June 24, 2024

Bionic 2024 Movie Review

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Bionic 2024 Movie Review

There will always be something uniquely intriguing to science fiction movies that reflect on how we can change our bodies via technology. The liberation that can come from shedding the more fragile parts of ourselves to instead become stronger, faster, and, potentially, nearly invulnerable, makes for an inherently engaging entry point. Of course, with this freedom comes a fundamental question: what makes us human? Is our fragility part of being alive? What is lost when we are turned into a machine that can be a tool for others? When Peter Weller’s Alex Murphy became an android following a terrible accident in RoboCop, was he still the man that he was before nearly all of his body was replaced? Does the path to personal discovery in Alita: Battle Angel mimic what it means to find purpose in our own lives?

These are all interesting questions that are there in the background of Netflix’s Bionic, which ends up feeling like it combines both of those movies with mixed results. The latest in the run of iffy sci-fi movies for the streamer, following duds like Rebel Moon – Part Two: The Scargiver and Atlas, it always seems like it is stopping short of making the big leaps that it needs to. Directed by Afonso Poyart and written by Josefina Trotta, it is increasingly stuck in the middle between two different films. One is a sports drama surrounding an athlete who is given a second chance at competing. With the new potential for bionic limbs, she can now run faster and jump higher than ever before. The other is a thriller surrounding a heist gone awry that soon expands outwards into this sports world. Each story has some potential promise, but the film is never able to meld the two together. When dragged down by some shaky visual effects, it’s an experience that remains increasingly stuck on the ground.

The year is 2035 and, via what becomes a tiresome narration, we learn the story of Maria (Jessica Córes) who trained for years to be the next great track athlete and follow in the footsteps of her similarly talented mother. However, this all changed with the rise of bionic limbs that are infinitely better than flesh and blood. Thus, when her sister gets a bionic limb and becomes a superstar athlete, Maria lives in her shadow. Similarly, Bionic lives in the shadow of the work of Neill Blomkamp who, at one point in time, was making films that grappled with similar ideas and looked infinitely better doing so. In this lesser film, the mysterious and often menacing Heitor (Bruno Gagliasso) takes part in a heist for diamonds, serving as the getaway driver, that will help fund his aspirations for reshaping the world.

This ends with him falling far short of what he needs and also with a significant loss. Thus, he’ll end up needing to find another way to carry out his plans. That is where he looks to Maria and sees the potential for her to fit into his plans. With an investigation looming over everything and a sudden “accident” that makes her a prime candidate to get a bionic limb of her own, everything starts to escalate just about as you’d expect from there. Bionic just never builds to anything particularly interesting, leaving its characters largely stranded in a by-the-numbers family sports drama that crashes into a more haphazard sci-fi thriller. You’ve seen it all before and, even worse, will likely forget about it by the time it’s over.

2024 has been host to its fair share of fascinating cinematic sci-fi visions that have struck this balance, namely the smaller scale though still stunning Mars Express, which made you feel for the characters just as it immersed you in its futuristic world. Bionic, unfortunately, is a film that is robotic in all the wrong ways. It feels like we’ve seen all this before and, frankly, often done better. When it comes to the effects, it isn’t the budget as something like the underrated 2014 film The Signal was able to do quite a lot with very little, including when it came to robotic limbs. The problems that trouble Bionic have more to do with the way the action is staged, making everything from an early shootout to the concluding big action sequence never quite feel real. You can see the seams in practically every frame.

Perhaps trying to take a page out of the work of Zack Snyder, the film often puts things into slow motion, seemingly hoping this will make everything playing out more engaging. Not only does this not happen, but it highlights how sluggish everything is. Both formally and narratively, it all seems more like multiple television pilots stitched together instead of a complete film. Some of the ideas are interesting, but they are often clunkily introduced, like when we learn that athletes with bionic limbs pushing themselves too hard could send them into a coma. Rather than reckon with this on a psychological level and what it could reveal about the people who are willing to risk this, it just feels like a way to inject tension where the film otherwise was lacking it. It helps in pieces, but not enough to salvage the film writ large.

You pretty much know everything there is to know and, even as it attempts to reach for something more tragic in the conclusion, everything just hangs there with little weight to it. The core of the film, supposedly about sisters bonding and realizing they had more in common than either could have realized, gets lost in the shuffle of a more superficial work of sci-fi. One final jump into the future, with the most cloying narration of the whole thing, only makes it all the more clear that it was running out of steam and grasping around for something to end on. Bionic is science fiction with nothing new to say about the mind, body, or soul, proving to be just an empty assembly of parts rather than a cohesive whole.

Bionic 2024 Movie Review