I’ve spent the last three weeks being completely and utterly obsessed over Love Death & Robots, a Netflix exclusive TV show (or anthology movie?) made of 18 adult animated short movies, with a runtime that goes from 6 to 17 minutes.
Created by David Fincher and Tim Miller and released on March 15, this experimental anthology show contains 18 unconnected shorts from 18 different teams of animators around the world. The thread? Most of them (well, all of them) are very adult-oriented and belong to the sci-fi genre (broadly speaking). Although the series features elements of horror, drama, comedy and so on.
Widely considered amongst the most interesting examples of visual storytelling, Love Death & Robots currently stands on the 38th spot in the IMDb top rated TV Shows. I absolutely adored this odd show/anthology, to the point that I’ve already watched my favourite episodes at least five times. As for everything that’s successful, the release of LD&R didn’t come without controversies:
DOES THE EPISODE ORDER DEPEND ON THE GENDER OF THE VIEWER?
A very farfetched and conspiracy-like theory developed on social media (of course), stated that Netflix decided the order in which to present the episodes according to the gender of the viewer. To this allegation Netflix responded: “We’ve never had a show like Love Death & Robots before, so we’re trying something completely new: presenting four different episode orders. The version you’re shown has nothing to do with gender, ethnicity, or sexual identity — info we don’t even have in the first place.” Netflix didn’t offer any information publicly about what exactly it uses to determine the order of the shorts: “We want to showcase the variety of shorts within the anthology series in different ways, and see what works for our members”, it’s all they said. It would be logical to assume Netflix may use subscribers’ watch histories and genre preferences to decide how to present Love, Death & Robots diverse mix of stories, but apparently that’s not the case, either.
IS LOVE DEATH & ROBOTS TOO VIOLENT AND DISTASTFUL?
Oh, yes. Many people complaint about the excessive violence and explicit sex depicted in LD&R. Well, the show is indeed extremely violent, sexually explicit and unapologetic (for the most part), but Netflix already offers precautionary measures for people who want to avoid such content. In other words: do you not want to leave your world made of sunshine and rainbows? Then just don’t watch the show!
Continue reading and check my rating of the episodes…
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REVIEWS OF THE EPISODES
I’ve already mentioned how much I love Love Death & Robots, so it’s now time to see what each episode achieves and what are its flaws. I’m going to review each one of them based on the order I watched them.
1) Sonnie’s Edge (16 minutes) – In the underground world of “beastie” fights, Sonnie is unbeatable as long as she keeps her edge. What’s her ‘edge’, though? This is one of my favourite shorts: the photo-realistic and videogame-like animation is extremely meticulous and detailed, the futuristic score is perfectly fitting, the gore and ‘camera-work’ are spotless. Best of all, this is one of the few episodes that has a backstory (a very disturbing one, while we’re at it) for the main character, which really makes you sympathise for her. A double plot-twist and an ending that’s hard to forget make Sonnie’s Edge a perfect short movie. 10/10
2) Three Robots (12 minutes) – Long after the fall of humanity, three robots embark on a sightseeing tour of a post-apocalyptic city. This is pure, unadulterated and hilarious adult comedy gold. Again, visual style and animation are great, but they would fall flat without the fantastic voice acting, clever jokes (and twists), dark subtle humour. This is the episode I laughed the most at, due to perfect comedic timing. Had it not been for the ham-handed way the environmentalist moral was conveyed, this would get a perfect score. 9/10
3) The Witness (12 minutes) – After witnessing a brutal murder, a woman flees from the killer through the streets of a surreal and Blade Runner-esque city. The Witness might have the absolute best animation style of the bunch: the combination of manga-like, photo-realistic and comic book styles makes for an experience of visual storytelling that’s very much unprecedented. Through little dialogue but fantastic sound design and visual flow, this short manages to deliver its story: the concept behind it is very cool, albeit not all that original. However, the presentation of The Witness makes it stand out as one of the best in Love Death & Robots. 10/10
