This week in movies, I skip the theater for Netflix. I mean, what’s there to say of The Nun or Peppermint, which both seem like factory-made products. Thankfully, Netflix has more for me to work with. We’ve got Michael Pena in Extinction, one of the dumbest movies I’ve seen this year.
We’ll get into why, but afterwards, we switch stupid with heart-felt animation as a little Asian girl finds her special robot friend in a future that’s infested with them. Time to check them out!
Extinction (Directed By Ben Young)
What we’ve got here is Michael Pena starring as a husband/factory plant security man, getting all these dreams about the end of the world happening, where some unspecified alien is supposed to come down and start killing everyone. Of course, no one believes him for the first 20-25 minutes, even Peter’s wife Alice (played by Lizzy Caplan) and their two daughters are saying that he needs to seek help while focusing more on spending family time.
The two adults go to work (with no one babysitting the 6 and 8-year-old kids at home) to ask off work so they can have a sophisticated party at the house and at that point, the aliens show up through some bad green-screen effects, terrorizing everyone.
These aliens take no time in showing up to blow up or gun down civilians they catch in a spotlight, then releasing soldiers on the ground to start firing at random people, making their way up the big apartment building. So, the before crazy person becomes the destined hero, making their way out of the building and to the factory Peter works at, before these aliens can get them.
At the factory, everything will be revealed and by then, you’ll be screaming “WHAT THE FUDGE?!?!?”. Before we get to that, let’s back things up, because this movie starts off bad, with Michael Pena walking through a city in slow-motion, giving that boring dark times monologue.
I get there are people out there that think being dark and serious or subverting expectations immediately makes for a strong narrative, good writing and direction be darned…but Michael Pena as the lead star to spout out nonsense with a serious face? This guy has been the wacky comic relief for so many films, and that last I saw he was playing it seriously happened with A Wrinkle In Time, which he did not deliver.
He, nor anyone else in the movie, can make you buy a script that’s trying really hard to be deep, which they do their best to display in that last act, only to make me wish I had played a certain game that came out this year before this as I feel the particular title executed the idea better. For the whole ride, you are frustrated at the lack of common sense more than the lack of character development.
All of the little girls in this movie become the biggest antagonist as they always disobey the rule of staying with your parents, keeping quiet and out of sight, alerting the aliens every time. No joke, halfway through the movie, where everyone has seen what the aliens are capable of, Peter tells them to hide in a closet while him and Alice find a way out for them. It didn’t take the girls long to leave that closet because one of them needs their monkey doll.
Meanwhile, upon pressing on the doll you get from Target at the toy’s isle, that doll alerts the aliens with its electronic catchphrase “Monkey see, monkey do!”. From the bad performances to ridiculous moments, half of the movie is that fun-bad experience. Once they make it out of the building though, it gets really boring, with nothing, not even the M. Night Shyamalan-like twist, was able to pick things up.
That ending where this is just part 1 of a Si-Fi journey had me almost dropping the F-Bomb at this movie. I mean, they’ve got better talent like Luke Cage actor Mike Colter, wasted as some leader of a rebellion, because of course there is in this movie.
It might be entertaining on the lowest level for the first half from how bad everything is on execution, but Extinction quickly becomes a movie that needs to act like it’s title instead of giving us an R-Rated YA novel.
I honestly don’t know who this could be for, I only know that I’m giving the turd a hardcore “Avoid”, just for being a prime example what Netflix should not be distributing if they want to be greater than what’s in theaters.
Next Gen (Directed By Joe Ksander, Kevin R. Adams)
Can Next Gen be the greater option? This is about a young girl named Mai (voiced by Charlyne Yi), growing up in a world dominated by robots, so much to where her own mother Molly (voiced by Constance Wu) ignores her for the next-gen robots, after the husband left both, putting Molly in a tough spot and becoming more vulnerable to being obsessed with robots doing everything for her.
These mechanical servants play a response to those wanting a future served by AI. We all know those movies where technology overruns us and becomes the enemy, but this doesn’t play up that trope to the most obvious level. Mai finds a lab where the robot 7723 (voiced by John Krasinski) wakes up, wanting to make friends with Mai.
Their relationship becomes tender and sweet over the course of this run-time as 7723 is always doing his best to not only be a great friend to Mai, but also to make her a better person, to get her through the teen rage against robots ruining her relationship with Molly and influencing bullies. We always get that point where “technology is bad”, hardly ever to where there’s an equal good and bad.
You adore Mai, despite having some teen life traits to get through, not without reason. Second to that has to be 7723, not just being the kind, friendly robot who attaches himself with Mai. 7723 has more civilized behavior than what folks would go in to believe.
He acts more like a responsible, loving uncle than a fish-out-of-water type character like Baymax or The Iron Giant. Hey, I love those movies too, but for those who were ready to write this off as a Big Hero 6 knock-off, the similarities stop at “a kid and their robot friend”.
The better comparison would be a greater version of Cubix, which was a show on 4Kids TV that’s also about a world where robots are everywhere and everything, except that show was cheesy as heck, looks visually hideous and does not take advantage of its themes at all, not like Next Gen does.
I’m giving so much praise, because this Netflix film is really great…if also flawed. While the Steve Jobs-ish villain, Justin Pin (voiced by Jason Sudeikis) is having a lot of fun in his voice work, also has a cool gimmick about him near the end, he’s a generic animated movie villain. Michael Pena is in this film as well, voicing another comic relief character.
What had me confused in the trailer was how can the dog, who’s voiced by Mr. Pena, talk in English? They do explain that one of 7723’s features is that he can translate animal sounds in his head, but the dog doesn’t serve a purpose to the story and is the least funny character in the film. Luckily, he’s not annoying per say, I just don’t find him necessary when the robots have better comedy and have some importance.
Lastly, there’s a couple of family movie gags and clichés, but they aren’t that irritating compared to most animated films out there, just noticeable.
I tell ya, Next Gen is on the edge of a Must Watch, especially when I teared at a certain scene, but the weak villain, Michael Pena and a couple of family movie tropes, were enough to where I have to knock it down just a tiny bit.
Heck, when they have a final battle that’s similar to Man of Steel and 7723 has more common sense than Superman, it’s asking for a “Must Watch” stamp, but I have to be fair, so Next Gen is a high-level “Good” watch, slightly above Incredibles 2 to those on Letterboxd, wondering which place.
I recommend you check this out!