Love, Death & Robots (Season 1, 2019)


What if the world were ruled by yogurt? What if a couple had a civilization in their fridge? What if the military recruited werewolves to hunt terrorists? These questions and more are asked and answered in Love, Death & Robots, a brand-new Netflix anthology series. Consisting of 18 animated shorts from different directors, the stories have no narrative connections, and all feature different tones and art styles. The only real thing linking them is the motif of science fiction, and even that’s tenuous, since several of the stories, like the aforementioned werewolf film, would more comfortably fit in the fantasy genre. Even so, the series is engaging enough, with plenty of unique ideas and slick visuals to keep you invested. According to the show’s producers, David Fincher, and Tim Miller, their only objective was to “make something cool.” And, in my opinion, they more than succeeded in that regard.

But you should probably know a few things before sitting down to watch this.  First, all the shorts are less than 20 minutes long. As such, none of the films have particularly well-developed plots or characters. There’s maybe one exception, my favorite entry, “Good Hunting,” which is longer, and gives you more time with the characters, but, for the most part, these films are very much exercises in style. Second, this anthology is definitely not for children. There is so much violence, cursing, and over-sexualized fan-service in some of these shorts that It made me uncomfortable. There are more lighthearted entries, to be sure, such as “Three Robots,” “Ice Age” and “When The Yoghurt Took Over,” but they are just that; the exception. Most of these films feel like they were made for horny young men who grew up playing violent video games. So if you’re bothered by female objectification, and can’t stand a lot of blood, avoid “Sonnie’s Edge,” “The Witness,” and “Beyond The Aquila Rift.” Finally, if you don’t like CGI that tries to look exactly like human faces, you might be turned off by a fair number of entries in this anthology. Granted, this is very much a personal taste thing, since I’m a fan of more traditional, 2D cel animation, like what you might see in a classic Disney film, but we have the term “uncanny valley” for a reason. Very often, when people try to make CGI look exactly like human faces, they can’t get it quite right, and so you wind up disengaging from the film because you’re so turned off by how weird everything looks. Several entries in this series, including all the ones I just mentioned, as well as “Helping Hand,” “Shape-Shifters,” “Lucky 13” and “Secret War” attempt to make photorealistic images, and, in my opinion, fail.

In the end, what it all comes down to is this; some entries in this anthology are just better than others. My favorites, and the ones I definitely think you should check out, are “Good Hunting,” the story of a mechanic in British Hong Kong building a cyborg body for a fox spirit, “Three Robots,” a short comedy about a group of machine tourists visiting Earth after humanity has been wiped out, and “When The Yoghurt Took Over,” a satirical examination of sentient dairy conquering the world. There are some other, fun entries as well, such as “Ice Age,” “Alternate Histories” and “Suits” but those first three, in my opinion, are the best. “Three Robots” has the funniest dialogue. “When The Yoghurt Took Over” has the most biting commentary. And “Good Hunting,” like I said before, has the most fleshed-out characters and plot. I also adore the design of the world and the melding of traditional Chinese folklore with steampunk. Now, maybe you’ll disagree. Maybe you don’t have a problem with photorealistic CGI, and love seeing blood and boobs. And if so, great. There’s plenty of that in here. And, in the end, that’s why I think you all should give this series a look. No matter what your tastes are, dark or lighthearted, sullen or silly, Love, Death & Robots have something that’ll suit you. And as Fincher so eloquently put it, it’s cool. What more could you want?

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