By Dave B.
In Next Gen (Netflix) the world is filled with robots. Nearly anything you can imagine, from the police to fences to toothbrushes, is an intelligent robot. The main character of the movie is Mai, a rebellious young teenage girl with a strong antipathy towards the roboticised existence that everyone lives in. While on a trip with her robot-obsessed mother to the corporate unveiling of the newest generation of Q-bots (a type of artificial personal companion), Mai encounters “Project 77”: a robot unlike any other. Eventually, Mai and Project 77 develop a very dysfunctional friendship, overcome assorted obstacles that estrange them, and face off against an existential threat to humanity.
Next Gen definitely isn’t a great movie, largely because it has too much going on in the first two acts and little of what is going on is particularly interesting. The plot is entirely formulaic and derivative. The movie is packed with just about every generic friendship theme that you can think of and none of them are presented in a particularly compelling or inventive way. Everything that happens in Next Gen is predictable. This might not be much of a problem for it’s target audience of pre-teen kids, but its nearly two-hour runtime probably will be. There simply isn’t enough of interest happening in the first two-thirds of the movie to hold the attention of most adults, let alone an active or hyperactive child.
That said, the third act is MUCH better. The action ramps up and the movie’s true strength (it’s stunning animation) is given free rein to impress. I have to give Netflix props: Next Gen has some of the best visual animation that I have seen from an American studio, bar none. The final half-hour of the movie was slickly produced and extremely well-executed. In the movie as a whole, the world-building and the voice acting are definite strengths, but they can only contribute so much to improving a film with an uninspired script.
After a lot of thought, I’m going to recommend Next Gen, but with some caveats. First, forget about trying to get a kid younger than around 8-10 years old or so to sit through this entire movie in one sitting. It won’t happen unless you’re raising the next Buddha. Second, Next Gen doesn’t offer much that is new, so if you are going into it expecting a revolutionary storytelling experience, you’ll be disappointed. Lastly, the final 30-35 minutes of the movie really are worth sitting through the other hour-plus of it, so if you decide to give Next Gen a try, you can be confident that you patience will be rewarded.
I have no clue what I'm doing, but I'll keep doing whatever it is to the best of my ability.