Love, Death, & Robots is an anthology of animated science fiction short films. The series was produced by J. Donen, D. Flincher, J. Miller, and T. Miller. This anthology is available on Australian Netflix, where the episode order is randomised from viewer-to-viewer across the platform.
Warning: The anthology is aimed at adults and has some confronting themes of violence, language, and sex. I do not recommend the show to any persons under 18 years of age.
The following review contains spoilers. Please read at your own discretion.
The first episode I watched was Three Robots. I think this was the perfect starting episode because the episode, after panning past wrecked cars and human skeletons in grey-scale, opens on a long shot of three robots walking down the street consuming the post-apocalyptic world as tourists. The robots are a metaphor for us, the viewers, as we, like the robots, receive the big issues represented in the anthology like tourists.
All eighteen episodes are created by different animators from various countries; with each episode connecting to one or more of the three themes from the series’ title. Watching the series, I found this problematic because the plot of some episodes was truly outstanding, while others (*cough* Alternate Histories) were just ridiculous. Perhaps this could have been improved if episodes had to strictly stick to two out of the three themes from the title?
One thing I loved about the episodes’ lack of continuity, however, is that each episode showed off a unique style of animation. These were, in my opinion, unique not just to the show, but to the wider film industry. I wish more films existed using the styles of The Witness and Fish Night in particular. I liked that both felt cartoonish and both used rich colours, which added vibrancy to the screen. On the other hand, I loved the realistic animation of Beyond the Aquila Rift, which was so well made it was almost hard to believe it wasn’t a live-action.
One of the markers of a good science fiction is how it handles the exploration of important ethical issues in the world. Take, for example, the episode Ice Age, where an entire world exists inside a couple’s freezer. While not entirely original (being reminiscent of a scene from Men in Black II where the agents find an alien world within a locker), the piece makes you consider the history of the world and where humanity is heading; accomplishing this through themes of violence and peace.
The producers of the Love Death + Robots anthology weren’t afraid to delve into the use of humour either, a difficult task when dealing with serious themes. One such example is When the Yogurt Took Over, an episode that deals with the idealism of a perfect yet unattainable society. Humorously, only yoghurt is capable of solving the big issues such as eradicating national debt, thus only yoghurt is capable of making humans “happy, healthy, and wealthy”. Without yoghurt, humans destroy their society and the world. This same idea about destruction is also portrayed through the use of humour in Three Robots when the encyclopaedic robot states “They just screwed themselves by being a bunch of morons.” I think the choice to explore confronting themes about the future of our world under the guise of humour is a great idea, as the ethical issues become both easier to take in and more rememberable. After all, how else can we measly humans deal with the reality that we are driving the world to its death?
I also love how a well thought-out science fiction piece can invert expectations derived from our understanding of reality. My favourite episode was The Witness, an episode in which a woman witnesses a murder, initiating a cat-and-mouse chase, ending in the cycle repeating with roles reversed. I was on the edge of my seat the entire episode under the belief this man wanted to murder the leading character because she witnessed him murder someone else, only for this to be turned on its head when, at the end of the episode, she murders him while an alternate version of him becomes the witness. Suddenly, we realise neither individuals are murderers, causing the viewer to question how the two strangers ended up trapped in such a ‘Groundhog Day’ phenomenon. The underpinning meaning here exposes how we can become trapped in unhealthy, unescapable cycles. The way this episode communicated its meaning through the inversion of reality had the effect of leaving me mystified, if not also a little paranoid.
The overall premise of the anthology, depicting daunting possibilities about our world through the genre of science fiction, was executed fantastically (despite Alternate Histories, in my opinion, not meeting the high standard set by the other episodes). If you like Black Mirror then you’ll definitely enjoy Love Death + Robots, because, as I have outlined, Love Death + Robots explores similar themes in a similar manner. Furthermore, with episodes ranging between 6 and 17 minutes with no continuous plot, this anthology is perfect for those who don’t have time to commit to a TV show. At the time of writing this review, Rotten Tomatoes gives the series an approval rating of 79% based on 38 reviews.
And the good news?
In June 2019, Netflix renewed the series for a second season, so there is plenty more to come!