ARQ is a Netflix original movie that stars Robbie Amell and Rachael Taylor. It tells an overly complex science fiction story of a man who keeps reliving the same day over again. This man, Renton (Robbie Amell), owns an energy source that can fix the war torn worlds problem of energy shortages. Unfortunately Renton’s house is broken into, and his captors seem in it to steal his money. Things get more complicated when every time Renton his killed by his captors, he wakes up and relives the experience. As Renton slowly learns more about the motives behind those who capture him, he tries to come up with an outcome where he doesn’t die. An overly complicated story that, you guessed it, frequently makes no sense.
ARQ honestly feels like it was written by a first year screenwriting student at an Ivy League college. It has some unique and interesting aspects about it, yet it feels jumbled and thrown together. There are so many plot holes it is not even funny. Often times I asked myself why characters made such irrational decisions.
Most science fiction films like to give us long speeches and extensive dialogue about the current state of the world. Movies like Elysium try to beat us over the head with symbolism of how our culture is too thirsty for power and energy. The separation of the rich and the poor. How we all need to just get along and be kind to one another. This boring, standard science fiction symbolism really needs to stop.
In ARQ, the state of the world is kept somewhat vague. You can hear little tidbits about a huge energy crisis, war in the Middle East, and some panoramic shots of destroyed cities. Other than that things are very unclear. I kind of liked this about ARQ, to the extent that it isn’t drowning us in obvious, beat you over the head symbolism.
However there is a big downside to this as well. Things are so vague that I had no idea what characters were talking about. The protagonists kept talking about a war between the Bloc and Torus. Who is the Bloc? Who is Torus? What do they stand for? What is the war even about? Many questions are raised yet nothing is ever answered. At one point they mention Torus is a corporation and the Bloc is made up of rebels, but that is so basic and generic I refuse that as a viable answer.
Robbie Amell and Rachael Taylor really phoned these performances in, at least for the first half of the film. They often look pretty disinterested in what is happening and overall just bored. Their performances get much better as time goes on, but it’s hard to suddenly get the audience invested in the protagonists half way through the film.
The plot really thickens in the second half of the film, and that’s where ARQ gets interesting. The events get a little more engaging because the story structure gets a little less formulaic. So if you can survive the first half, then the second should be much more bearable.
If nothing else on Netflix is looking good, I don’t think watching this is going to kill you. However ARQ is not a film I can recommend in good conscience. The story is overloaded with vague sci-fi jargon, has many plot holes, and is weak on characters. It is similar to many science fiction films that have been released in the past few years, only those were better. I wish I could say better things about ARQ, but all of it’s many problems hindered my ability to properly enjoy my experience.
The Verdict: C