Netflix being Netflix has allowed the streaming service to do things that were never even possible decades ago with normal cable television. The introduction of binging and also allowing audiences to schedule their own watching time have become now staples of every single other streaming service on the block. However, Netflix hasn’t stopped there. They have recently acquired video game studios to put under their belt. We Lost Our Human isn’t precisely a video game, but it certainly offers an experience close to one. An experience that only Netflix seems willing to offer right now.
We Lost Our Human is an interactive-animated film directed by Chris Garbutt and Rikke Asbjoern. The film stars Ben Schwartz, Ayo Edebiri, Lauren Tom, Henry Rollins, Matthew Cardarople, and Jon Glaser. The film tells the story of Pud and Ham, a cat and a dog that fight over the affection of their master, a woman they simply call “Human.” One day, after a terrible day, of waiting for Human to come back home, a terrible incident occurs that deletes the entire human race from the universe. Both pets must embark on an adventure to save their human from oblivion.
More than a decade ago, Telltale Games boomed in the industry with the release of The Walking Dead, Episode 1. The game was a jump back in time to the old adventure games that were more point-and-click than anything else. The genre had been dying for decades, with a new and more immersive experience taking its place. However, the genre only needed something well-made with a good enough story to grab audiences into spending time pointing and clicking along with these characters.
Telltale Games will implode themselves thanks to the overreliance on licenses to make their games. The company would simply end up being for a couple of years before coming back to try again to do the same games but with a different kind of management. The success of such games undoubtedly inspired Netflix to make their own interactive stories, starting with the famous Bandersnatch episode of Black Mirror. The experiment was a success but proved that the experience was very niche.
So, what is the solution to make these experiences more audience friendly? If we need to imitate what the big video game companies did initially, the most logical thing is to target the children’s demographic. We Lost Our Human just does that. The movie uses the popular absurd storytelling trend that has helped so many recent shows succeed. It is naive to call it recent. This type of storytelling has been running around since Adventure Time, but the Rick and Morty show took it to another level.
These types of stories are fun because they are so random. The writers can do whatever they want, and nothing is out of their reach. There doesn’t have to be a logical stream of thought in these stories. They just throw things at the wall and see what sticks. If nothing sticks, you just keep moving fast enough that the audience won’t have time to linger on those things. We Lost Our Human does just that. It might serve little kids to keep them from getting bored, but sadly, from a narrative point of view, the entire plot of We Lost Our Human is just pure nonsense.
The movie is also just too long for this format. Bandersnatch was also quite long. The average experience for that was about 90 minutes, while for We Lost Our Human, it is about two hours. However, things don’t work like Bandersnatch because that Black Mirror episode was a lot more coherent regarding its story. There was definitely a story that was easy to follow in that episode, while in We Lost Our Human, we get hit with a comedy sketch every few minutes. The film is afraid to slow down, or the audience might realize nothing makes sense.
Of course, We Lost Our Human also uses one of the most popular tropes in recent years; we are talking about the multiverse. A device that allows for everything to happen, but for that same reason, it also cuts every sense of stakes in the story that uses them. The pacing is so frenetic that the story ends at several points, only to start back again. You can say that We Lost Our Human is a show consisting of four or more episodes all pieced together. Maybe this would have worked as short pieces, making the experience a TV season and not a film.
Telltale used the season model because it allowed for more focused storytelling and let the audience breathe between episodes. By the time you hit the hour mark in We Lost Our Human, you just wonder when this thing will end. There are many funny sketches, but they don’t amount to anything coherent, and sadly, there is also a lot of reiteration as the same ideas and lessons are repeated throughout. The random and scattered writing makes this more of an endurance test than something enjoyable.
Fortunately, the animation is quite nice. It follows the trend of very recent shows on Cartoon Network and Netflix itself, so there is nothing new or exciting to see, but you can feel that the production quality is quite solid. We Lost Our Human is too frenetic, random, and scattered to tell anything resembling a good story. It is an interesting experience, but I believe most people will lose their patience as the story struggles to progress and things keep looping around more than once. This format has a future, but stories need to be stories and not pieced-together sketches.