From the director of ‘Deadpool’, Tim Miller, comes this brand new eighteen part animated anthology series, ‘Love, Death + Robots’. With director extraordinaire David Fincher also serving as a producer this new Netflix series certainly has the star power behind it but does its content live up to those at the helm? Bringing to life eighteen stories in short animated film form this anthology is a unique collection of narratives told in a multitude of styles. With so much content to delve into we at HCMovieReviews decided to rank the episodes in order of our favourites. We can’t reccomend the series as a whole enough so go have a watch and then read on to find out where we ranked each episode!
#18. The Dump
Based on a story by Joe Lansdale comes this fly-infested ten minute episode which lands at the bottom of the rubbish pile thanks to a feeling that you haven’t gained anything by watching it. ‘The Dump’ delivers a monstrous creation but its plot never goes beyond the simple in its social commentary of city bureaucracy and impoverished outsiders. It’s neither intriguing or exciting and aside from the well-designed grimy animation, this yarn about a city inspector hoping to evict a dump-dweller, to make room for nearby developments will leave you wondering “Why in tarnation did I just watch that?”
‘Blindspot’ isn’t a bad episode but it just lacks in anything particularly memorable. The story is simple; a gang of cyborgs attempt to rob a convoy and this high-speed hiest makes up the entire episode. Whilst featuring the makings of fun characters, if audiences had a little longer to spend with them, this installment is nothing more than one action set piece. It’s well done but with no real context it’s hard to be overly invested in the unfolding action. Some will appreciate the stories final moments, whilst others will feel it’s a cop-out but regardless of this ‘Blindspot’ simply fades into the background amongst its vibrant, shocking and impressive company that make up this anthology series.
#16. Sucker of Souls
Definitely one of the most average episodes of the bunch, there’s nothing exceptional to write about here. The story is fine; people in a cave don’t want to get eaten by a Dracula monster. The Dracula villain is fine; big, grotesque, aggressive and invincible – a dreadful time all round. The animation has a nice fluid motion to it, keeping things clear and visible while using broad strokes to carry motion between frames, this went a long way to help express their hurried movement. Though common and quite simple, this little technique goes a long way to keep you invested in the pace of the episode; the quickfire way it jumps from scene to scene is definitely one of the episode’s best assets. Short and punchy, just like its characters. Otherwise, this is your average amateur comic book narrative with a fair level of polish.
#15. Ice Age
Unquestionably one of the most polarising episodes, no pun intended, ‘Ice Age’ failed to leave a positive impression on us. It’s the only episode to feature any live action performances and these come courtesy of Topher Grace & Mary Elizabeth Winstead. They play a couple who move into a new apartment and discover a civilisation in their freezer…yeah you read that right. This live action exception feels like nothing more than a gimmick and the poor and misdirected performances of the cast only result in further irritating the audience. It’s a rare exception for ‘Love, Death + Robots’ but ‘Ice Age’ ultimately feels stupid, pointless and a complete waste of time.
#14. When the Yogurt Took Over
Have you ever seen a B-movie called ‘The Stuff’? Or maybe you caught David Firth’s ‘Cream’? Well, this is the amalgamation of the two – though more on the side of ‘Cream’, because of its more satirical leaning. It approaches the story with reminiscence, sort of like strangers sitting around the campfire telling stories of times before the apocalypse. This is mostly just light fluff (no wait, that’s a mousse) that pokes fun, aiming to jab at our tendency to indulge our hubris despite our compliance and habitual way of life, while indulging in some fanciful absurdity of there being sentient yogurt. Episodes like this go a long way when they break up the pace of having a few hard hitting episodes in a row. The title is pretty much all the plot synopsis you need. Easy and simple.
#13. Zima Blue
Great vocal quality can enrich a character to unbelievable heights, pushing animation through higher boundaries than live action can ever dream of reaching. Looking at the colour Zima Blue, smooth and tranquil, and how it’s used in the story, deep and mountainous, there is no substitution for a voice like Kevin Michael Richardson’s. Though our time with his voice is so short compared to how we view him as a distant curiosity. So much of ‘Zima Blue’ is spent encapsulating this man that it’s almost perfect poetry that the story should culminate in his dismantlement. This is one of those tales we fantasize about when we go down the rabbit hole to ponder how an idea might evolve with infinite possibility.
#12. Lucky 13
It’s in the flight sequences and battles that this episode wins its wings. The up close animation of facial expressions may not be as crisp and strong as in a fair few other episodes from this series but the futuristic combat sequences are like a gritty ‘Star Wars’ with attitude. It’s an incredibly difficult feat to have a short film of less than fifteen minutes make you buy into a bond; in this case between pilot Colby and her supposedly unlucky drop-ship Lucky 13, but it properly lifts off in that department and if nothing else it’s a refreshingly rare step for ‘Love, Death + Robots’ to centre on a female lead.
#11. Three Robots
Based on a story by John Scalzi ‘Three Robots’ is the first experience of the lighter tone that co-exists alongside the darker moments of ‘Love, Death + Robots’. It’s opening seconds allude to another more sombre outing but it quickly establishes its light tone driven by the brilliant comedy present. This humour plays on the best & worst of human culture and all from a robots point of view! The chemistry between the titular robots only enhances this comedy further but a surprising revelation provides a poignant conclusion, only to be eventually seen out with the comedy that so wonderfully underpins the entire episode.
#10. Alternate Histories
The penultimate episode of ‘Love, Death + Robots’ is presented as a demo of an educational research app called Multiversity; its purpose is to provide varying stands of timelines for moments through history. Hitler is always a target for ridicule and this extremely cartoonish styling for six different ways for him to be killed off provides silly and comically violent zaps of glee. A good few of the episodes in this anthology have scope to become longer features but this has great potential to become its own series, with many more amusing alternate histories.
