Synopsis: Love, Death & Robots is a collection of animated short stories that span the science fiction, fantasy, horror and comedy genres. With a bold approach to each story’s narrative, episodes are intended to be easy to watch and hard to forget.
Review: It has been a long time since we have had something as decidedly adult in the world of animation as Love, Death, and Robots. Created by DEADPOOL director Tim Miller and produced by David Fincher, this anthology of 18 short films comes from a diverse group of filmmakers and animation studios who live up to the titular inclusion of romance, murder, and artificial life. With no episode clocking in at more than thirty minutes and some less than ten, this is a quick and easy binge of diverse stories and styles that will keep even the shortest attention span engaged this weekend. it also highlights the next generation of filmmakers and storytellers who may not have gotten as wide of an exposure as Netflix can offer.
With a varied mix of styles that echo the best AAA video games to classic Japanese anime, cel-drawn animation to big budget CGI, this anthology has it all while never sticking with a single definition for what genre it is covering. Some episodes, like “Sonnie’s Edge” are played like cut-scenes from the newest Playstation or Xbox games, but have a full storyline based on published short stories. Others, like the standout “Alternate Histories”, go for a less realistic look. But what is the same for each story are the buckets of blood and gore which you would never get to see in a live action film. There are also a lot of images of genitalia which animators have gotten really good at replicating. But like the uncanny valley effect in films like FINAL FANTASY: THE SPIRITS WITHIN, the animation is just slightly off enough that you know it is not real.
Still, this series has moments where I could not tell if it was actors in motion-capture suits or fully created by animators from scratch. But, as impressive as the boundary-pushing technologies employed in CGI can be, I found myself enjoying the hand-drawn episodes a lot more. An example is the excellent “Sucker of Souls” which gives us a nice twist on a vampire tale replete with witty one-liners and lots of humor. If there was one mistake in naming this series, it was failing to address just how much of these stories are funny. Credit is definitely owed to the writers on this series as much as the animators as I found virtually every episode to be worth expanding into a longer narrative. Maybe that is the blessing of short films in that they can keep the story focused without much filler, but these tales are all so unique and distinct that they merit longer running times.
If there is one shortcoming for this series, it is that some episodes seem to heap on the nudity and violence just for the sake of doing so. Like the aforementioned videogame cutscenes, these episodes tend to blend together. You will definitely see that some episodes spent a lot more effort on the visuals than the writing, but luckily these are in the minority. Still, while I have no problem with blood and boobs, you can immediately spot the productions that relied on thos elements more heavily than others. While Miller and Fincher’s involvement is not in a director capacity, the styles they employ in their films comes through loud and clear. In a series that echoes the works of The Wachowskis, George Miller, David Lynch, David Cronenberg as well as Fincher himself, there is a lot of expectation and this series mostly achieves that.
Love, Death + Robots is absolutely an anjoyable series on many levels and pushes the boundaries of technology as well as genre storytelling. With the entire season coming in at just about three hours, you can easily binge this in one sitting, but the independent stories and styles will definitely divide audiences on which ones they prefer over others. Thankfully, Netflix presents them episodically, so you can revisit whichever chapters resonate with you more than others. Personally, I am going to enjoy seeing Hitler get murdered over and over again in creative ways but that is just me. There is a lot to love about this show and while not every episode is great, the finished product makes a case for Netflix to greenlight more original ideas like this one.
Love, Death + Robots is now streaming on Netflix.