4) Suits (17 minutes) – A community of farmers use their homemade mechs to defend their families and farms from an alien attack. Through an almost child-friendly animation, this action-packed short manages to be extremely entertaining throughout. Although the animation is very polished and the voice-acting works, Suits doesn’t stand out due to its style or creature-design (I mean, those aliens look an awful lot like xenomorphs…). The dialogues are also quite formulaic and the dynamics between characters come off as rather dull. Still, Suits is just loads of fun topped with a very cool big reveal. 7/10
5) Sucker of Souls (13 minutes) – Unleashed by an archaeological dig, a bloodthirsty demon battles a team of mercenaries armed with heavy weapons and… cats. This is a horror-comedy that has a few stylised sequences, some fun jokes and loads of blood. Besides that, though, the narration is quite messy, the story is a bit dull and the animation is just bland. Even with such a simple and unoriginal concept, a lot more could’ve been achieved here. 6/10
6) When the Yogurt Took Over (6 minutes) – After scientists accidentally breed super-intelligent yogurt, it soon hungers for world domination. This is a sweet and short segment that works just like a joke in a bar told to a group of drunk people: it’s funny and witty, absurd and surreal, but it doesn’t leave a long-lasting impression. One thing I noticed upon multiple viewings is that the backgrounds are filled with disturbing imagery that very much contrasts with the hilariously dumb tone of the story: bonus points for that! 7.5/10
7) Beyond the Aquila Drift (17 minutes) – Awakening after traveling light years off course, a ship’s crew struggles to discover just how far they’ve come. Let me just say it: Beyond the Aquila Drift might be the best short film I’ve ever seen: horror, sci-fi, erotica and romance come together in this tale of mystery and despair. The animation is scarily photo-realistic (I mean, I kind of fall for Greta…), the score is mesmerising, the ‘set-design’ and ‘camera-work’ are creative… on top of all of this, the reveal at the end and the implications of the captain’s decision after that are just hearth-breaking and disturbing. Can someone please make a feature-length movie out of this? 10/10
8) Good Hunting (17 minutes) – The son of a spirit hunter forges a bond with a shape-shifting huli jing, all the while technology in China advances in a dystopian past. This is the episode that grew on me the most: although the animation isn’t exceptional (but it’s great nonetheless) and there’s a bit too much of exposition, Good Hunting succeeds more than most episodes into building a parallel world that’s incredibly believable and realistic. The story is emotional, disgusting and empowering. The characters are defined enough. Violence, gore and action are entertaining throughout. 8.5/10
9) The Dump (11 minutes) – Ugly Dave calls the garbage dump home, and he’s not about to let some city slicker take it away from him. Just like Suits (number 4), The Dump doesn’t offer anything mind-blowing in terms of its presentation. However, the silly yet entertaining story combined with the adult humour makes for a very enjoyable viewing experience. 7/10
10) Shape-shifters (16 minutes) – Deep in Afghanistan, two Marines who can turn into werewolves face a threat from one of their own kind… from the other side of the battlefield. Here we have yet another photo-realistic animated short: although the dialogue is so dull that becomes cringe-worthy at times, action sequences, awesome POV shots and gore completely make up for that. This episode has been criticised for pushing a conservative agenda… what?! It’s just a short movie about dog soldiers for fuck’s sake! If anything, Shape-shifters tackles some issues like diversity and acceptance within the army, which is quite interesting. 8/10
11) Helping Hand (10 minutes) – Stranded in orbit, an astronaut must choose between life and limb before her oxygen runs out. Have you ever wondered what Gravity would look like as a short movie? Well, it would be called Helping Hand and would be a lot less boring. The way this short movie builds tension is very impressive and the animation (that looks exactly like a cut scene from a videogame) definitely helps in setting the mood and the world this story takes place in. Voice acting and sound-mixing are superb here. 8/10
