A Visually Impressive Animation
Netflix’s latest animated flick Next Gen is an incredibly good looking film. Realistic reflections, impressive water and hair particles as well as some really awe-inspiring sci-fi imagery combine to make Next Gen one of the best looking animations to come out in quite some time. Combined with a morally sound narrative and some talented voice acting, Next Gen is certainly a pleasant surprise, even if it does slip up slightly with its core characterisation.
Set in a near-future world where AI robots and cyborgs are an every-day occurrence, Next Gen’s story follows Mai (voiced by Charlyne Yi), an angry, disgruntled girl who’s bullied at school and feels alone in the world. When she stumbles upon a top-secret robot (voiced by John Krasinski) the two form an unlikely bond and together learn the value of friendship while a sinister evil genius plots to take over the cyber world and break their bond.
The story certainly has its moments but a questionable score featuring big pop hits undermines the emotional resonance the plot demands as Mai and her robot pal grow closer together. Echoes of Big Hero 6 run deep throughout the plot line but unlike the latter, Next Gen feels a little rushed, a little too quick to burst into the large action set pieces instead of really solidifying the relationship between the two main characters. This is by far the biggest problem with the film and with Mai constantly fluctuating between anger and sadness, it’s difficult to really hone in and see that emotional connection with the robot which feels one-sided and a little contrived at times.
If you can look past this, there’s a lot to like with Next Gen and as a family movie, this is definitely up there with some of the best released this year. The tone is consistent and never loses sight of its messages around bullying and friendship which really help paint this in a positive light. For that alone, this is a film that’s absolutely recommended to watch with the little ones with just enough here to enjoy as an adult too, even it does bear a striking resemblance to Big Hero 6 at times.
Visually, Next Gen is a really impressive animation. Everything from the character models to lighting through to the use of colour is gorgeously rendered and helps the film stand out from the slew of other animations out there. A few character issues including a questionable emotional instability around Mai and a contrived bond with the robot does hold this one back from being a better title but Next Gen is an enjoyable animated offering nonetheless and well worth a watch.