Sorry no Blog last week. I was super sick.
So let’s talk about the best thing thing Netflix has dropped this year so far; Love, Death & Robots.
An anthology series created by Tim Miller (Deadpool) and produced by David Fincher (Seven, Fight Club, Gone Girl) features eighteen animated shorts. In the similar vein to the 1981 animated film Heavy Metal, all these shorts are R-rated, science-fiction themed and visually captivating. If that is a reference you appreciate, then go watch Love, Death & Robots.
I could gush for hours about each episode. They all have some value whether brilliant story turns, captivating characters, hard-hitting twists or sheer mind-boggling visuals. Some are weaker than others, however.
Let’s break them down.
A dark cyberpunk future where artificially created monsters battle for entertainment. This was as perfect an introduction the series could have. It’s dark, its sexy, its bloody and it has giant monsters tearing into each other. With a photo-realistic animation, the pitch black character beats and imagery hits harder.
Three robots on vacation in a post apocalyptic city. A perfect comedy sorbet after the dark turns of the previous episode. Funny, entertaining and surprisingly meditative. I liked how the three robots were three different archetypes: a kawaii Nintendo-bot, a Terminator-esk X-Box descendant and a Siri-style monolith.
A cat-and-mouse game between a woman and a man she saw commit a murder. This is the one that everyone seems to be fascinated with, but I can’t get myself to enjoy. It has an extremely unique visual pallet and brilliant cinematography, but I struggle to enjoy something so over-the-top nastiness of the piece.
Farmers fight aliens in mech suits. There is nothing that makes me happier than this episode. I’ve rewatched it more than any other episode. It’s big, its witty, its bombastic and has this lovable animation that reminds me of a Warcraft cutscene. I love the characters and how quickly they are established with action and a few lines of dialogue.
Sucker of Souls
Awakened by an archaeological excavation, a bloodthirsty demon fights a crew of mercenaries. This is one I WISH was a full-length TV-Show. It’s fun, its gory, it’s laugh-out-loud amazing. I want to see more of this squad of dumbass mercenaries on more adventures with their amazing Saturday-Morning cartoon animation.
When the Yogurt Took Over
The title says it all. Anything more would ruin the game. It’s amazing and easily the funniest of the series.
Beyond the Aquila Rift
Awakened from cryo-sleep, a crew finds themselves off course. This is the definitive episode of the series. This is the one it should be remembered for. It is exactly what an anthology of this type is meant for. It’s dark, its imaginative, sexy-as-hell and you can’t stop thinking about it. The theme played in my head over and over again while I considered what horror show had been released on my mind.
The story about a boy in rural china and a shape-shifting creature as their country slowly becomes a steampunk dystopia. This is actually my favourite episode. Aquila Rift is the most iconic, but this is the best by far. The Disney-inspired animation makes the nudity and violence really jump out at you. This was the only episode that made me jump. The blur between Chinese medieval fantasy and the growing encroachment of steampunk imperialists reflects both the themes of colonial violence and gives the real protagonists desire for revenge complete justification. I would say I want more, but that would be missing the point.
A city inspector tries to remove a man from his junk yard. A much weaker episode by far, but has its funny moments. As with much of the series, even the weak ones retain a level of imagination and visual flare.
Werewolves in the US Army in Afghanistan. Another fantastic one that seems to be bending over backwards to please me. Fantasy elements in a ‘real-world’ situation always makes me excited. Shape-Shifters is bloody violent and a great watch. I wish it could have had something to actually say thematically, but a violent werewolf battle is always welcome.
A stranded astronaut has to make a hard choice. Think Gravity meets 127 Hours, but those movies are for cowards. This was the painful to watch one. Another photo-realistic short that keeps things bare bones and dead simple, so simple you can’t help but squirm a little.
Two salesmen stuck in a haunted desert. I really liked the ideas of the episode and I respect the visuals for their imagination beauty, but I still felt this was a weaker episode.
A pilot recalls her missions with dropshit Lucky 13. This is another photo-realistic episode with a strong focus on character as well as epic science fiction action. You never get a hint of what the war is about or the wider world, but the core relationship between a woman and her machine is played very well.
A reclusive artist gives a final interview. Zima Blue is another visual masterpiece, every frame really is a painting. The 2D stylized animation becomes just so captivating and the final twist and statement is both genuinely heart-moving and philosophically engaging. Any moment of this episode could be a mural or a poster.
A cyborg crew attemps to rob a convoy. This is the weakest episode of a series. A bad kind of Saturday-Morning cartoon with only enough action and some decent twists by the end to keep me engaged.
A couple discover a lost civilization in their refrigerator. This is another fun one and the only one with live-action characters. It’s short, it’s simple and reminds me of a lot classic science-fiction short stories. I want to know what the final phase of the fridge civilization meant.
Alternate histories of the death of Adolt Hitler. Laugh-out-loud hilarious, saying any more would ruin the jokes. Like the Yogurt, it has a cooky animation style that allows for just as many jokes as the narration does.
The Red Army fights monsters in Siberia. This should be my favourite thing ever. Similar to Shape-Shifters, it takes fantasy tropes and combines them with a real world grounding. The summoning scene and action moments are highlights. The problem is the lack of character focus. Lucky 13 and Aquila Rift both used their photo-realistic animation to keep the focus on characters, thus making the action even more heart-wrenching. That doesn’t happen here, but it is still really fucking cool.
In conclusion, Love, Death & Robot was an incredible adventure that shows to me how great storytelling can be when you just let people go crazy. Give them freedom, a little funding, a little time and they can great amazing things. This is not high art, even when some episodes do manage to ask genuine questions or convey real themes.
It’s a great creative series that deserves more seasons to other voices can have a turn showing off what they can do.
I love this kind of stuff.