Image: Robot Beach 3″by Andy Wilson [Creative Commons]
By: Michael DePietro
NIAGARA UNIVERSITY, N.Y.— Back in 2008, film makers David Fincher (“The Social Network,” “Gone Girl”) and Tim Miller (“Deadpool”) announced that they had begun working together on a reimagining of the 1981 cult classic “Heavy Metal.” Over a decade later, the final result is Netflix’s “Love, Death + Robots,” a highly stylized animated sci-fi anthology series that generally focuses on… well… love, death and robots.
Each episode (except for the lone live action piece, “Ice Age”) was independently produced by teams from all over the world. As such, each has their own distinct visual style, ranging anywhere between traditional 2D animation to realistic looking CGI. Despite a few wonky facial animations here and there, the animation is rather impressive throughout, generally offering a real treat for the eyes.
While the show is bound to draw comparisons to “Black Mirror” (you know, Netflix’s other big budget sci-fi anthology series?), the two shows simply aren’t cut from the same cloth. “Black Mirror” is a brainier, more nuanced beast that concerns itself with modern moral dilemmas and social commentary. “Love, Death + Robots” prefers good ol’ fashioned space-sex, and alien laser battles. Whether or not the series’ creators were actively trying to differentiate themselves from “Black Mirror” or just attempting to stick closer to its source material is unknown, but those who are looking for a more philosophical sci-fi experience are likely to be disappointed.
This isn’t to say there aren’t some genuinely smart or innovative moments throughout the series. Episodes like “Zima Blue” and “Helping Hand” offer some stirring emotional moments while others like “When the Yogurt Took Over” and “Alternate Histories” (which offers a comical series of butterfly effect-like scenarios that might occur should one travel back in time to kill Hitler) provide a much needed boost of satire and sardonic wit. Sadly, these moments are likely to be overshadowed by the series’ penchant for gratuitous nudity and profanity that at best comes off as juvenile, if not downright misogynistic.
The show’s greatest strength however, may be its short episodic runtime. Each of the 18 stand-alone episodes are all under 20 minutes long, with the shortest clocking in at a mere 6 minutes. Not only does this allow for maximum binge-ability, it also makes easing into the series a lot easier for newcomers. Additionally, It also means that lack-luster moments never overstay their welcome.
For all of its faults, “Love, Death + Robots” is still a worthwhile watch for science fiction and animation fans due in no small part to its easily digestible runtime. While the outdated misogyny is regrettable and will certainly be a deal breaker for some, there are just enough bright spots throughout that the future of this future focused series is worth looking forward to. 7/10