’s a mixed bag. There’s an expected downgrade in terms of the crispness of the images, and I say “expected” because it has that Netflix look that you can see in almost every single one of their products. Just put up a generic frame from the first movie and the second movie side-by-side, and you’ll notice the difference. The VFX and CGI, which were flawless in the first film, have also taken a hit. That said, the way the powers are presented on-screen has improved a lot. The use of slow motion to accentuate Connor’s electric powers will make Zack Snyder and Michael Bay proud. There’s a scene where the sprinklers go off and Connor begins to charge up, and if you know basic science, you won’t be able to stop yourself from feeling at least a little bit excited. There’s a shootout that’s executed perfectly. The hand-to-hand fights are edited very poorly, though. The overall pacing is bad. But then again, Chan’s handling of the film’s tone is worth appreciating. Nowadays, every superhero film (or show) tries to be a comedy and poke fun at its premise. Chan doesn’t do all that. Both of his films have a high level of sincerity and humor, and in a way, that’s refreshing.

The performances in Code 8 Part II are great across the board. My favorite out of the lot is Jean Yoon. She plays Mina. She doesn’t have a lot of screentime, but as soon as she enters the frame, she exudes a kind of warmth that’s necessary to counteract all the bleakness in the film. Her chemistry with Robbie Amell is so sweet. And her final scene is terrific. Sirena Gulamgaus is amazing. It is such a somber performance. She really makes you feel the pain and depression that Pavani is feeling just with her eyes and her body language. If the writing was better, then Connor and Pavani’s relationship would’ve been as memorable as Logan and Laura’s. The acting talent is there. They just needed that push from the writing. Robbie is good, especially during his moments of indecisiveness. He always makes sure that his character comes off as a bit of a square and not the quippy, snarky, street-smart superheroes that we are familiar with. Stephen Amell is a controversial figure, but he plays Garrett like he has lived in his skin. Alex Mallari Jr. is great and there’s a lot of material underneath the surface of Kingston. Unfortunately, it’s not explored fully. Aaron Abrams is back. Where the hell is Sung Kang? Maybe he’s Furiously busy. The rest of the supporting cast is decent. They get some good action-packed moments.

All in all, I didn’t really mind Code 8, Part II. I had some expectations, especially since I liked Code 8 so much, and some of them were met and some of them weren’t. What is really cool, though, is that, while big production houses with even bigger superhero franchises are putting out bland and boring movies and shows, Jeff Chan is making sure that his superhero movies are more than just “dumb fun.” I am aware of the fact that the actual X-Men, in live-action and animation, are making a return. But since they are under Disney’s control, I have a feeling that they won’t be able to do justice to their roots. Meanwhile, here’s Jeff, imbuing his personal X-Men with all kinds of political commentaries and relevant messages, along with a healthy dose of emotional drama. I hope that he gets to make more Code 8 films while improving his storytelling and craft. I am rooting for him.

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Pramit Chatterjee
Pramit Chatterjee
Pramit loves to write about movies, television shows, short films, and basically anything that emerges from the world of entertainment. He occasionally talks to people, and judges them on the basis of their love for Edgar Wright, Ryan Gosling, Keanu Reeves, and the best television series ever made, Dark.

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