Netflix's Love, Death & Robots Season 1 Review
Fantastic bite-sized sci-fi ideas, for adults
Producer David Fincher and Director Tim 'Deadpool' Miller team up to deliver this dark and compelling sci-fi anthology.Fincher and Miler have apparently been working on bringing the distinctly adult 80s animated fantasy anthology Heavy Metal back to life for over a decade, drawing the interest of a multitude of fellow directors, from Guillermo Del Toro to Gore Verbinski, and from Tenacious D to even James Cameron himself.
The Studios were less interested, however, refusing funding for the project, the rights to which eventually landed in Robert Rodriguez's hands. Given his work on the Sin City films (and, more recently, Alita), a Heavy Metal remake appears right in his wheelhouse, but with his own El Ray TV channel to fuel, it looks like that's where the project will ultimately end up.
This is a little bit like The Matrix's Animatrix, by way of The Twilight Zone and Black Mirror.
In the meantime Fincher and Miller weren't prepared to give up, partnering with Netflix for this ostensibly unrelated adult animated anthology which is pure Heavy Metal in all but name, and which curiously boasts the style and ideas that you could be forgiven for thinking would have come from the likes of, yes, Guillermo Del Toro, Gore Verbinski, Tenacious D and Jim Cameron - not to mention the distinctive styles of Fincher and Miller themselves, with Miller purportedly directing all 18 parts of the series, but Fincher's mark on almost each and every one of the episodes.
And whilst you can completely understand why no Studio wanted to touch it for a mainstream theatrical release - it's animated, an anthology, and by adult, it means it's rife with graphic nudity, sex and violence - the dark and engaging themes on offer here are utterly compelling and perfectly suited to the Netflix model. This is a little bit like The Matrix's Animatrix, by way of The Twilight Zone and Black Mirror. And it's distinctly for adults.
The anthology plays around almost entirely in the sci-fi fantasy realm, unsurprisingly, but is also heavily horror twinged, with some dark comedy thrown into the bargain, and with 18 episodes varying in length from 6-17 minutes (most favouring the upper echelons of that scale), there are some superb tales on offer. The benefit to the format is that, even if you enjoy some of the stories more than others, you know there's going to be another fantastically realised vision on offer just around the corner. And even if you don't want to watch it all in one sitting, it makes no odds - they are all almost entirely unrelated (cats notwithstanding) and you can dip in and out at will.
The series gets off to a cracking start with Sonnie's Edge. It sets the tone that you can expect from some of the better chapters, and makes for an excellent opening chapter, with bloody, brutal fights and a dark tone, playing out as basically Real Steel by way of The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. If you like that one, Good Hunting feels like a spiritual cousin, albeit with a very different animated style, and with a little Crouching Tiger thrown into the steampunk mix for good measure.
Fancy some comedy? Three Robots offers a witty reflection on humanity's self-eradication, whilst the super-short When the Yoghurt Took Over is hilarious and basically does what it says on the tin, and Alternate Histories gets some great mileage out of a 'what if Hitler was killed?' alternate history app.
Veering more towards the Black Mirror/Twilight Zone end of things and Witness goes for a gritty, shaky cam look to its animation style, with some impressive results, blending Hitchcock's Rear Window and classic Fincher fetishes to follow its largely naked protagonist as she runs the Tokyo streets after having seen a murder in a world that doesn't seem real. Similarly Beyond the Aquila Rift messes with your head,
More in the action department, Suits blends Pacific Rim and Aliens, by way of protecting midwest farms (really), Sucker of Souls has mercs take on a demon, Shape-Shifters (which is just crying out to be called Dog Soldiers) puts a twist on a military op, Blind Spot follows a fun cyberpunk heist, and Lucky 13's got some great futuristic aerial action.
There are some slightly weaker episodes - The Dump is a little predictably light, Fish Night and Zima Blue struggle to find their place (the only arguably lull in the anthology, as they come back-to-back), and Ice Age is a little gimmicky (and betrays the all-animated ethos), but at only a few minutes' long, they're minor blips in what is, overall, an excellent set.
Well worth checking out, here's hoping they greenlight a second season of these dark and shiny, bite-sized curios
In glorious Dolby Vision - there are some fantastic visuals on offer here, and myriad tones are fabulously realised here, throwing up plenty of vibrant neons - animation has come a long way, leaving several of the instalments looking almost as good as modern blockbusters (Lucky 13 is almost flawless, and has some exceptional dogfights, whilst Witness does well with its more grungy look, bringing the strange streets to life, whilst Helping Hand's mini-Gravity tale looks the part too). Dolby Atmos helps sell it too, particularly in the more military/action-dominated features, bringing the soundscape to life.
Miller and Fincher have done superb work here, and Netflix is the perfect home for their work, attracting a multitude of familiar-but-you-can't-quite-place-them cast members, and some more obvious choices (thanks to the animation), borrowing from some of the best out there, and blending it all into an eclectic, expansive anthology. Well worth checking out, here's hoping they greenlight a second season of these dark and shiny, bite-sized curios.
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