Love, Death, and Robots, is beautiful in a messed-up sort of way. It’s very unlike the Hollywood Studio approach to animation, as it cares less about being thoughtful, and cares more about sensational line crossing. Which is sort of the point of the project.
For a short-by-short rundown, we reviewed ‘Love, Death, and Robots’ on TV Talk, Episode 2.
The Netflix animated anthology consists of eighteen unique shorts. Each episode has a runtime six to eighteen minutes in length and features a different type of story: drama, comedy, borderline pornography, though above everything else: science fiction. Let me be clear that this is not a series for children. Even the title is misleading, as there isn’t much love as much as there was gratuitous sexuality.
Personally, if I owned the renaming rights to the series, I’d call it: ‘Heavy Metal: Violence, Sex, and Technology’ – because that’s what producers David Fincher (Fight Club) and Tim Miller (Deadpool), two critically acclaimed Directors in their own right, were in fact trying to create. In 2008, the pair tried rebooting the cult classic movie from the 1980s, Heavy Metal.
David Fincher was originally meant to direct, while Tim Miller was meant to animate through his co-founded animation studio, Blur. However, before the project took off, director Robert Rodriguez purchased the rights to Heavy Metal. Effectively ending all possibilities of a David Fincher and Tim Miller reboot. Rodriguez too, had intended to develop Heavy Metal into a series, though his project also seems to be stuck in developmental hell, which worked out in the long run, as it allowed him the time needed to focus a different project I’ve covered on the workprint: Alita: Battle Angel.
Because they lost the rights to ‘Heavy Metal’, Fincher and Miller had spent about a decade reformatting their product and shopping it around. Eventually, they found a home on Netflix, and given the platform’s desire for original content, in addition to the growing competition from streaming services such as Hulu, Amazon Prime, and Disney+ (though to be fair, Disney+ would never greenlight this series), Netflix was more than happy to take on the project, which is how Love, Death, and Robots got made.
Tim Miller himself, mentioned in an interview at SXSW that the goal was to create a sandbox styled environment for less traditional animation and production circuits. As such, ‘Love, Death, and Robots’ was supposed to experiment with science fiction storytelling – while all the while, capitalize on streaming platforms lesser restrictions over a mature audience rating.
It is something that Studio Blur is familiar with, as the company is renowned for its acclaimed video game trailers; with rated mature hits for large AAA titles such as the Arkham Batman and Halo: Combat Evolved, series. Suffice to say, it was not surprising that four of the eighteen featured shorts in the series: Sonnie’s Edge, Suits, Shape-Shifters, and Blindspot – were all produced by Studio Blur.
Atop of this, most of the stories used in the series were adapted shorts of science fiction, written by acclaimed science fiction authors such as Joe R. Lansdale and Alastair Reynolds. Though most important to me, was the work of John Scalzi, a consultant for Stargate: Universe and good friend of actor and nerd enthusiast – Wil Wheaton. If you listen to the podcast, you’ll notice Scazli had penned some of my favorite episodes: Three Robots, Alternate Histories, and When the Yogurt took over. Each were short form stories with comedic undertones that fit the expectations of an animated short, but was also refreshing, because Scazli’s style didn’t take itself all too seriously.
You see, most of ‘Love, Death, and Robots’ is lewd and atypical, obnoxious, but also somewhat heartfelt. It’s serious, and it wants you to take it seriously, though above all else: it’s complicated. It wants to capture the things you cannot traditionally see on in cinema. It seeks praise for seeking adult themes.
Which brings us to the biggest problems about the series: it’s completely immature. Everything about the series seems like the fantasies of a pubescent teenage boy – featuring excessive images of tits, trippy nonsensical rants, existential ennui, cyberpunk themes, and premises that are often heavy and full of themselves – spitting out tales of forbidden Machina, we can’t help but think we’ve seen somewhere before. It’s selling you the idea that excess and messed up shit, is cool.
I think the series would’ve been stronger in the 2000s era. I also think they should’ve sought more female artists and talent, as it wreaks heavily of male fantasy. I think the series works better as an idea because as a show, there is no coherent unifying theme, other than the promise of its premise: sex, violence, and technology.
Which is why overall… I absolutely love this series. Because the gem in this show is the animation, which I will honestly say – knocks it out of the park. Each episode is uniquely designed for its story and it’s more than enough to make up for the series’ shortcomings. You don’t watch Love, Death, and Robots for anything else except: LOVE. DEATH. ROBOTS. So, if you like animated shorts, this is a good place to nest and watch a few – especially if you’re an immature kid, like myself.
Though I do understand the criticisms (I listed many of them above).