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TAC Reviews...Next Gen

Date Posted: 4/05/20

 

A 2018 computer generated film available on Netflix is based on the online Chinese comic 7723 by Wang Nima. The film was directed by Kevin R.Adams and Joe Ksander. The films stars the voices of John Krasinski, Charlyne Yi, Jason Sudeikis, Michael Pena with David Cross and C0nstance Wu.

 

Next Gen Image

 

The other day I was in the mood for an animated movie and having watched Kung Fu Panda 2 and Megamind I decided that I wanted something that I hadn’t seen before. Whilst browsing through Netflix I discovered Next Gen which admittedly looked like it might be a rip off of the likes of Big Hero Six or I, Robot, still I hadn’t seen it so I sat down to give it a watch.

 

In a futuristic city (the year is not given) robots are as common place as mobile phones, a young girl Mai sees her father leaving after an argument with her mother. It is not directly stated but is implied this is the last time that she sees her father as he dies off screen. Her mother, Molly, seemed to continue as normal lavishing attention on her Q-Bot robots resulting in Mai growing up angry, and hating robots for taking her mother’s attention away from her.

 

Mai is dragged along to a Robot Expose in which the latest Q-Bot robot model is being unveiled, not interested Mai wanders off and stumbles into an underground lab with a state-of-the-art robot unlike any that have existed before. She accidently activates it before the security robots apprehend her and return her to her mother.

 

The activated robot, 7723, starts to tracks her down to return her school bag which she dropped when security grabbed her.

 

At school Mai is held down by several students’ Q-Bots and given a black eye by a bully. It is later that night when 7723 catches up with her. Whilst defending her from her toothbrush Mai realises that 7723 is a battle-bot equipped with numerous sophisticated weapons. She decides to use him to take revenge on as many robots as she can to vent her frustrations whilst doing so 7723 creates new memories.

 

With the newest Q-Bot about to be revealed Mai’s good time is about to end as a threat emerges that could consume destroy all humans, and 7723 might be the only thing capable of stopping it...

 

If you’ve ever seen robot movies like Big Hero Six, Wall-E or I, Robot then you are probably going to make the same assumption I did that this is basically a rip off of bits and pieces of all of them that are Frankenstein-ed together to make something new. However, this film pretty quickly distinguishes itself from those because Mai is not an innocent child-like creation like Wall-E, nor is she full of untapped potential like the kid in Big Hero Six. Basically she is an angry teenager, she lost her father, and her mother used her Q-Bot as a replacement. She barely pays any attention to Mai and there is a sequence when her mother’s Q-Bot has prepared dinner for her, and offers her a foot rub. In this world robots have almost replaced people as companions and Mai hates it. She despises the robots and to make things worse pretty much everything in this world is a robot including hair and toothbrushes. So there is nowhere that she can go to escape them, only her dog seems to be happy to spend time with her and lavish her with the love she craves.

 

Mai being attacked by her toothbrush was one of several sequences that made me laugh out loud because why the hell does a toothbrush need to be a robot. Naturally that is the whole point, if you are going to have a futuristic world in which robots are everywhere then why not make pretty much everything a robot? It does make me wonder if sex toys are also robots and what they would say as they are being used.

 

7723 also translates the barks of Mai’s dog into English, but naturally he is the only one who can understand it. This was another of those things that made me laugh out loud because 7723 has a profanity filter so the dog kept getting bleeped and his mouth would be blurred if he said anything foul mouthed. Pretty much everything he says is laced with swear words so the majority of what he was saying was bleeped out.

 

I also liked the fact that there is no bullshit in terms of people getting hurt, a character gets straight up vaporised and the ending is rather bittersweet. This isn’t a Disney film in which a happy ending happens; there is no spark like in Wall-E or the data drive we see in Big Hero Six. I was impressed that the film had the balls to follow through with a concept and not pull a happy ending out of its arse. The ending sequence was very spectacular, very well designed and we see everything that has been built up throughout the film fading away as 7723 does what it has to do to save Mai.

 

What I found really bizarre though was that in this world there seem to be no law that govern the behaviour of robots. I assumed the Three Laws of Robotics were an actual thing not something that was created by fiction.

 

If you don’t know what I am talking about then let me enlighten you. The Three Laws were created by Isaac Asimov and state:

 

First Law – A robot must not injure a human being or, through inaction, allow a human being to come to harm

 

Second Law - A robot must obey the orders given to it by human beings, except where such orders would conflict the First Law

 

Third Law - A robot must prtect its own existence as long as such protection does not conflict with the First or Second Law

 

 

The laws are designed to ensure that robots cannot harm humans, now whilst the Three Laws were a massive plot point in I, Robot in the world of Next Gen the robots don’t seem to be governed by any failsafe rules. The bullies at Mai’s school command their Q-Bots to hold Mai down whilst they beat her up, and the Q-Bots do it. They apologise but follow the instructions given to them.  Likewise they are designed as bombs to be detonated at a moment’s notice and nothing within their programming prevents them from doing it.

 

The main villain of the film is planning on slaughtering all humans but this isn’t like the villain of I, Robot who was acting based upon the logical evolution of the Three Laws, they are doing it to create a world ruled by robots not for the long running benefit of mankind.

 

Despite thinking that this was going to be a shameful rip-off I enjoyed the film and would recommend it. Yes there are things that don’t make sense, and the fact that the robots are not bound by any inbuilt safety measures seems bizarre, however there was enough in the film that allows me to give it a strong Thumbs Up.

 

 

8/10 – A well designed film showing a future world in which robots are as commonplace as a mobile phone, with an interesting villain, and a fantastic ending that has the stones to not pull a happy ending out of its ass.

 

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© Chris Sharman