The world’s battle with Covid-19 has brought all of us close to the consequences of death and doom making us clutch our loved ones that much closer. The Netflix anthology Love Death and Robots touch upon what we are going through, using its animated shorts.
The title sequence is not a feel-good tune and is exactly as abrupt and unsettling as the name of the series. The sequence sounds like a heartbeat and a digital synthesizer had a baby with some atonal clusters.
The Premise of Love Death and Robots
Love death and robots series is what would happen if the short stories of Roald Dahl, Isaac Asimov and Saki (HH Munroe) were animated. Most stories were taken from the work of established sci-fi writers such as Michael Swanwick, John Scalzi, and Claudine Griggs. All these writers have obviously drawn inspiration from the likes of Dahl and Asimov.
Even though the series is named Love, Death, and Robots, some episodes don’t necessarily include even one of the aspects it claims to explain or display. For example “The Drowned Giant” does not necessarily touch upon death, as the focus is on the spectacle of the event in a sleepy village. It shows how we as people lose our humanity to decay that happens over time - aging and moral breakdown. It also showcases sensationalism that is completely relevant in the age of social media, and how it dissolves humanity in its belly leaving nothing behind but a sordid tale and hearsay.
A graphic content warning is in order as this anthology is suitable only for adults due to violence and the depiction of intimate scenes.
The animation here is used as a tool for storytelling and not as the story itself. Although sometimes it does feel redundant to attempt realistic animation using real actors with motion capture technology. I mean, at least create a new actor out of scratch, use a videogame character. Why not just film the episodes in real life ( Michael B Jordan in Life-Hutch ) instead of spending a fortune on animating an actor who is already alive.
Redundancy aside, the animation is really good. My favorite realistic animation episode was "Snow in the Desert," putting out a “The Mandolorian” vibe. The animation complimented the storyline well, requiring the protagonist's face to show complex emotions. “The Witness” had this first-person cyberpunk animation style that really added to the confusion that the lead felt after what she saw. The least favorite animation for me was “The Dump” which was used again for “Automated Customer Service". I thought it was too messy and distracting and made the viewers rely heavily on the voice-over and the plot device in general.
Love Death and Robots Season 1 (2019)
If you ask me, this was the better of the two seasons. It might be just because there was a wide range of shorts to choose from, 18 to be exact. There were different animation styles, plots, story lengths, and more to choose from. There were a lot of good episodes and here I have listed my favorites:
This was something I put off watching because of what seemed to be low-quality animation before I watched it fully. But the more I watched, the more I was swept away by the story and the mystique of the protagonist. As you get lost in the story, you wonder where it will end and what the payoff is going to be, but you enjoy every second of it. The end brings with it a wave of metaphors that makes you think about life, your purpose in this universe, and what happiness and contentedness mean to each one of us. I guess one word to describe this episode is meaning.
Again, I was not a fan of the animation in this episode (at the start), as it seemed to be chaotic and messy, to say the least. At times it did feel gratuitous, but also intriguing. The story lead is in a frenzy from the start to the finish about something we can’t yet understand. The end of the episode seems to raise more questions than it does provide answers. This episode is definitely worth watching with a really good plot and execution.
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Beyond the Aquila Rift
This is a great, classic sci-fi animation short that fortunately had great animation, to begin with as well. It tells you the story of the space traveler who might have strayed a bit too far off the beaten path. The use of sensual scenes in this short is not gratuitous and is part of the plot device which gets really interesting really fast.
If you are looking for a nice, clean animation short with a satisfying ending, complete with a subtle twist, this is the episode for you. The tale is of many farmers that defend their crops using agricultural robots that are weaponized to some extent. It is a wholesome episode that can actually be expanded into a limited series with more twists added along the way.
Love Death and Robots Season 2 (2021)
For some reason, the latest season came with only 8 episodes which might have something to do with feedback received for the first season. Here are a few of my favorites in this season:
Snow in the Desert
This is probably an episode that feels like a full movie condensed into a densely packed animation short. The animation is realistic and the plot revolves around this Django (Clint Eastwood iteration) type character who probably has a story to tell. The action and suspense are great in this episode with a good pace and great plot elements.
Dystopian futures are always a bummer, and this one’s no different. But there’s great animation in this short and themes on humanity about where we are headed and where we have been. This one is a bleak peek into a Huxley-esque world (A H Huxley) where we have lost touch with what it means to be a human.
Should You Watch it? Hells Yes!
With each episode being only a few minutes long, this series is definitely worth a watch. While season 1 of Netflix’s Love Death and Robots is clearly better than season 2, both of them are definitely worth watching to completion.
You are bound to walk away with a better appreciation of animation-based storytelling and a greater understanding of the human condition.
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