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Review: Love, Death, and Robots

Sonnie’s Edge (image: Netflix)

Love Death and Robots, a Netflix original anthology series

Editor’s note: the series is not family friendly

 

Sonnie’s Edge
At first, it almost feels like the introduction to a horror game. The animation is very realistic and reminiscent of things like Assassin’s Creed. There is a lot of language and it’s definitely not for children. It’s a fight club, using human drivers linked to their mutant creatures by technology. The people running this particular club are not on the up and up and would like Sonnie to throw her match for a great deal of money. The fight scene itself is beautifully done. The rendering is smooth and beautiful and my only complaint is that it wasn’t longer. The story is pretty impressive, if dark. The future is a grim, dirty place but there is still room for passion and betrayal. Oh, the end is brilliant.

Three Robots:
This is a more post-apocalyptic setting where three robots are touring a city full of the dead. This one has plenty of cursing robots but not a lot to really engage me. Not like first one. These artificial life forms don’t seem to have any experience with humans so I have to wonder who made them. I do love the cat though. It has some moments that are amusing but I don’t think it was nearly as good as Sonnie’s Edge. It’s a little heavy handed with the message though.

The Witness:
The animation style in this one is a little more comic book and definitely not for the more sensitive viewers. There is a lot of sex and nudity seemingly for the sake of sex and nudity. The story itself could have been an interesting thing but, for me, it was too much. There wasn’t really any overt cyberpunk for me in this one and that’s what I went into this anthology looking for. For me, this one is a hard skip. I don’t mind sex and nudity when it’s a part of bigger things, like in Sonnie’s Edge, but just for the sake of wanting to draw it or see it, it’s just a big turn off.

Suits:
A little Mechwarrior, a little Stranger Things, a lot of aliens and guns. I love this one. It’s got a lot of action and explosions. The art is great, less realistic and more like Saturday morning cartoons, but it feels smooth and detailed. The story is great and the last few seconds made me laugh. The twist isn’t a plot twist so much just a context twist and I love it. The best part, this episode was more everyone friendly with only a little bit of language in the tons of violence against monsters.

Sucker of Souls:
Drawn in stylized cartoon form, with lots of gore, and demon nudity, this one is interesting. Not logical. Certainly nothing like accurate as far as blood volume/pressure goes but it’s fun and I appreciate that. On the outset, I thought it was a different mythology they were going after and got a little excited for something new, but even digging up old ground, it’s a lot of fun. Ridiculous to the nth degree but I love to laugh.

When the Yogurt Took Over:
This one is just silly. It’s not bad but it’s not really great either. It feels more like a silly palette cleanser – like Disney used to do with the Goofy Sports shorts between shows. You’ll remember it because it’s silly, like you remember Goofy’s Wha-hoo-hoo laugh echoing off mountains, but there’s nothing here to stick to your bones. Fun, goofy, and fine.

Beyond the Aquila Rift:
Space! Finally! It starts with such promise… I love deep space travel stories. This one had a sense of wrongness very early. The animation in this one is flat out amazing. I hope it’s not the future of movies because I really like seeing real people, but there are things we can do in animation that we could never replicate with practical effects. I’m more of a practical effects kind of viewer but I can admit when something is ridiculously good and this one is. In a few places, it really felt like the animators were trying to see how close to real they could get with flesh and sex, but they did a good job with it. And at least this time, the sex has some purpose. The foreshadowing is well done and the end is clear and makes perfect sense. The story is great but the real centerpiece here is the animation – the texture of the skin, the hair, the way light moves in the eyes, it’s amazing.

Good Hunting:
The animation in this one is very smooth and lovely. It’s full of mysticism and Chinese folklore. If it were liveaction, it would feel much like Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon. The storytelling is also lovely. Technology is driving magic out of existence, colonialism driving out the rest. There is a message here, if you look. When it turns toward steampunk, the short film comes alive, twisting and turning into violence, machined into a beautiful weapon of transformative destruction. There’s poetry in this entry that’s missing from some of the others and it speaks to me.

The Dump:
A city inspector tries to remove a dump for the pretty condos wanting to move in next door. There is a tiny bit of nudity and definitely more urination than I ever really need to see but mostly it’s a great big hunk of trash that’s gained a bit of sentience and now absorbs all the things. It’s very short and not exactly satisfying but not terrilble.

Shape-Shifters:
In a near realism style, the people feel like the kids from the Polar Express all grown up. It takes a minute to see these guys are not exactly human, but they look it well enough. The best part of this short is the animation – the shifters themselves are ridiculously well animated. I’d watch a whole movie about this character for sure. There’s only a few short minutes here but there’s enough world building to tell me I’d like to see more of it. There wasn’t much in the way of robot here but it’s a beautiful addition to the anthology.

Helping Hand:
Solo satellite repair in the darkness of space for a company that prioritizes profits over safety. This is another hyper-realistic style. The story is realistic and absolutely depressing and I definitely cringed my way through this. There’s not a lot of gore or horror but this entry is absolutely the most uncomfortable entry in the series. What would you do to survive the big empty?

Fish Night:
Everything is very cartoony here, watching two salesmen hoping for a miracle on a deserted road in what looks to be the Arizona desert. A desert full of ghosts out of time, out of place, that can affect the here and now in unexpected ways. There’s not too much story here but the animation is amazing.

Lucky 13 from Love Death and Robots (image: Netflix)

Lucky 13:
A new pilot is given the oldest ship, the one everyone thinks is unlucky but she sees it differently. It is absolutely visually stunning. The enemy has familiar looking tech but you never really get to see them, it’s just a war over space, one group seemingly sabotaging the terraformers and the other defending them. The whole of it is beautiful, haunting, and so sad. It’s a very interesting universe.

Zima Blue:
The animation here is very cartoony but the plot is not. It is art to the extremes in the search of what we all search for, the meaning of life. It’s a very interesting and deep story, wrapped in and around itself until it’s back to the beginning again. Of all the snippets, this is the most philosophical if not the most powerful.

Blind Spot:
This has a very Saturday Morning cartoon feel, if they were written for adults. This is a heist that’s going all the way wrong. It’s full of violence and language and explosions. There is a great deal of destruction and a handful of adorable hoppy mice. For me, this one is unfinished. We never find the point of the heist, the losses meant nothing, and it’s just missing something.

Ice Age:
I honestly can’t tell if some parts of this are live action. I think they must be though. In some ways, this is like watching Banished on the fastest setting or the sims. A little world evolving in the freezer portion of an antique icebox until it wipes itself out and starts anew. Pretty sure there’s a metaphor here somewhere.

Alternate Histories:
This one is little more than an exercise in “Let’s Kill Hitler” in increasingly ridiculous ways and see how that timeline might have worked out. There are some very funny moments and a number of very crude moments and, as is super prevalent through the entire series, sex but this one has the crudest drawing style of all the vignettes.

The Secret War:
This is another incredibly strong story. This is very Lovecraftian, if he could have written fast paced action. Somewhere in the mountains, the Russians are hunting killers that are not of this Earth. This is black magic run amok in the very worst of ways. I would have loved to see this as a full movie.

Overall, don’t watch this with kids. At all. But do watch it. There is some amazing work here in both animation and in story. Personally, my favorites were Sonnie’s Edge, The Secret War, Suits, and Lucky 13 in that order. I didn’t much need Alternate Histories and Witness I think I’d skip if I were to do a rewatch as it’s just a little too much for me.

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