Netflix's Next Gen is actually a cautionary tale about phone addiction

Spoiler-free review: Hang on, isn't the movie actually about robots?

Aloysius Low Senior Editor
Aloysius Low is a Senior Editor at CNET covering mobile and Asia. Based in Singapore, he loves playing Dota 2 when he can spare the time and is also the owner-minion of two adorable cats.
Aloysius Low
2 min read

Netflix's latest animated movie, Next Gen, is a bit of a roller coaster ride.

It packs plenty of emotional moments, epic fight scenes, as well as low dull draggy bits. But in between it all, Next Gen weaves a tale of what our phone addicted future could be like.

Set in a futuristic Chinese city, Next Gen depicts a society addicted to robots , which are used for everything -- from fences to instant ramen bowls to toothbrushes or even policeman. Robots are also basically the replacements for our phones . Mai, the protagonist, hates robots but her mum, Molly (played by Crazy Rich Asians' Constance Wu) is a big fan, and wants in on the latest launch of the new Q-Bots.


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Cue a very Chinese-ish press event, with screaming fans and a Steve Jobs-ish CEO, Justin Pin (Jason Sudeikis) taking the stage, announcing a new version. Meanwhile, Mai sneaks away, and discovers John Krasinski's Project 77 being built by Dr. Tanner Rice, played to perfection by Arrested Development's David Cross, who also voices most of the other robots in the film.

Girl meets bot, and bot meets girl and they become best buddies, seems cliche, but the film puts it to good effect by making Project 77 a lethal laser wielding machine. Plenty of hijinks ensue, with the bot being forced to choose to delete his memories due to limited storage space. Those scenes are especially heart-wrenching, so you'd best prep a tissue for the inevitable tears.


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Unfortunately, it's also the part where the film drags. Mai's teenage obliviousness toward her new friend is a sore spot. Her bratty behaviour makes it hard to sympathize with and root for her.

Thankfully, the movie does move on, and it all comes to a head, when the Q-bots start exploding like Samsung Galaxy Note 7s (but on purpose) and killing people, and bot and girl have to team up to take down the bad guy. By now, you're probably wondering what is going on in the parenting, but Mai's mum Molly has been too distracted over her newest Q-bot to pay attention. If this all sounds familiar, maybe there's good reasons for that.


Who's a cute big robot? Who?


Perhaps it's a hint to take a deep breath and smell the roses instead of staring at our screens, but Next Gen doesn't give you any time to do this. The movie ends with a fight scene that is absolutely worth the price of admission to the cinema -- though technically, you'll be watching this from home or on your phone.

Next Gen manages to wrap everything up nicely, without the need to hint at a sequel. It's a great standalone flick, and a great showcase for Chinese company Baozou Manhua, which financed and produced the movie. Netflix bid a cool $30 million for the global rights at Cannes, and looks to have scored a gem.

Next Gen is currently streaming globally on Netflix.

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