Netflix’s new animated original is bursting with beautiful visuals and bold storytelling. However, it is not without some strong hits and misses. Here’s our season one review.
From Deadpool director Tim Miller and Gone Girl‘s David Fincher comes the experimental unofficial Heavy Metal remake they wished for. Love, Death and Robots delivers 18 separate short-form stories in this animated adult anthology series, emphasis on the ‘adult’. From science fiction, to fantasy and horror the series is jammed packed with violence, guts, gore and nudity. So definitely not for the faint-hearted.
Like many anthology series before it, including the vastly popular Black Mirror, Love, Death and Robots struggles to maintain a high quality throughout all of its 18 stories. Whilst there are some clear standouts (see our top mentions below), there are a number that feel dull or simply don’t have much of a story to tell. The show unfortunately suffers from narrative issues with its stronger stories too. The longest length of any episode in the series stands at only 17 minutes. This means that character development is often lacking completely or told not shown to the audience.
Where Love, Death and Robots shines through is with its stunning and diverse animation styles. Different animation teams from around the world worked on each episode, and their individual styles create a masterful collection of contemporary animated storytelling. From stop-motion, to traditional hand-drawn cartoons, to hyper-realistic animation, Love, Death and Robots is undoubtedly a collection of art. Whilst some animations may even be reminiscent of Disney’s Pixar, such as with the episode ‘Three Robots’, other styles appear more similar to recent video games such as Mass Effect and Destiny.
This variety of animation styles also helps to suit the array of genres and themes throughout the series. Filled with nihilism, dark humour and crammed with science-fiction conventions Love, Death and Robots has something that will appeal to most mature sci-fi fans. Imagery throughout particular stories may bring forth memories from other sci-fi hits such as Aliens, Pacific Rim and Firefly.
However, the show’s narratives aren’t without some glaringly obvious problems, which comes in the form of the representation of its female characters. Whether it be working in the sex industry or mentioning brutal sexual violence, Love, Death and Robots consistently hyper-sexualises many of its female characters. Or uncomfortably uses sexual violence as a means of driving their narratives. The latter may not arguably be a bad thing. We do see both female characters effected retake their agency and claim revenge, though the gratuitous descriptions and depictions are deeply unsettling. Whilst male nudity also features a handful of times it is always used to invoke disgust or humour, and never presented in a sexualised manner.
As a female viewer it becomes increasingly apparent that these images are appealing to the male gaze, meaning you can sometimes feel excluded from the targeted audience. However, there are some exceptions here, with prominent female leads taking centre-stage in the episodes ‘Helping Hand’ and ‘Lucky 13’. Although these aforementioned issues could be resolved if more female creators had been present in the creative process, as the credits clearly show their absence. Here’s hoping that if the show is renewed there is a second chance to do better.
Overall, in a frustrating age of sequels and remakes Love, Death and Robots delivers an all new host of storyworlds and characters. Whether it be beastie battles, time loops, alien invasions or supernatural demons, this show is a brilliant hodgepodge of wonderful sci-fi nonsense. Whilst still in its infancy its definitely not perfect, but still manages to achieve its goal of being ‘short, sweet and lethal’.
Sonnie’s Edge (1×01) – Female monster-pit fighter Sonnie seeks revenge on her abusers in the ring (see image above). However, turning down an offer to deliberately lose her fight may have severe consequences. Stunning motion-capture animation provides an incredibly realistic appearance to both the human characters and monsters here. The inclusion of the former having neon-coloured tattoos is a glorious touch. This episode by far deserves a sequel.
The Witness (1×03) – A young woman accidentally witnesses a brutal murder through her window occur in the apartment opposite. With the murderer catching her looking what follows is a tense cat-and-mouse chase that leads to a BDSM sex club, then through the streets of a futuristic Asian city. The end of this story is surreal, and the twist has broader narrative implications. Probably the episode with the most unique style, both the story and direction come from Alberto Mielgo. Having recently worked on the Oscar-hit Spider-Man: Into the Spiderverse, this episode is incredibly reminiscent of the visual styles of that movie. Look out for the onomatopoeic animations, a lovely touch.
Beyond the Aquila Rift (1×07) – A member of a small spaceship crew wakes up from hyper-sleep to be told by an old friend that the ship’s travelled light-years off course. A blissful reunion is followed by unsettling revelations that lead to one of the most horror-fuelled scenes in the entire season. Not the most impressive visually and with some weaker moments, this story is still a memorable standout and plays with numerous fun science-fiction elements.
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