The Disappointment that is Next GEN

If you’re considering watching Netflix’s new animated movie “NEXT GEN” with your kids… I’d recommend holding off on that for a moment.

We watched it.

And usually, I might reserve a review for a week when I don’t have anything else scheduled… but I feel strongly enough about this that I decided to go ahead and hit “publish” tonight.

And I really wish I could get that hour and forty-five minutes of my life back.

As one who loves story-telling in many forms: books, movies, TV shows, country songs… I have no problem stopping mid-story. I’ve closed, turned off, or walked out of many a movie/television show and never looked back. So, if I stick with something, I can usually give it at least 3 stars. You’ve read my reviews here. Even my “meh” reviews are pretty nice. I tend to mostly talk about things I like, because I want to share my fantastic finds with you.

But every so often, I find one that I feel I need to give fair warning about.

Next Gen is just such a one.

The following review contains spoilers!

The trailer looked cute. It was a little reminiscent of Big Hero 6, which I loved, and I was hopeful for that sort of fun, action-packed, emotional, adorable sort of story.

What I got was a mash-up of I, Robot meets Terminator meets The Goonies.

Now, before you get all nostalgic on me… I don’t mean that in a good way.

Take away the good parts of those movies. That’s what you’re left with in Next Gen.

Meet Mai. A troubled young girl whose father walked out when she was young. Mai lives in a world where robots are everywhere, helping humans with everything, even things they don’t need help with (including a ramen-like container of soup that sings and asks questions about how it tastes and then politely throws itself away when you’re finished). Virtual Reality games have also taken over everyone’s lives. Robots do all the main work, and even provide the entertainment and play sports against each other.

Of course, this begs the question: What do humans actually do? How do they make money to afford all their things? This question is never addressed nor answered in the movie. Even at school, the teacher sits in the corner playing video games, having handed over her lecturing duties to a robot.

Speaking of school: At school, Mai is bullied by the “popular” crowd who like to watch their robots play soccer after school and Greenwood, the leader of this crowd, will not allow Mai to join them. When Mai attempts to do so, Greenwood orders her robots to beat Mai up.

Mai’s mom is obsessed with robots, as is most everyone else on the planet. This leads her to neglect her daughter, instead immersing herself in computer games and ordering her robots around.

One day, Mai meets a strange robot (Project-77) who follows her home and begs to be her friend. Upon discovering that the robot can shoot lasers and missiles and turn its arms into a light-saber-esque blade, she realizes that she can use this newfound friendship for good and becomes a vigilante fighting crime and…

….what? Oh… no, wait… that would have been a cool story…. my bad…

Instead, troubled, neglected, bullied Mai takes Project-77 on a self-serving cruise of juvenile delinquency. Together they blast mailboxes, shoot down various robots passing by, spray-paint billboards, and generally create havoc and mayhem. She lies, sneaks around behind her mom’s back, and uses emotional manipulation to get 77 to do whatever she wants, accusing him of not liking her anymore when he politely suggests that maybe they could spend one day a week not doing something destructive. Mai sics her newfound friend on the bullies at school, becoming an even worse bully herself, to the point where she even orders her robot to “blast” Greenwood.

When Project-77 calls her out on this, Mai tries to back-pedal, claiming she didn’t mean to kill her, just to beat her up.

Why is it that the robot in this movie is the only one with a conscience?

Meanwhile, 77 is dealing with his own issues. He was wounded early on in the movie, and had to remove his extra memory dimm. So, as he creates memories with Mai each day, each evening he is forced to choose which of those memories to delete and lose forever. After the incident with Mai telling him to murder her classmate, 77 decides his weapons are not as important as his memories, and deletes them so that he can keep more of his memories.

Fast-forward to the main villain of the plot, the guy creating all the robots (spoiler alert… he’s a robot himself who has stolen the body of his creator and is using it to place robots in every home who all have a very unique feature: they turn into bombs). See, his creator named him “perfect” and told him to go and spread perfection across the world, and he took that to mean that he should wipe out humanity, starting with his creator.

Of course, the villain finds Mai just moments after 77  has deleted his weapons-controls. He does his best to fight off the villain and his killer robot-security-guard, but the villain manages to abduct Mai’s mother.

The movie ends with a montage of ridiculously contrived battle-sequences, in which Mai and Greenwood end up working on the same side and Greenwood both apologizes for how she’s been acting and then proves that she’s not a heartless jerk nor a sniveling coward by helping in the battle.

