Oct 19, 2018

[Movies] Next Gen (2018) Review

Netflix continues to churn out more and more original content in order to provide more original value versus other streaming services. And that apparently includes new animated ventures that will try to go head-to-head with streaming content from studios like Disney-Pixar and Dreamworks.

Next Gen is one of those tentpole efforts for original animated content as it certainly had the feel of a big budget animated feature. The movie certainly has a lot of familiar elements involved that you may or may not remember from other animated features that makes it almost feel like a marketing-driven story in terms of behind-the-scenes decision-making.

The movie was quirky and had its own share of fun to be had, certainly. But it also didn't quite hit the right notes perfectly and left me with mixed feelings. I keep saying this about Netflix original ventures but it again didn't feel terrible nor did it seem exceptional and so it was very middle of the road to me.

Synopsis: Next Gen is a direct-to-video animated movie written and directed by Kevin R. Adams and Joe Ksander. The movie is a Netflix-exclusive that debuted in September 2018.

In an indeterminate future, the city of Grainland is one that is supported by liberal use of robots for various functions including Q-Bots that help with domestic chores and other menial tasks. At the center of things is Mai Su (Charlyne Yi) who had a happy life until her parents got into a heated argument that ended with her father eventually leaving them. To cope with the loss of her husband, Mai Su's mother Molly (Constance Wu) gathers more and more Q-Bots to help her and thus shifting her attention away from her daughter.

This left Mai Su to grow up with feelings of neglect because of her mother and hostility towards robots in general to the point of violence. When her mother drags her to the Gen 6 Q-Bot launch event, she eventually wanders away from the main group and ends up stumbling on the lab of one Dr. Tanner Rice (David Cross). There she discovers his personal robot project, this being Project 7723 (John Krasinski) and ends up activating him and bringing his focus on her instead. Thus the robot seeks her out and tries to accompany her indefinitely.

What I Liked: The animation for the movie was pretty good and didn't feel like something dredged up from the scarier parts of YouTube. And they went a long way towards really dressing things up and giving us a lot of beauty shots and other moments that emphasize the quality of what they had created there.

The movie does have a lot of interesting story directions including the initially contrived but ultimately relevant twist of Project 7723's memory issues. As human-like he manages to behave throughout the movie, the whole bit about his limited memory storage and the need to delete his memories from the day was an interesting element to the story.

What Could Have Been Better: The movie does feel familiar in a variety of ways down to the almost WALL·E-like design of the robots and the rehashed bit about the protagonist hating the thing but ultimately loving the thing. The way these story beats land feel a little too calculated. And to have it all end with quite the dark twist felt like an attempt at a Pixar-like emotional whammy but instead fell a little flat.

On the whole it feels like the movie was eagerly trying to juggle making a warm-hearted story about a girl bonding with something that initially represented the worst aspects of her life and then with a weird dark conspiracy story with relatively high action. I don't quite get how it opted to go both ways to any degree of effectiveness.

TL;DR: Next Gen is a movie that is fun enough but not all that compelling to drive a new franchise or even a repeat viewing. It's funny at times and scary during others but not always coherent. Thus the movie gets a fair 3 surprise killer robots out of a possible 5.

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