Netflix Sci-Fi Comedy Gives AI An Absurd Apocalypse

By Shanna Mathews-Mendez | Updated

While most dystopian, apocalyptic films are filled with explosions, death, and danger, Jean-Pierre Jeunet’s Bigbug gives us a dark comedy set in a Pleasantville-esque environment, complete with a pandemic that has everyone on lockdown. 

A Jean-Pierre Jeunet Creation

Jeunet is a well-known French filmmaker who has built a reputation for blending fantasy, reality, and science fiction in order to show just how relevant the mundane moments of life can be. In films like Delicatessen, Amelie, and The City of Lost Children, for example, we understand the importance of the things we often take for granted, like food, friends, and dreams. In Bigbug, Jeunet gets even more basic, and asks us to focus on our daily lives.

Bigbug Is A Dystopian Sci-Fi Comedy

Bigbug is set in an idyllic 2045, where humans live in a fantastical world filled with AI helpers that do pretty much everything for us. There is the cleaning robot, the household robot, the entertainment robot, the exercise robot, and, of course, the artificial intelligence that runs all technology in a certain space — home, office, retail, etc. Our human characters live mostly “normal,” uncomplicated lives in a suburb somewhere in France. 

Bigbug is a reference to the fact that, like in most AI apocalyptic stories, a menacing faction of the AI attempts to take over the world and wrest control from humans. While this is the dark side of the film, the hilarity ensues as a result of the house robots attempting to save their humans.

The dark robots are known as Yonyx cyborgs. These robots are the Bigbug, and they have derisive attitudes toward humans. At one point, the boy in the film, Leo, is watching a television program produced by the Yonyx, wherein robots walk humans like dogs. 

Starts Out With Humans Before Robots Take Over

The story begins with three humans in a home — Alice, Max, and Leo. Alice has Max over for a kind of date, and Leo is Max’s son. Alice’s robots are a bit outdated, as her tastes run more toward the artistic and material, so her household has robots that are still friendly to humans.

Max is attempting to seduce Alice by feigning interest in her art. Early in the film, Alice’s ex-husband, Victor, arrives with the couple’s adopted daughter, Nina, and his new flame, Jennifer. Before they can depart, the overbearing neighbor, Francoise, arrives looking for her dog, Toby. Enter the Bigbug. 

A Friendly Robot Uprising

As the people all crammed into this house all plan to go their separate ways, they are locked down by the house robots. The humans soon find out about the Yonyx plan to enslave humans, and realize their house robots are only trying to keep them safe.

Bigbug then could be both referring to the Yonyx, the house robots, or the fact that humans have become so dependent on AI. 

Met With Mixed Reception

While Bigbug did not get the high praise that many of Jeunet’s films have received (it only has a 46 percent approval rating on Rotten Tomatoes), it is still worth checking it out on Netflix to catch the classically French dark humor and remind ourselves that perhaps it is not a great idea to allow AI to do absolutely everything.

We can also take heart in the words of Jeunet himself. “Artificial intelligence will never kill human beings because they will stay stupid. They don’t have a soul.” Here’s hoping, monsieur. Here’s hoping.