Seeing Mai in mortal peril, 77 begins a full-system reboot, which not only restores his weapons one at a time, but also deletes all of his memories as he battles the villain while he can still remember who the villain is… eventually, Project-77 emerges victorious, but he has reverted to his factory-default settings and has no memories of Mai, just as Mai realizes that the robot’s memories actually ARE important in a big, climactic *ALL THE FEELS* moment that ultimately fell flat, since I didn’t think Mai’s biggest issue actually had anything to do with her opinion of the robot’s memories one way or another. The movie ends with her beginning a new friendship with him and rehabilitating him.

Sounds kinda cute, huh?

So what are my problems with the movie?

1. The lack of consequences. It really bothered me that Mai never suffers a single consequence for any of her angry, cruel, destructive actions. She goes from being an angry brat to a crime-committing juvenile delinquent to a young person so consumed by their own rage and wallowing self-pity that she very nearly commits murder. While Greenwood later apologizes for her unkindness, Mai never does. There is never any remorse shown for the desire to murder her classmate, only anger that the robot wouldn’t back her up.

2. The “parent is an idiot” trope. Mai’s mother is not only neglectful and distant, she’s also a completely self-absorbed ditz. Even at the end, when she is grappling with the villain to keep him from killing her daughter, her every line and every move is nothing more than the punch-line of a very bad joke… a very un-funny joke.

3. The dog. I didn’t mention him in the plot-deconstruction… but Mai owns a small dog that Project-77 can actually understand. This could have been entertaining, if the dog weren’t a vile, foul-mouthed creature whose every line contained a “bleep” noise to cover the swear words he was saying.

4. Speaking of “bleep” noises… they also occur throughout the movie from other characters. What isn’t bleeped out are multiple instances of “Oh my G**”, which I find offensive anyway, but 1000 times more-so in a children’s cartoon. What’s more, the bleeped out words were done so very poorly. I could definitely tell which words they had put in the script that I was “not supposed” to be able to decipher. Many of them were poorly bleeped-out “F” words.

5. There is also rather a lot of violence and creepy imagery. Very “Terminator” level violence, but animated. Generally, violence is not something I’m bothered by, but this movie pushed my limits on what I consider appropriate in a film, especially one targeting the age-range this movie targets.

6. The poor storytelling. There were so many issues with the story… let me count the ways… from recycling the plot of every single “AI Gains Sentience, Decides Humans are the Problem that Must be Eliminated” stories to the incredibly unbelievable society in which nobody needs to work, apparently, because robots do everything, to the poor character development (which was so bad as to be practically non-existent). Even the big, climactic “aha” moment for Mai fell short of its mark, because what Mai really needed was (as Marilla Cuthbert would say) “A darn good spanking.” Perhaps “the world doesn’t revolve around me” or “two wrongs don’t make a right” or “just because someone hurts me, doesn’t mean that I should go on a rampage committing petty crimes and escalate to attempted murder” all would have been far better realizations for her to have. But that is not what the writers/directors decided to do. But honestly, the next thing that hurts Mai’s feelings could easily be the plot line of the sequel, because I don’t think she’s learned her lesson.

 

The only thing I loved about this movie… was Project-77′s selfless act of sacrifice. Giving up what he believed to be the most precious thing he possessed, his memories, the things that made him who he was, his very essence… for a bratty little girl who didn’t care about him beyond how she could use him to further her own agenda… that single, solitary, tiny, momentary glimpse of a portrait of Romans 5:8 – “But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.” was the sole redeeming factor in the movie.

~ jenelle

Tolkien Blog Party

The 6th Annual Tolkien Blog party has started just as the Silmaril Awards are wrapping up! Today, I am participating in the blog tag for the party!

1.  What’s your favorite Middle-earth story/book?

Starting off with a hard one right out of the gate! Ooooh…. how to choose? Honestly, Two Towers has always been my favorite. It is the book I’ve read the most often, and when I was younger, sometimes I’d just sit down to read that one all by itself. I know that’s probably weird. A lot of people don’t like Two Towers because of the endless pages of Sam and Frodo plodding across Mordor… but, in the words of Bastian from “Neverending Story” “But that’s what I like about it!” I dunno, I found their one-foot-in-front-of-the-other struggle so much more relatable and compelling than the flashier heroics of other parts of the series. And then there was Helm’s Deep and everything about Rohan… and I was a rather horse-crazy kid, so Rohan and the Horse Lords have always had a special place in my heart. Some may desire the quiet of the Shire, or the peace of Rivendell, or the magic of Lothlorien… but me… I left my heart in Rohan. With Eomer.

