Get to know teams from Los Angeles, Mexico City and Chiba, Japan as they work towards the goal of taking their unique designs all the way to the highly competitive global championships. Although they are faced with overcoming challenges along the way, such as having limited resources within their community or putting everything on hold because of a world-wide pandemic, the kids persevere and learn that there is a lot more to the competition than just robots.

Editing: Jared Martin
Stephanie Economou

Directors: Gillian Jacobs
Cinematography: Jerry Henry

The documentary More Than Robots introduced me to a world I never knew existed. Kids from around the globe coming together in teams to build robots and bring them to a yearly competition where the theme changes every year. 

The focus of this documentary is the FIRST Robotics Competition 2020 season, which Lucasfilm sponsored as part of Star Wars: Force For Change. It’s worth noting that Lucasfilm produced the film, but I don’t think there’s a secret dark side to what’s happening here they’re failing to include because of their involvement. 

Gillian Jacobs directs her first feature documentary here after working on several shorts, including a Marvel 616 episode for Disney+. She focuses on four different teams of kids from around the globe. One team in Japan, one in Mexico and two in California. One of which is the ‘TeraWatts’ which is universally seen as an underdog team with less funding than the rest of the teams which makes for the main star of the film.

A kid from each team is highlighted as you learn more about them, how they got into building robots, and what the social, educational, and life values FIRST teach mean to each of them. In particular, it’s great to hear from the girls and how they never thought they would be allowed to build robots because they’ve never seen girls in STEM before, and how they hope to inspire others to know it’s perfectly fine. 

Seeing the robots in action towards the back-end of the film is fun, but the camera is nearly always focused on the kids, and their reactions as the film is about them. But don’t come here looking for a robotic battle brawler.

If you hadn’t guessed straight away, the final act of More Than Robots is impacted heavily by the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020. Disappointingly, it does slightly de-rail the film as the narrative that was building in the hour beforehand gets swept away. However, seeing what these intelligent and caring kids do with their skills amid a global pandemic and crisis is nothing short of heartwarming.

More than Robots is streaming on Disney+ from Friday 18th of March.