Netflix has brought the robot uprising out of its heralded animated adventure The Mitchells vs. the Machines and into a new live-action movie: Bigbug. And this isn't your average sci-fi adventure.
First off, it comes from the wild mind of Jean-Pierre Jeunet, a name you might not associate with science fiction (he's most well-known for directing the surreal Amelie). Secondly, well, this is where we get into minor spoiler territory, the movie starts off in a TV show where adult humans are in a play pretending to be the ... trained housepets of robots.
Filled with deadpan delivery and physical comedy, this first scene is your big red flag to expect something different. And the madness keeps coming, as Bigbug brings you to a very peculiar 2045.
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Netflix's Bigbug paints Alexa as an enemy
In a home where AI is omnipresent, and there's a household robotic maid that looks humanoid-enough that you won't realize it's an Android until its eyes glow blue, everything is tilted towards the farcical. Soon enough, humans are eating crickets (and calling them delicious), and household robots are easily scanning conversations for lies. Old books are seen as a rarity, and you might think you're stuck in a new version of Idiocracy.
Things get weird, quickly, when you start to realize that this isn't an English language film, that it's a dub of a French film. This is neither a good nor a bad thing, but it's so subtle that you might not realize it at first. The dubbing, though, makes the actors' seemingly wooden and preposterous line delivery into something of a feature, not a bug. Satire, you see, is all the more on-the-nose when everything is unnatural.
Or at least until the titular big bug. For reasons that will soon be explained, the AI-powered robots in Alice's home basically do what robots in the future do: go on strike, rise up and lock the humans inside. It all starts out with a traffic jam gone wrong, after the AIs go haywire, and before you know it you're in a bottle episode.
Bigbug is Netflix's attempt at sci-fi comedy, and its pivoted angle isn't subtle: we've turned over too much power to technology already, and look what happens when it gets even worse.
How much you love Bigbug will vary, but we can't help but be charmed by its bright and over-saturated colors. Not only is Alice's house replete with strong greens and yellows, but the bright glowing blues in the eyes of the creepy Yonyx robots is another notably welcome change of palette. Sci-fi movies tend to go for the dreary and dark schemes, much like what you see in gritty superhero movies.
What the critics think of Netflix's Bigbug
Over at Rotten Tomatoes (opens in new tab), Bigbug is a big dud, with a score of 43% on the Tomatometer. There are some positive reviews, including the 3.5-star (out of 4) review from Matt Zoller Seitz at RogerEbert.com (opens in new tab), who says Bedbug is "a tougher, smarter film than American sci-fi cinema buffs are used to seeing. Its tone is tricky, and easy to misread."
But that score is weighed down by those who Seitz would argue "misread," the film. The New York Times' (opens in new tab) Jeanette Catsoulis calls Bigbug "overdressed, overlong and diminishingly amusing," and Jordan Mintzer at The Hollywood Reporter (opens in new tab) said Bigbug is "More exhausting than inventive."