Hit Or Miss: Netflix's The I-Land
By way of writer/director Neil LaBute comes Netflix’s new sci-fi series, The I-Land. The show stars Natalie Ramiraz, Kate Bosworth, Alex Pettyfer, Kyle Schmid, and Gilles Geary. The premise revolves around ten people who wake up on a seemingly deserted island with no memory of how they got there. Over time, it becomes clear that things are not as they seem. As they attempt to make their way home, the island becomes increasingly treacherous and they must learn to work together. If this sounds familiar, then you’ve likely seen the show Lost.
The trailer reveals a departure from the Lost comparison when it shows the nature of the island itself. Chase, played by Natalie Ramirez, is interrogated by an unknown agency about her experiences in the “simulation”. The show oddly situates itself before the main events, answering the most obvious question about the nature of the island. New questions emerge regarding the organization behind the island, its true purpose, and who on the island is aware of the circumstances. The rather on-the-nose title seems to reveal quite a bit about the show. The isolation of the “I” really drives home the psychological aspects of the show that draws connections to Lord Of The Flies.
Everything in the trailer seems deliberately confusing and it’s unclear what exactly is going on. Despite some well known actors involvement, the acting comes across as overdone. The trailer reveals that the island is a simulation. There are right and wrong decisions to be made. The island responds to wrong decisions with some kind of retaliation. The protagonist, Chase, is tasked with recounting her experience and the main events of the show take place before her interrogation. There is a southern man in a ten gallon hat that seems to know a lot about how the island functions. His big reveal is that “if you die in there...you’re dead out here too”. The show seems caught up in its sci-fi psycho-drama conceit without consideration for subtlety and nuance.
The difficulty with a show like this is the reliance on a big and satisfying reveal. The whole framework doesn’t breath life into the popular genre. Simulations have been a huge part of the genre since The Matrix. Black Mirror has further proliferated this trope. Nothing about a simulated island full of secret challenges screams, “new” or “original”. This is ground that has been covered many times over. For this reason, The I-Land is a definite miss.