#9. Good Hunting
The sensitivity of this episode’s main character, Liang and the complicated relationship between him and Yan is one of its most compelling features. Yan being a sort of female shape-shifter, a huli jing (best compared to a cat/fox) and Liang being the son of a spirit hunter. What will compel audiences is how it makes an increasingly sharper point on the destruction of beauty but without losing hope, that there will always be beauty to grasp at. It begins with a wide scope with Liang embracing a new industrial China. He’s sees that all is fair until we’re suddenly confronted with the encroaching destruction that comes with the steampunk ideal, butchering one’s self like they were lifeless meat, then to be converted into ornament. This sounds bleak but just watch how some compassion can resurrect beauty from such a brutally vile world.
Think ‘Pacific Rim’ meets ‘A Quiet Place’ and your end result could end up looking a lot like ‘Suits’. As one of the joint longest episodes in this series ‘Suits’ takes advantage of its longer screen time offering thrilling action but narrative to support it, something the already discussed ‘Blindspot’ was sorely lacking. The concept here is cool, farmers suiting up in mechanical weapon systems to protect their families and land from an alien threat. The episode is executed brilliantly with strong action throughout and an emotional sucker punch that’s impressively effective considering the short runtime. What’s more this episodes final shot gives even further context to the story just told delivering one of the most well rounded and enjoyable stories that ‘Love, Death + Robots’ has to offer.
#7. Fish Night
There’s little to no story here. Rather it’s an attraction, a small ride through a cute exhibition. Full of wonder and curiosity, there’s a lasting impact in the way the world comes to life here. Alone and out in a hollowed part of what was once a bowl rich with life, it seems earnest to think that should a specter of every life be seen today that it could be so beautiful. Though heed warning that such beauty isn’t without its dangers also. Where there’s fish, there’s sharks. This is one of the shortest episodes but it’s more a morsel than a crumb. This one definitely wants to interact the most with its concept, to almost literally dive into the “what if?” that fuels ‘Love, Death +Robots’.
Blood and Claws baby! ‘Shape-Shifters’ sees a base of Marines in Afghanistan but two of their squadron happen to be wolf creatures in human skin, manifested by the powers of America. Throughout this episode, with this Middle East backdrop, there is undeniable sense of testosterone but there is a beauty in the friendship between the pair of dog soldiers. The main character hopes to sever his leash to the military and it’s within this statement of war that the episode works nicely; that and the ferociously well animated scuffle of fur and teeth in a moonlight fight.
#5. Helping Hand
Adapted from a story by Claudine Griggs, ‘Helping Hand’ tells a tale out of this world. Like literally, it’s set in space. Despite its somewhat dull beginning this episode quickly develops into a gripping experience as an astronaut is forced into a tense fight for survival. Its like an amalgamation of ‘Gravity’ and ‘127 Hours’ delivering a simple yet shocking story and one of the best episodes with a shorter running time.
#4. Sonnie’s Edge
‘Sonnie’s Edge’ is a striking start to this anthology series, demonstrating the especially high quality of animation that ‘Love, Death + Robots’ boasts throughout. The episode begins panning over a futuristic skyline accompanied by a stylish & intriguing score, setting up the story well. It packs a serious punch with one of the most exhilarating action sequences that the whole series has to offer. This opening and satisfying action set piece alone would prove enough to have ‘Sonnie’s Edge’ high on this list but what elevates it into the top tier is the aftermath, delivering a much more vulnerable insight contrasting the all out action witnessed only seconds before. It benefits from being the first episode with audiences not knowing what to expect and it truly exploits this never losing its unpredictable edge, with jaw dropping results.
#3. The Secret War
Capping off the series and taking our bronze medal position is this Siberian set war drama. A troop of Red Army soldiers are on some secretive hunting mission but it seems their prey are a ferocious force to be reckoned with. This is a stunning episode to watch; from the close ups of bristled facial hair to the visible breaths of air you cannot help but feel the Russian chill experienced by all the characters. By the end of ‘The Secret War’, you’ve seen red flares and gun fire lighting up the way like some wonderfully elongated ‘Call of Duty’ cut scene, with blood splattered snow and ancient beasts making for an explosive gem.
#2. The Witness
Arriving at our runner-up spot is this gorgeously striking animated thriller, which combines colours and styles in an East meets West blend of intoxicating artwork. Pinkman. TV are the animation producers and hopefully we’ll see more of their work because this story, which follows an X-rated dancer witnessing a murder, is gripping from start to finish. The textured fashions and the layered sights & sounds of the world we inhabit for twelve minutes is enough to treat us but then there’s the heavy breathing serving as a soundtrack in the opening and the onomatopoeic sounds visualised as words on screen which further hand this episode a unique and provocative vibe with its cyclical narrative stylishly pulled off.
#1. Beyond the Aquila Rift
Rendered in superb detail, with near uncanny lifelike models, the animation of human texture is realized beautifully to be then twisted and mutilated in the episode’s final moments. Think ‘Alien’ and ‘Interstellar’, if it were more of a tragedy than a horror. This episode is one of ‘Love, Death + Robots’ tightest. Using the conceit that it itself is a mini-narrative plays perfectly into the anthology’s main appeal – every episode being a contained narrative. ‘Beyond The Aquila Rift’ is packed with grand symbols and theme, leaving you to recognize the personal horror unfolding, earning itself the title of our favourite episode.
Written By Troy Balmayer, Hamish Calvert & Joseph McFarlane
Thanks for reading, please let us know what you thought about ‘LOVE DEATH + ROBOTS’ and tell us how you would rank the episodes! Leave us comment below or drop us a tweet over at @HCMovieReviews.