Today I will change my basic structure of reviewing as this show needs a different perspective to look inwards and that will be helpful to the readers.
Rumblings in my brain after watching 14 episodes of Love,Death and Robot
Love, Death +Robots is a psychedelic/zoned/doped….wait “ tranced” look at ideas from a different perspective much like its spiritual cousin ie.. Netflix’s “Black Mirror”. Lathed in imaginative and futuristic storytelling, LDR packs a punch enough to beat the hell out of any alternate entertainment source seen in recent years!
Set over 18 short animation/ motion capture based stories, LDR explores the other side of the brain by questioning a range of set emotions and human paradigms. It looks at politics, apocalyptic worlds created by human obsession, the aftermath of humanity, inflection points in history, the perils of technology, the fake illusions of pleasure and so on. It can be raunchy, sexy, relevant and political at the same time.
Although most of the stories are inspired by quoted and known events, they are treated in a different way by using various animation styles and techniques. Also, the fact that each animation is between 6 minutes and 18 minutes, it conveys a quick message and people don’t have to endure too much of CGI. There is also the logic that a viewer can watch most of the anthology on the mobile phone itself purely because of its short length.
Creators Tim Miller (Deadpool) and David Fincher (no intros needed) use close to half dozen animation and CGI techniques to amplify the storytelling here. At times it does get a bit repetitive with its obsession of apocalyptic theories and the startling importance of cats in times to come.
Blur Animation in LA and a slew of global animation companies have produced the films with very different visual language in each episode. More importantly, CGI has been used as a tool for not just visual presentation but bringing depth to its leading characters.
Each episode is a distinct entity in itself but somehow exercises no restrain in storytelling. Simple and basic protagonists tell a larger than life story.
LDR is also the exploration of outrageous ideas. For example, “When The Yogurt Took Over” is a take on yogurt becoming an intelligent life form in the future and runs the entire earth’s ecosystem.
In “Three Robots”, 3 robots who talk like humans end deciphering the fact that no apocalypse and no climate change destroyed humanity and that Cats end up ruling the planet who also talk like humans.
Some of the episodes have influences of video gaming characters, while some are focused on underground and counter culture. Eg in “Sonny’s Edge” one can see an alternate image of a futuristic city of London and a population which believes in murder and blood for most part.
Another risk LDR runs is that it talks in every story about extraterrestrial life forms. I think that tends to bore the viewer beyond a certain point. It might even feel that there is no meat or juice in regular stories of our world.
THE REVIEW OF LOVE, DEATH AND ROBOTS
(My Top 5 Episodes in the anthology)
SONNIE’S EDGE:- A futuristic London is home to fights between intelligent aliens called “Beasties”. The biggest fight arena’s owner Dicko hires a cyberpunk warrior Sonnie and her pet beast “Khanivore” to fight a larger beast called “Turboraptor”. The owner tries to bribe her to lose the battle which she refuses and goes on to defeat the Turboraptor. It is revealed that she herself has been brutally raped and almost killed, due to this she builds herself into a “warrior pilot” of the future. This story sets the tenor for the series as it picks on social castes, rich and poor dynamics in the future and the exploitation of women in a dystopian world. The story is close to 16 minutes in length and has excellent CGI for the creatures and the tattoo inspired body design of Sonnie. Sonnie’s scars on her face and the numerous tattoos hide her injuries but also enhances her look and feel. The story clearly takes potshots at the British aristocracy in a way. A must watch.
THREE ROBOTS: Three differently built robots are strolling around an extinct Earth with each one speaking like a distinct ethnicity of humans. That’s fascinating given that there are no humans. They go on looking at relics of what is left and are brainstorming as to what caused the elimination of the humanity in the first place only to find that cats who talk like humans are all over the place. This short film takes a grim look at the fact that how too much technology, ego, sedentary lifestyles and more importantly our own ‘hubris’ were all deadlier than an apocalypse or climate change which ultimately erased humans. A short story with a universal message!
BEYOND THE AQUILA RIFT : Two Astronauts wake up after a cryogenic sleep in a spaceship after a while only to find that they are light years off course from their original destination. One of them Suzie is asleep and Tom wakes up to find that his ex love Greta is there to welcome him. Tom and Greta then reignite their past love and Tom starts to question this whole scenario as a simulation in which he is stuck. It’s actually “The Hive”, a destination which catches off track space travelers where a giant spider like alien feeds of people’s mind by making them realize that they are in a paradise. This episode based on Alistair Reynolds book of the same name makes you question your deepest fears and at the same time makes you realize that they can be used against yourself by any external force. Pure Brilliance!
THE SECRET WAR :- Set in the 2nd World War, this episode talks about the Soviet Army special unit investigating a senseless massacre of a village in remote Siberia. Led by a determined commander they go deep in the forest and find the nest of underground creatures who have been letting loose in the villages. The commander sends his son back and their platoon goes down fighting against these creatures but just in time when a military air attack wipes out the entire population of these creatures. The story here is dreamy and a bit far from reality. Its revealed that a Russian army colonel had summoned these creatures from the underground by using black magic to fight along with the army. But they went out of control and started eating humans. The Director makes these monsters as political tools to avenge from the Germans and the fact that the Army can go to any length to win a war!
ZIMA BLUE :- A brilliant 6 minute short film about the artist known as Zima who summons a journalist after 100 years to talk about his life’s work! Zima who started as a regular artist attains iconic status by creating larger than life murals which become as big as the size of a planet and usually has a “blue” geometric space in the middle. Zima has crafted his own body to last for many generations by using different fibers, AI instruments, etc. But when he reaches his zenith, Zima wants to go back to his very first form as he finds more satisfaction in smaller things and the basic jobs done well. I think this is the centerpiece of “LDR” as the episode takes enormous creative leaps and conveys some out of the box concepts here. The visuals are lush, arresting and compelling. This story is successfully envisages the unknown in a way reminiscent of Stanley Kubrick, Isaac Asimov.
THE ETHOS OF THE STORYTELLING IN LOVE, DEATH + ROBOTS
LDR explores our deepest fears and their possible manifestations. It creates a utopian as well as apocalyptic scenarios but at the end up focusing on the humanity and the essential fragility of our race. Eg. In “Beyond The Aquila Rift”, although the setting of Tom’s world is in a distant future and talks in detail of a conniving alien but at the center of its is Tom’s own personal issues and his past which creates a problem. In “Three Robots” the story is narrated by Robots but they do so by frequenting extinct human habitats echoing a certain school of thought which humanity stands for …Eg. Conflict, Fringe elements and so on!
On the whole, both Fincher and Miller have articulated deep personal and political issues but have packaged them in an entirely new box.
Although “Black Mirror” still has more to say but “Love, Death + Robots” is also on top of its game!