2.  Do you have a favorite subplot?

Oh, goodness, yes! I mean, how to choose? But seriously, my favorite subplots have always been the parallel stories of Merry and Pippin when they split up at Rohan. The way that they each “grow up” and see the sober realities of the world on their own is beautiful to behold, and I always enjoyed the way that Merry and Pippin had somewhat reversed experiences with greatness. Merry forms a deep bond with Theoden after Gandalf casts out Wormtongue and heals the king from the poisonous lies he’s been believing and then he gets to see the king return to a measure of greatness. Meanwhile, Pippin grows close to Denethor, the master of the mighty city of Gondor, who seems to have it all held together, but then witnesses his descent into madness due to the same kind of lies, and sadly, Denethor clings to those lies too tightly and allows them to destroy him. 

3.  What’s your favorite theme in Tolkien’s books?  (Can be in one specific story, or overall.)

Hm… probably the theme of friendship and loyalty that runs throughout the entire Lord of the Rings. It is such a strong theme, and I love it.

4.  Do you have a favorite weapon from Middle-earth?

This tag is evil and cruel, making me choose these sorts of things. I guess I’ve always been a bit partial to Glamdring/Foe-Hammer!

5.  Would you like to be a hobbit?

I’d rather be a Horse Lord of Rohan. Or an elf. But if Hobbit was the only option on the table, then yes. I would like to be a hobbit. But I’d be a disreputable specimen of a hobbit and go haring off on an adventure with the first wizard to stop by!

6.  Do you have a favorite romance/couple?

Eowyn and Faramir, for sure! I even wrote a whole blog post about them this past February for Valentine’s Day!

7.  What’s your favorite Middle-earth creature?  (Can be “real” or “imaginary.”)

SMAUG! Dragons are my favorite forever. Even evil, villainous dragons. And Smaug is the ultimate standard for those!

8.  What character do you look the most like?

Look like? I mean, Arwen, I guess?

I took a personality quiz and it told me I was 100% most like Tom Bombadill… so that was weird. Thankfully it also said I had 0% in common with Grima Wormtongue (#WellTHATSaRelief!)

Screen Shot 2018-09-22 at 2.14.11 PM

And, I mean… I’m a LITTLE concerned that it thinks I have so much in common with Saruman and Sauron… more than with Bilbo, even… but… I mean… #yikes?

If you want to try it (or, you know, procrastinate from something more worthwhile…) I found this particular test HERE.

9.  Are there any books about Middle-earth or Professor Tolkien (but not written by him) you recommend?

I… am pretty sure I’ve never read any books about Middle-Earth or Professor Tolkien that he didn’t write… so I’ve got nothing. I did direct the play The Hobbit and we used the script by Patricia Gray. I liked that one, but didn’t like how she decided to cut Thorin’s death scene from the end… as I find that kind of crucial to the plot and character development of Bilbo.

10.  List up to ten of your favorite lines/quotations from the Middle-earth books and/or movies.

Just a few of my favorites… and I’m being a REBEL and sharing MORE than ten! So there!

“All that is gold does not glitter, not all those who wander are lost; the old that is strong does not wither, deep roots are not reached by the frost.”

“Faithless is he who says farewell when the road darkens.”

“Many that live deserve death. And some that die deserve life. Can you give it to them? Then do not be too eager to deal out death in judgment. For even the very wise cannot see all ends.”

“If more of us valued food and cheer and song above hoarded gold, it would be a merrier world.:

“May the wind under your wings bear you where the sun sails and the moon walks.” 

“Then something Tookish woke up inside him, and he wished to go and see the great mountains, and hear the pine-trees and the waterfalls, and explore the caves, and wear a sword instead of a walking-stick.”

It’s a dangerous business, Frodo, going out your door…You step into the Road, and if you don’t keep your feet, there is no knowing where you might be swept off to.”

“Yet such is oft the course of deeds that move the wheels of the world: small hands do them because they must, while the eyes of the great are elsewhere.”

