Film & TV Short Films Muse TV

Watch of the Week: Love, Death & Robots

The latest pick for our Watch of the Week is Netflix's unique collection of animated short stories.

Article Thumbnail

Image Credit: Netflix

Love, Death & Robots was released in March 2019. This Netflix anthology series from David Fincher and Deadpool director Tim Miller won an Emmy for Outstanding Short Form Animated Program. Since it received this initial wave of praise though, it has largely been forgotten. However, now is the perfect time to give the show a watch; in such an apocalyptic period, and with the absence of new Black Mirror episodes, you can get your fix of dark thrills here.

Like the majority of anthology series, Love, Death & Robots feels very fragmented. Each of the short 18 episodes has an independent storyline and uses a different style of animation. The installments are therefore unified through themes such as the dangers and wonders of technology, lost innocence, and the evils of mankind.

The show feels very much like an animated Black Mirror in many ways; nevertheless, that isn’t to say that it’s all darkness and depravity. In fact, several of the episodes are grounded in satirical humour. For example, ‘Alternate Histories’ consists of a comical variety of scenarios that look at what might have happened to the world if Hitler’s life had panned out differently, with the speculations becoming increasingly absurd. It culminates in the image of a world in which Hitler never rises to power, but facism prevails; a meteor wipes out humanity and rats develop intelligent societies and create their own history. In a similarly ridiculous vein, my personal favourite episode is ‘When the Yogurt Took Over’; the premise of which is that after a scientific mishap, the bacteria in a bowl of yogurt becomes sentient and begins a journey towards world domination. Visually, this episode looks very much like stop-motion and its storyline makes it comparable to classic Aardman films like Wallace and Gromit - which is perhaps why it gives me such a nostalgia trip.

In contrast to these light-hearted storylines, other episodes such as ‘Good Hunting’ are far more solemn. This anime short is set in British-ruled Hong Kong, and follows the story of two friends: a village-man and a huli jing (a woman who can transform into a fox spirit). Using this fantastical being, the show’s creators examine very real issues such as colonialism, industrialisation, environmental destruction, and rape. Graphic-novel-style ‘Zima Blue’ is another episode which packs a punch. It tells the story of a famous artist whose work is characterised by his obsession with a specific shade of blue. At first, it appears to be another example of a familiar narrative: the man who makes himself a machine. However, as the story unravels it becomes apparent that there is far more to the protagonist.

Netflix feeds their audience this show in a very unusual way; they came up with four different viewing orders which it assigns randomly to viewers. ‘Zima Blue’ was the last episode of the series and it was the perfect note to end on. In contrast to ‘Good Hunting’, which conveys the destruction that technological advances bring to the natural world, ‘Zima Blue’ is concerned with the undoing of this mechanisation and marks a return to a simpler and more peaceful way of life.

Love, Death & Robots has recieved a significant amount of criticism because of the amount of sexual violence which it portrays and the inconsistent quality of its storylines. It’s true that some episodes are a miss rather than a hit; yet, the animation is consistently stunning. In fact, even in some of the weaker episodes such as ‘Fish Night’, the vivid hues and stylish visuals make up for the lack of plot.

The majority of episodes have satisfyingly absurd stories to accompany their aesthetic appeal. Also, they are very short (ranging between 6 and 17 minutes), so I would argue that it’s worth watching them all. Now is an eerily fitting time to view them, as they examine a vast range of topical issues with an apocalyptic outlook. However, there is also enough wittiness and comedy to make this an enjoyable watch too.

Love, Death & Robots is available to watch on Netflix.

Latest in Film & TV