More Than Robots

The sweet Disney+ doc about young robotic gamers.

Gillian Jacobs is known for her roles in “Community,” “I Used to Go Here,” among others. Now, she makes her directorial debut of the made-for-Disney+ documentary “More Than Robots,” which focuses on kids from different cultures, who come together to build robots for a sporting event.

It’s a sweet and spirited doc that allows these kids to have versatility and heart. I’ve never heard about this competition, but seeing through Jacobs’ perspective, I’m glad I did, because the robots are filled with many possibilities. I wouldn’t recommend the machines be disguised in CGI effects, but just to see how creative these young inventors are.

Dean Kamen has kids and teens an opportunity to compete and/or collaborate in robotic sports. It’s all about kids having fun and expanding their horizons. He could care less about backgrounds, but more about where they can head off into. This robotics competition is known as “For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology,” or “FIRST” for short.

Among the players and leaders, we meet two LA kids: Jacob, who is fascinated with numbers; and Aaron, who keeps to himself; Kanon, who reflects on how she became an engineer in Japan; and Mariana, who is new to being on a Chairman’s team in Mexico City. They all find something fascinating about developing and building robots.

Here’s how the game works.

FIRST has two alliances: the Red Alliance and the Blue Allience, each of which has three teams, and their robots I have to shoot yellow foam balls (power cells) in the goals. And when you’re done with the first part, your robot climbs on the Generator Switch, which is also referred to as a seesaw. If your robot keeps it in balance, without touching the ground, you win extra points.

Since one team has unlimited resources and another has limited resources, the game levels the playing field by forming the two alliances. It’s all about being fair with the players and the game. No bullies, no jerks, no problem.

However, the movie presents the event before mid March of 2020, when the FIRST would cancel the championships, due to you know what. And that has devastated players and inventors. But that didn’t destroy their spirits, but rather allow them to continue to expand their horizons and be flexible.

Parts of the movie lag a bit, and I wish there could have been more insight from the kids, because each of them have aspects that I would like to get to know more of, instead of them just having to build and compete. But “More Than Robots” allows us to get to know their goals, and shows us how flexible they can be, even when you know what threatens them.

It’s also a nice and considerate film, in which Dean Kamen sees something unique in these kids, and wants them to broaden their goals. What he and the other founders did is inspiring, and he tells the event like it is. And also, the way the robots are able to shoot the balls into the goals is really cool. But best of all, Michael Bay had absolutely nothing to do with them. It may be released by Disney+, but it isn’t self-congratulatory or commercial-minded; it loves these kids and their craftsmanships and skills. And we love them, too.

Rating: 3 out of 4.

Streaming on Disney+ This Friday

Categories: Documentary

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