I believe I’ve said this before, but the increasing availability of special effects technology to those OTHER than big studios and effects houses has been nothing but a boon to fans of interesting and original sci-fi film. In the same way that lighter, cheaper, easy-to-use cameras paved the way for everyone from documentary filmmakers to the French New Wave, increased availability to special effects programs, as well as stuff like drone cameras, means we’ll see more work from directors with a vision that was outside their reach just a few years ago. Just recently, the animation software used by everyone from Futurama and Simpsons animators Rough Draft Studios to Studio Ghibli was made available to the public for free. You can bet that that’s going to lead to some interesting developments in animation, and a lot of people are eager to see what happens in the next few years as a result of this development.
But getting back to the present, a great example of the kind of original content that’s becoming more and more common these days is Code 8, a sci-fi short from director Jeff Chan. Code 8 takes place in a not-too-distant future where shiny sci-fi tech abounds, and people have begun to develop innate superhuman powers. Just don’t call them mutants, whatever you do, Marvel’s lawyers are a ravenous bunch. The short was funded via an Indiegogo campaign and acts as a proof-of-concept for a feature film version. By the looks of things, Chan put every dollar from the campaign to work, as Code 8 is an incredibly slick looking short. For one thing, it boasts a bit of star power in the form of Fast and Furious series alum Sung Kang, as well as Robbie and Stephen Amell, who also served as executive producers on the project.
The comparison a lot of people are probably already making as we speak is to Neil Blomkamp’s short Alive in Joburg, which served as the basis for District 9. While the subject matter is fairly different, there’s definitely a bit of Blomkamp’s DNA in Code 8. Like you see in Blomkamp’s work, the sci-fi tech of Code 8 keeps one foot in the realm of the plausible, like the police quad-copter drone or the cyclopean robots that could almost be extras from Chappie. But perhaps even more telling of the Blomkamp influence is the fact that, like District 9 and Elysium, Code 8 is using sci-fi to seemingly tell a story of social disenfranchisement, about marginalized groups struggling against the box society strives to keep them in.
But whatever the influences, Code 8 is a really interesting piece of work. If anything, it’s too open-ended, coming across less like a fully-functional short in its own right and more like a setup for something greater. Of course, that’s what it was intended to be from the start, so I can’t begrudge the film too much for this. But the visuals are solid and Chan definitely has a story he wants to tell, and the skill to tell it. Hopefully the short gains enough attention that he’s given the chance.
Take a look at Code 8 for yourself below.