Okay, hear me out.
First of all, I have a mixed opinion of Big Hero 6. I liked it a LOT, and Baymax is one of the most adorable characters to come out in recent memory, but the story itself wasn’t that good, in my opinion. It was a pretty typical movie that got carried hard by it’s stellar character design and interesting setting of San Fransokyo, because let’s be honest, the rest of the team didn’t really matter besides looking cool.
It didn’t stick with me all that much since I tend to prefer more character-driven shows. Failing that, they should at least be ridiculous or insanely creative, and while Big Hero 6 had smidges of that, it wasn’t really enough to stick. There wasn’t really any strong moments that stuck with me, story or comedy-wise.
So, when my brothers queued up this Netflix movie that looked like a cavalcade of Disney/Pixar ideas mashed into one, I was expecting a by-the-numbers “robot and kid movie learn about true friendship”, I was ready to criticize the hell out of it.
To my surprise, I REALLY enjoyed this movie. First of all, it was WAY funnier than Big Hero 6. It was a self-aware movie, and knows all the tropes that these kinds of movies go through and they acknowledge them. When the girl, Mai, first finds the robot she lovingly calls stupid robot, her first words were along the lines of:
Mai: “So, what’s gonna happen now, you and me are gonna go thrilling adventure together, share our deepest insecurities, and we’ll teach other about the value of friendship?”
I found this sort of self-awareness really funny, and it’s a present gag throughout the movie. They STILL have a heartfelt, thrilling adventure, but she is really adamant about that not happening. Basically, we have a tsundere protagonist, the best kind.
Another thing I like about the movie that it kinda ripped off from Wall-E, is it’s criticism of human reliance on technology, though taken to a more humorous degree. Almost everything in the universe is automated, from the police force, the toilets, and even the cup noodles!
And they’re all designed to be easily replaceable, so we get a lot of suicidal robots. It’s a darkly funny movie for this reason, while still being a good satire of humanity’s current over-reliance on technology and convenience. One of the standout funny characters as well is the dog, whose reasons for being funny I will not spoil for your enjoyment.
Another thing that struck a chord with me was the story of loss of this movie felt a bit less hamfisted and realistic than Big Hero 6. She’s clearly rebellious due to her father leaving them,and the reason for him leaving was a lot more real than saving your boss from an explosion, and therefore, a lot more relatable. I’m not downplaying the tragedy in Big Hero 6, but I just felt more engaged with the characters in Next Gen compared to Big Hero 6.
The last thing I want to bring up that is a positive for this movie is the fact that the ENTIRE movie was rendered in Blender, a FREE 3D rendering program. The fact that an almost-Pixar level quality movie was made by a bunch of people using free software is amazing. I am also biased because I also used to love using Blender (until my rendering PC was broken in a storm). It looks a bit TOO clean to me, but it looks really good for what it sets out to do.
Now, for all the praise I give this movie, it IS still a very predictable movie. The only thing unexpected about this movie are the jokes, because the plot itself is incredibly overdone, but then again, so was Big Hero 6, and since that’s what a lot of people pit this movie against, I just thought I’d point it out. The villain’s design, while very evocative of the modern hipster Steve Jobs tech guru type (complete with manbun), is also motivated by cliche reasons. I still liked his line delivery though, so I give him a plus for that, even if this villain concept was “stolen” from Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs 2.
Which brings me to the second negative to this movie, it’s got no original ideas. Instead, it feels like a good execution of a bunch of OTHER really good ideas and it forms a cohesive whole. It turns the idea around a bit, but not too much, so while I liked this movie a lot and will be a recommendation from me for a good watch with kids, don’t go in expecting Inside Out.
Despite a cliche plot and a lack of true originality, Next Gen is nevertheless a really funny and heartwarming adventure that is great for both kids and adults alike that has some great themes about loss and acceptance. It’s definitely worth a watch if you like movies of this type, and while not on the level of the classics, it’s a formidable movie in its own right and is worth watching at least once.
This isn’t my usual anime reviews, but I liked it a lot and hope people will support it by giving it a watch if they have kids, nieces or nephews of their own.
Until next time!