Thursday, 20 December 2018

Next Gen (2018) - Movie Review services are going to completely replace the traditional cinema in a few years. That’s not even speculation on my part, I’m taking that as a given with how much services like Netflix have changed our media consumption. And today’s film, I feel, is the penultimate signifier of that. Ads for Netflix series have been popping up on cinema screens for a while now, but this marks the first time I can recall a Netflix movie getting that kind of screen time. To the point where I’ve likely seen more ads for this than a decent amount of films I actually saw in cinemas this year. While we can consider the bigger ramifications of this elsewhere, the specificity of this has me curious: Is this film worth that much marketing push, or is this just another lacklustre effort being put on an artificial pedestal?

Spoiler alert: It’s the former. In fact, this is actually one of the strongest family films I’ve seen all year, on Netflix or otherwise. The animation is still of the highly bouncy variety, but its use in detailing the very robot-obsessed setting of Grainland looks quite appealing. The designs for the Q-Bots that populate a lot of the scenery look like something that people would actually buy into, and their mannerisms are on point too, even when they’re being not-so-Three-Laws like when they help a bully beat up the lead character Mai.

And speaking of Mai, Charlyne Yi’s performance for that rare rebellious teen character that isn’t grating to watch. The riot grrrl soundtrack backing her definitely helps with that, but in her initial bonding scenes with John Krasinski’s 7723, it hits mischievous in a pretty gratifying way. They don’t even go full-force into 7723 being the unwitting accomplice in what’s going on, given his character arc involving memories and knowing when to fight that makes for seriously cool scenes. I mean, it’s already cool watching him slice robots in half, but it means even more when it becomes clear what he had to do to get to that point.

The fact that 7723 is as sympathetic as he is is somewhat surprising, given this film’s overall view on robotics. It takes a definite I, Robot tone in how it shows the ubiquity of technology as humanity letting the enemy into their own homes, and numerous bits of dialogue throughout make this look like a natural progression of our current iGeneration. There’s a bit of a teething problem with balancing out the commentary on technology with 7723’s character… until all the pieces slide into place. 7723, someone who cherishes his memories so much that he’s willing to leave himself vulnerable to keep them intact, who considers those memories to be makes him who he is. Makes sense that the one good robot here would be the one who is the most human.

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