“’What do you fear, lady?’ he asked. ‘A cage,’ she said, ‘To stay behind bars, until use and old age accept them, and all chance of doing great deeds is gone beyond recall or desire.”

“Far over the Misty Mountains cold, through dungeons deep and caverns old, we must away ere break of day, to seek our long-forgotten gold.”

“Let this be the hour when we draw swords together. Fell deeds awake. Now for wrath, now for ruin, and the red dawn. Forth, Eorlingas!” 

“There’s some good in this world, Mr. Frodo… and it’s worth fighting for.”

“Death is just another path, one that we all must take. The grey rain-curtain of this world rolls back, and all turns to silver glass, and then you see it . . . White shores, and beyond, a far green country under a swift sunrise.”

~ jenelle

Blog Tour Hosts Needed

Author Graphic for Jenelle

Hey out there, blogging friends! The Fellowship of Fantasy (and Yours Truly) are releasing our next anthology on October 9th — Paws, Claws, and Magic Tales — our cat-themed fantasy anthology, and we could sure use your help! The powers that be are putting together a blog tour, and we need bloggers like you to sign up and help spread the word!

Specifically, we need some sign-ups for Oct. 2 and 7… apparently those days are not as popular, and they’re feeling all sad and depressed about it.

We try to make it pretty easy on our bloggers, providing pre-made posts or media kits or ARC copies if you’d like to post a review. The nice thing with an anthology is that you can also sign up to post a review of just a SINGLE story in the anthology, and some of the ones in this anthology are Flash Fiction, so not a lot of reading there. On a personal note, I sure would love some reviews of my own story in the anthology, Destined For Greatness!!!

You can sign-up for the blog tour simply by clicking HERE!

~ jenelle

Halfway To Back Again + Drachtober Returns + Short Story Challenge

We’re halfway through the Award Ceremonies for the 3rd Annual Silmaril awards! And what a fun event it’s been. Ugluk threatened everyone, Merry and Pippin set off fireworks, Tom Bombadil regaled us with another epically humorous poem, we spent a lovely afternoon at the Green Dragon with our beloved Samwise, and Bilbo went off adventuring, leaving Frodo in charge, which was absolutely lovely.

This morning, we kick things off with some words of wisdom from Gandalf, and I can’t wait to find out who the rest of this year’s winners are, can you? If you haven’t been following along on and reading the Award Presentations, you should definitely go do that! You won’t want to miss out on the cleverness and hilarity that has been ensuing! I’m keeping a running list of links to each award presentation HERE in case you’ve missed any of these, they have all been fabulously entertaining!

For me, September has been slipping by with a speed I did not think possible! The Silmaril Awards have been a blast, and I’m sad that they are almost over, but I am so grateful to you, dear Readers! You have once again made this event a huge success and so much fun. With dozens of nominations and over 200 votes recorded across the ballots, this year’s Awards have absolutely blown me away.

But there is no rest for the weary, and the fun isn’t over yet, because #DRACHTOBER is just around the corner! Back by popular demand from last year, below you will find the list of dragon-related prompts for October! This year, as a bit of a change, I’m only doing prompts on weekdays. You can play along on Twitter/FB/Instagram/Etc, or feel free to take a prompt or two (or all of them!!!) and make a blog post or several. The only rule…. HAVE FUN!

I am also going to be reviving the SPOOKY story contest for the third time, because it’s a blast… with a couple of slight changes this year:

First of all, this year’s challenge is to write a SPOOKY STORY in under 1,000 words! Yup, flash-fiction time! Instead of a prompt or a line you have to include, the challenge is to write the spookiest story you can in 1,000 words or less.

Second of all, every blogger who accepts the challenge and posts their spooky story before October 31st will receive a PRIZE of an exclusive Behind The Scenes short excerpt from the world of The Minstrel’s Song. Authors will get their pick of 3 options: The Adoption of Kiernan Kane, The Fall of Haeronymous, or the Appendix Of Kiernan and Leila. None of these are polished, but they do give some larger sneak peeks at back-story, and maybe a glimmer of things that occur after the final page has been turned, and all of them have the potential of being polished up at at some point and turned into a volume of “Minstrel’s Tales” at some point, an idea I got after writing DRAGON WARD for the Mythical Doorways anthology.

So put your thinking caps on! I’ll be posting the rules and linky-list sign-up on October 1st.

Here is the graphic and list of prompts for #Drachtober

#Drachtober2018 (1)

~ jenelle