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Big Bug: Jean-Pierre Jeunet's promising robot film under-delivers

Known for his trademark style of excess and quirkiness, Jeunet's fantastical world proves nightmarish for characters and audiences alike

By Claire Meakins, Second Year, English

After the success of his earlier films and a long hiatus from directing, Jean-Pierre Jeunet's return promised to be an exciting one. Known for his trademark style of excess and quirkiness, arguably best exemplified in the hugely popular Amélie (2001), Big Bug (2022) had the potential to be another creative and comedic hit. Instead, however, Jeunet's fantastical world proves nightmarish for characters and audiences alike.

Courtesy of IMDB

The plot resembles a large web that, in trying to connect so many different elements, has become a tangled mess, making it hard to describe.

Set in France in 2045, Big bug follows a group of interconnected characters who, through a series of improbable events, end up locked into a high-tech AI-controlled house together. Predictably, they soon learn that the technology they have come to rely on is distinctly unreliable.

Their household robots harbour a harmful desire to become more like their human owners while, in the world outside of the house, a type of law enforcement robot called the Yonyx (François Levantal) craves brutal dominance over humanity.

Courtesy of IMDB

Within this broad structure, there are many other interlocking side-plots, but their quantity and complexity mean that it would be nearly as quick to watch the film as it would be to try to outline each of them.

Regardless, the plot could have resulted in a comical but thought-provoking discussion of technology’s role in modern life and the perils of being locked in too tightly with many different personalities. Certainly, Big Bug does have a distinctly ‘pandemic film’ feel to it, but overall, it all feels very surface level.

It’s akin to the content pumped out at the start of the pandemic, when comedians were seemingly repeating the same cheesy jokes about sleeping too much, eating too much and beginning to hate your entire family.

Courtesy of IMDB

Much of the film’s comedy relies on these (now horrifically overdone) satirical jokes or on farcical sexual humour that is dated at best and uncomfortably voyeuristic at worst. Occasionally, there are some funny moments but they feel like you are laughing at the film rather than with it.

Simply put, Big Bug is almost embarrassingly unfunny.

The jokes not landing is only emphasised by the 'over' acting throughout the film. Although this is clearly a stylistic choice, as Jeunet has been known to successfully use massively exaggerated, theatrical performances, it feels out of place in a film like this. Perhaps it is simply due to the claustrophobic setting, with the actors constantly screaming and shouting, that is often just irritating.

Courtesy of IMDB

Alice (Elsa Zylberstein) should be the film’s heroine and a relatable character for audiences but is rendered completely unlikeable because of this acting style. This means that the film lacks any sort of emotional centre and, at some points, you can’t help but wonder whether the robots might be a tiny bit justified in oppressing humanity.

Despite all of this, however, there are some good elements to the film. The overacting works well for the robot characters, with their broad grins and dead eyes creating an effective sense of menace. Jeunet’s unusual but distinctive technique of wide-angle close-ups adds to this effect, allowing these facial expressions to really come to the fore.

Courtesy of IMDB

The film’s vibrant colours, another of Jeunet's trademarks, are also a strong point and create an interesting stylistic blend of 1950s America and sci-fi sleekness. The film may not deliver much, but what it does deliver, it delivers with style.

If, for whatever reason, you’re looking for a film to torture a date with, then Bigbug would be perfect for you. Otherwise, it’s probably a film best avoided.

Featured Image: IMDB

Will you be watching Jeunet's long-awaited Big Bug?