Love, Death and Robots is a strange one to wrap your head around. Consisting of 18 unrelated episodes lasting less than 20 minutes, the production baby of Tim Miller and David Fincher is perhaps better seen not as a television anthology, but as Netflix’s first short film festival. Animation teams and creatives from all over the world have contributed to bringing the series to life, and the vast diversity on display is akin to any cinema gala. The end result pushes exciting new boundaries in aesthetics, but too often falls back on outdated and immature tropes.
Each individual episode brings unique styles of CGI to the mix. Some such as ‘Helping Hand’ and ‘SecretWar’ opt for an immersive hyperreal experience, while others like ‘FishNight’ simply go for bombastic visuals. Stand out examples include ‘TheWitness,’ which kicks and screams with life in its visceral shots. Love, Death & Robots is an exciting opportunity to take a peek at the latest innovations from the world of animation, giving you a chance to glimpse at what may in time become more mainstream.
The presentation is immaculate, but the content is not. Episodes such as the aforementioned ‘The Witness’ or the series’ opener, ‘Sonnie’s Edge’, rely too heavily on sexual gratification and carnal kicks. At times it feels as though a teenage boy wrote the scripts on a high after discovering his dad’s secret porn stash, with over half of the episodes dipping into moments of either laborious stupidity or needless sexualisation.
It doesn’t help that some of the more realistic animation styles do less to satisfy peculiar cravings and instead simply ‘weird you out.’ The excess of violence and sex is certainly a burden to Love, Death and Robots.
This is a shame, because there are a few gems to be had. ‘Three Robots’ sees some droids engage in a spot of dark tourism and keeps your attention despite lacking any real story, encouraging you to think instead. ‘Good Hunting’ – the one episode that should definitely be watched – has a fascinating subtext of desire, objectification and colonialism in a steampunk-futureHong Kong.
A bizarre and hilarious highlight is ‘Alternate Histories,’ which asks that age old question; how would Hitler have to die for a peaceful squid race to beat humankind to the moon?
Love, Death and Robots is no failure, but does not live up to its potential. Miller and Fincher seem to have let their creatives go wild, resulting in some incredible stylistic triumphs but also some unchecked and unrepentant silliness. A few episodes manage to stand out amidst the testosterone-charged chaos, but by and large this is a series made for a young male audience that stopped existing in 2004.
Image: Torley via Flickr