Ferocious alien creatures, nudity, and fiery robot battles wrapped in surprisingly smart stories.
Tim Miller and David Fincher's short film anthology Love, Death & Robots is the ideal series for the YouTube generation.
Its 18 shorts (Fincher discourages people from calling them "episodes") are only six to seventeen minutes long, serving up quick injections of futuristic robots, blood-thirsty aliens, gory violence, and full frontal nudity. As the creator's "love letter to nerds," Miller reimagines kitschy horror tropes and comic book fantasies in a grander narrative about humanity's future when technology runs amok. If you're not put off by the fact that almost every survival story is dripping with machismo, emphasizes action and sex scenes over plot details, and flashes female nudity whenever possible, Love, Death & Robots is a seriously impressive milestone in the development of NSFW Netflix.
Watch the shorts chronologically to experience the genre-bending power of the series' versatility. Its aesthetics range from photo-real CGI to Disney-style animation, with outstanding production quality that ranks Netflix as a powerhouse of adult animation. At the series' screening at SXSW, Miller described the project as a "global celebration" of the art of short film, referring to the international team of animators who brought the pre-written stories to life. With dozens of collaborators from Hungary, Canada, Korea, and Japan working under Miller and Fincher's direction, the series leaps between different tones, artistic styles, pacing, and humor.
At times evocative of 1970s comic books and at others as provocative as Japanese hentai, the collection jumps from psychological horror to comedy, from adrenaline-fueled action to mythological fantasy. Contrast and irony are the only unifying characteristics of the versatile shorts; even though each installment is flashy, the stories themselves have smart concepts wrapped up with haunting turns. "Sonnie's Edge" places a #MeToo trauma story in the center of a battle royale between two ferocious creatures that are psychically controlled by human handlers — and that's just the background story. "Beyond the Aquila Rift" is a typical space adventure gone awry but with a twist on alien tropes, while "Three Robots" is a tight comedy about three androids on a sightseeing vacation in a fallen human city.
Love, Death & Robots pays homage to the short film genre with big-budget production quality and a killer soundtrack. The series tries to question the limits of technology, revenge, and survival with a pithy art form, effectively ending in 18 climactic cutaways that would fit well in the middle of 18 separate feature films. But the jarringness works, and the sense of sampling a grander narrative is what makes the short film genre more applicable to modern times than ever — These days, every tragedy is a soundbite, gone before we can begin to process it and replaced with a new quest for survival.
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