If you mix the brilliant futurism of Big Hero 6 with the marginally darker cautionary story parts of WALL-E, you may find yourself with one thing like Next Gen, a Netflix unique animated function now obtainable for streaming. The film mixes in a narrative of dealing with loss with science fiction and delicate social commentary proper earlier than it turns into an motion movie on the very finish, which may make it a considerably disjointed expertise however one which’s nonetheless value taking for a spin across the block.
Next Gen facilities on Mai, a indignant teenage woman dwelling together with her single mom in an unnamed metropolis 15 minutes sooner or later, the place robots deal with almost all the mundane day by day duties of life and depart individuals to do little however pursue leisure in more and more distracted and disconnected methods (social commentary that feels a bit underdeveloped and softened from one thing extra biting and significant). Mai’s anger facilities round her father, who left the household when Mai was younger after which died earlier than a reconciliation was attainable (and the depiction of this occasion and its influence on Mai underneath the opening credit is among the most profitable elements of the film). The anger colours all her relationships, and appears particularly directed in the direction of all of the robotic helpers that encompass them. A visit to the headquarters of iQ Robotics (led by the charismatic Justin Pin) leads Mai to find a wierd new robotic hidden away in a secret nook of the constructing. The robotic, a seeming clean slate with no apparent job, imprints on Mai and follows her residence, leading to an odd-couple relationship that grows extra intriguing when the robotic reveals a staggering cache of weaponry at its disposal. What begins as teenage revenge fantasy lashing out quickly turns a lot darker because the robotic’s function and its hyperlink to iQ Robotics’ latest product is slowly revealed.
The lead human characters of Next Gen and Big Hero 6 share a defining grief that they need to discover ways to deal with as their films unfold, however Hiro’s single-minded concentrate on catching the person who killed his brother is traded for Mai’s unfocused anger that’s directed at every part round her. This does make her a barely much less sympathetic character than Hiro on the outset, however the script and Charlyne Yi’s dynamic vocal efficiency as Mai hold her from turning into unlikable. John Krasinski lends the robotic slightly little bit of sweetness and humanity, which inserts the best way robots perform in Next Gen‘s world. Interestingly, Mai doesn’t hassle giving him a reputation, whereas the credit dub him “Project 77” based mostly on a throwaway line a lot earlier within the film. This is likely one of the extra fascinating nuances of their relationship, demonstrating that she doesn’t consider it as something greater than a software initially and that it doesn’t have sufficient true humanity to be bothered by this. It additionally advantages from an enthralling character design that facilities on very giant eyes and an outsized higher physique supported by tiny little legs.
Next Gen follows within the footsteps of many science fiction films by tasking its robotic result in be oblique commentary on the character of being human. Its reminiscence core is broken throughout its departure from iQ Robotics, limiting its capability to retain reminiscences for danger of a full system failure. This forces it right into a nightly ritual the place it has to decide on which of the day’s reminiscences to retain and which to delete, which is an fascinating mechanism to chronicle the rising friendship between the 2 in a approach that doesn’t give the robotic an excessive amount of of a Pinocchio complicated. We can perceive why Mai grows extra hooked up to her mechanical good friend, regardless of her single-minded resistance to interacting with robots in any respect. The plot system of the robotic’s restricted reminiscence capability manages to be one thing we will perceive and venture human emotions and sentiments on to, whereas making certain that the robotic stays a machine. It’s just like the best way Big Hero 6‘s Baymax feels much like a GPS repeating canned phrases that humans (both us and in the movie) can project intention and sentiment. The robots don’t grow to be human as a lot as individuals achieve sympathy for the machine. Next Gen manages to stretch this parallel far additional than one may assume at first blush, although it’s additionally not a lot of a shock that this specific Chekhov’s gun figures prominently within the film’s last act.
Unfortunately, Next Gen suffers from a barely padded second act, after Mai meets her robotic pal however earlier than the revelation of extra sinister machinations at work. The pacing on this part is barely off, making the event of the woman-and-her-robotic friendship drag a bit too lengthy whereas the secondary plot engine will get barely brief shrift. This signifies that the motion-packed third act feels a bit misplaced, regardless of how thrilling and emotionally satisfying it’s. While Big Hero 6 adopted superhero film tropes fairly persistently for the period, Next Gen feels extra like a relationship film proper as much as the purpose when it all of a sudden isn’t. The transition is a bit jarring, and I’d even argue that the large motion sequence that closes the film runs a bit too lengthy. Still, it’s fairly profitable at incorporating most of the plot threads which were dropped alongside the best way, and I admit I’d really feel in another way concerning the film on a re-watch.
The undeniable fact that I look ahead to re-watching Next Gen in all probability says a lot about its high quality, no matter no matter quibbles I may need with it. It won’t be as groundbreaking as I feel it aspired to be, however profitable performances and strong fundamentals make it an interesting general package deal.
Next Gen is out there for streaming now on Netflix.
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