12) Fish Night (10 minutes) – After their car breaks down in the desert, two salesmen take a dreamlike voyage to the dawn of time. Some neat visuals and an animated style that separates itself from the others in this anthology show are the only redeeming qualities of Fish Night. Other than that, this short movie has no structure, no story, no peaks in tension… it’s just dull and pointless, by far the worst in the bunch. 4.5/10
13) Lucky 13 (15 minutes) – After the drop-ship Lucky 13 lost two crews, no pilot would fly her, but rookies don’t get a choice… so Lieutenant Colby would do her best to build up a relationship with her ship. Very Halo-esque in terms of visuals and action sequences, Lucky 13 relies on a combination of photo-realistic characters and CGI environment, making for a rather believable world. The short is action-packed, has solid voice-acting and it’s one of the most emotional. Unfortunately, lazy narration and dull main storyline force me to lower its grade. 7.5/10
14) Zima Blue (10 minutes) – The renowned artist Zima recounts his mysterious past and rise to fame before unveiling his final work. This is an odd one: the main animation resembles an episode of Kim Possible (… yeah …), but the paintings by Zima feature some of the most striking images I’ve seen recently. This conflict exists also within the story, where the powerful and subtle message is trapped into a main plotline that seems lazy and childish. I’m very confused… 7/10
15) Blind Spot (9 minutes) – the Saturday morning cartoon style of animation is really the biggest problem of this otherwise very thrilling ride about a gang of cyborg thieves staging a high-speed heist of a heavily armoured convoy. Filled with funny situational moments and cool Mad Max-like action sequences, Blind Spot perfectly uses the short runtime in its favour. The ending could have been much less obvious, though. 7.5/10
16) Ice Age (11 minutes) – A young couple (Mary Elizabeth Winstead and Topher Grace) moves into an apartment and finds a lost civilization inside their antique freezer. The mix of animation (very sparse and quite lazy) and actual film makes for a very weird, almost out-of-place experience. Ice Age stretches the ending of Men in Black II to 11 minutes and still manages to become repetitive. Some funny moments and two entertaining lead performances save this segment from being a failure. 6/10
17) Alternate Histories (8 minutes) – Want to see Hitler die in a variety of comical ways? Now you can. Welcome to Multiversity! It’s a cool concept… that gets old and repetitive very fast! The best aspects of this short movie consist of the contrast between child-like animation and heavily adult themes, and one hilarious visual gag involving rats and octopuses. Besides that, Alternate Histories feels very disposable and uninteresting. 6/10
18) The Secret War (16 minutes) – Elite units of the Red Army fight an unholy evil deep in the ancient forests of Siberia. Terrific voice acting and unflinching characters make this crossover between Call of Duty and Halo one of the best episodes. Just like Sonnie’s Edge and Good Hunting, The Secret War accomplishes everything it had to due to the existence of a backstory, the development of simplistic yet compelling characters and the creation of a very genuine parallel past. This is also the only short to be perfectly structured like a feature-length film: it’s also got a great score and a powerful/sad ending. 10/10
ALL THE EPISODES RANKED – WORST TO BEST
If you’ve been on this website before, you’d know I try to be as objective and unbiased as possible when I rate movies. Therefore, this ranking might not reflect exactly the grades I gave to the short movies of Love Death & Robots: this ranking is based on my personal preferences, not on pure technical merit and objective qualities.
18. Fish Night
17. Ice Age
16. Helping Hand
15. Alternate Histories
14. Sucker of Souls
13. Zima Blue
12. Blind Spot
11. The Dump
10. When the Yogurt Took Over
8. The Secret War
7. Lucky 13
5. The Witness
4. Three Robots
3. Good Hunting
2. Sonnie’s Edge
1.Beyond the Aquila Drift
What did you think of Love Death & Robots overall? What’s your favourite and least favourite episode? Let me know in the comments… and let’s hope to see season 2 as soon as possible!
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