Game of Thrones star Maisie Williams and Bill Milner appear in this young adolescent sci-fi movie about Tom (Milner), a 16 year old who develops superpowers after fragments of his iPhone get stuck in his brain. Based on a Kevin Brooks novel of the same name, iBoy constructs a narrative around a shady London council estate, against a backdrop of teenage gang crime, minimal House music and blue-tinged lighting.
This film carries its audience along for the ride as they see Tom transform from awkward teen to only slightly less awkward superhero vigilante. It is entertaining throughout but after the first three quarters the boundaries of the protagonist’s powers start to get a little stretched, even for sci-fi. The narrative thankfully manages to steer away from painting Maisie Williams’s character as a perpetual victim, but after a while Tom’s crusade to protect Lucy gets tiring. iBoy navigates some tense moments that are carried well but despite the pretty solid cast, which also includes Rory Kinnear as drug-lord Ellman, the relationships don’t quite strike the viewer as being wholly believable.
The filming locations are atmospheric, taking place on London canal paths, abandoned warehouses and Hackney streets. Audiences may have to suspend their disbelief as the depiction of East London seems to hark back to a pre-gentrification era – not a minimalist café or art student in sight – although, admittedly, a more realistic portrayal wouldn’t exactly be in keeping with the tempo of the movie.
Confusingly, Will Poulter and not Bill Milner appears on iBoy’s official poster. This seems to be because Poulter was originally cast as Tom, but the fact that Netflix apparently couldn’t be bothered to create a new one might indicate their aspirations for the film.
With its gratuitous swearing and edgy location this is probably one for suburban teenagers who want to feel like they’re being a bit naughty. This made-for-Netflix feature is clearly trying to tap the same vein as Attack the Block and Kidulthood and it’s not totally unsuccessful; but it’s hard to imagine that iBoy will become a cult classic.
Tarn Rodgers Johns
iBoy is released on Netflix on 27th January 2017.
Watch the trailer for iBoy here: